Category Archives: MENA

L’Affaire Khashoggi: a Saudi Pulp Fiction and Murder on Fifth Avenue…….

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Donald Trump screamed during the 2016 presidential campaign that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.

Enter the current Saudi strongman Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the failed conqueror of Yemen. A new chapter of the history of the Middle East, Arabian Peninsula, and Persian Gulf is being written now.
The Khashoggi Mystery, L’Affaire Khashoggi, on Twitter this past week:

“He claims here that kidnapped exiled journalist #Khashoggi is already in #Saudi captivity (not at Ritz-Carlton). That they managed to get him out of #Istanbul, that Turkey is applying pressure to get him back.
#RogueState “

“Some #Turkish sources have told media that 15 Saudis flew as one or two groups into #Istanbul the day before #Khashoggi to show up at the consulate… Not very subtle, these friends of Trump and #Pompeo…..
If he left the consulate, it was probably in pieces..
#RogueRegime “

“Going to the #Saudi consulate was not smart of #Khashoggi. Not at all. Even little me, when I go to the Middle East I carefully avoid all flights that would stop even briefly at airports in Saudi (or Bahrain). The others seem to be safe, for now… “

“Shocking? #Turkey concludes Saudi journalist #Khashoggi killed by ‘murder’ team sent from Riyadh, sources say……”

“So what will #Erdogan do? Foreign killers commit murder in his country, almost openly a d defiantly.
#Turkey “

“I expect Benyamin Netanyahu to go public (with charts), accuse Iranian Ayatollah operatives of sneaking into the Saudi consulate in #Istanbul & killing #Khashoggi.
Trump will consult #FDD lobbyists, Pompeo will consult Kushner first, #Bolton will consult MEK cultists….. “

“We were told #Saddam Hussein was dead….
I have been saying for 3 years that now there is a new one… there is, and he will not end up any better than the old one…
#Gulf”

“No, it will not affect US-#Saudi relations. This is not the old America. As long as the dark prince keeps the oil money coming, Trump and #Pompeo could not care less who gets murdered where… even if it is on Fifth Ave..”

“I am (was) no fan of Mr. #Khashoggi and his royalist ideology. But nobody deserves to be kidnapped, likely killed, possibly his body cut to pieces…. for expressing his/her opinion, or for any other reason….
#Istanbul “

“No doubt the regime is banking on Trump and (who care for oil cash more than anything else) to limit any fallout from the Affair”

“”It is Like Pulp Fiction”… Turkish Officials Say Khashoggi Was Killed on Order of Saudi Leadership….”—–> New York Times (10/10/2018)

L’affaire Khashoggi, Where it stands now?

  • Saudis utilizing bots, called paid electronic flies in the Middle East, and their hired Arab media journalists to refute.
  • But video shows him entering the Consulate in Istanbul but never coming out. Suspicious vehicles, including a dark van, emerged soon after and vanished, carrying fifteen Saudi men and possibly Mr. Khashoggi or his corpse, or pieces of it.
  • Turkey knows Khashoggi is either dead or kidnapped, and says so. Which is a no-brainer.
  • Saudis are stonewalling Turkish official demands.
  • Trump & Pompeo are clueless. Trump is worried about the dollar cost of any action or comment.
  • Iranian Ayatollahs are fine letting the stupid Saudi Crown Prince shoot himself in the foot again and again. While his country is being bled in Yemen.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

The World’s First Sanctions Nation: Starvation vs. Bombs……..

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“The U.S. has prepared a list of Turkish entities and individuals to target should it decide to impose sanctions on Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government for imprisoning U.S. citizens and employees of its diplomatic mission, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The lira slid. While negotiations to release one of the people, evangelical Pastor Andrew Brunson, are ongoing, the preparation of the so-called “designation packages” shows how close the U.S. has come to imposing unprecedented penalties against a NATO ally……..”

Turkey is just the last one. It is not only Turkey, hardly that.

Sanctions have become the favorite weapon used by US administrations in the past few decades. They are now more prevalent under Trump than ever before. Other NATO nations will also face sanctions, especially those major allies doing trade and investment deals with the Iranians. Companies from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and other NATO members will face American sanctions.

There is hardly a country in the world where US sanctions are not imposed, either on the whole country, on its officials, or on some of its companies and individuals. Cuba was probably among the earliest ones, and is still a target of sanctions: it was sanctioned long before the Soviet missiles showed up on the island.

Excuses for sanctions/blockades range from repression (for non-allied poorer or non-rich countries only), to support of terrorism (for non-allied poorer countries only), nuclear activity (for non-allied countries that have no nuclear weapons only), an unacceptable regime (for non-allied non-major-trade-partner countries only), to more petty political excuses or other disputes.

Truly this has become the First Sanctions Nation in World History. And it is a bi-partisan policy. But I suppose it is better to squeeze nations, starve them, than bomb them. But yet the bombs keep falling anyway…….

P.S: Some Middle East media, especially pro-Iranian ones,now claim/report that the Trump administration is insisting on a particular candidate to be Iraq‘s prime minister, regardless of his coalition votes. They claim the administration is threatening to “sanction” any Iraqi politician or parties who oppose this US stance.

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

After JCPOA and UNESCO: Will the USA and Israel Join the Arab League?…….

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President Donald Trump has taken the USA out of a whole bunch of international institutions, agreements, and deals. From the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the Paris Climate Accord, to the United Nation’s UNESCO organization (Mr. Trump and Israel both withdrew this week).

He is on the verge of breaking and violating the JCPOA (the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran). He is also threatening the NAFTA deal with Canada and Mexico. Early in his term he threatened US ties with NATO, the bedrock of the Western Alliance since after the last world war.

For most of the rest of the world Mr. Trump is not the usual credible American president. He has very little credibility. He is not liked (to put it politely) anywhere in the world, with the exception of Israel and some Arab royal palaces (and maybe in Manila). Predictably Netanyahu made a short speech welcoming Trump’s non-withdrawal from JCPOA, while the controlled Saudi media cheered on.

So here is a suggestion: why not declare the United States, and Israel, as members of the Arab League. They can start as observer-members. It is all an incredible fantastic circus anyway……….

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

Nuclear Bluffing and Bullying: a Silly Question by Nikki Haley, a Stern Warning by Iran……..

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“The United States wants to know if the United Nations atomic watchdog plans to inspect Iranian military sites to verify Tehran’s compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said on Tuesday. Haley will meet with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials in Vienna on Wednesday for what she described as a fact-finding mission, which is part of President Donald Trump’s review of the deal Iran made with world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of most sanctions. “If you look … at past Iranian behavior, what you’ve seen is there have been covert actions at military sites, at universities, things like that,” Haley, a member of Trump’s cabinet, told Reuters in an interview. ……… She said she was traveling to Vienna to ask questions, not to push the IAEA to do anything……….”

What a silly lady Nikki Haley can be when pressed by Donald Trump. Traveling to Vienna to pressure the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to “do anything”. Anything like what?
It is shocking that apparently nobody in the Trump administration knows if the Nuclear Deal does or does not cover conventional military sites. It does not. Doesn’t anybody over there read these agreements? Don’t these ambulance chasers have lawyers in international law among them?


It is so obvious the Trump Administration has “decided” that Iran is breaking the nuclear deal, even as they know that it is not. Trump (or his son in law Jared Kushner) is pressuring Nikki Haley, and she is pressuring the IAEA, which is an international organization not beholden to Trump. The Europeans have already made it clear they want no part of Trump’s new ploy: they sent their foreign minister, Federica Mogherini to Tehran for the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The Iranians are apparently fed up with the silly bluffing and attempts at cheap bullying by the Trump Administration. They took a page from the North Korea book: they warned that they need only 5 days to ramp up uranium enrichment usable for nukes.

In this game, it is like a Washington race between Donald Trump and the United States Congress to see which one of them can wreck the Iran Nuclear Deal through increased sanctions and military threats in the Persian Gulf. Neither one can: JCPOA is an “international” deal.

Meanwhile, in Pyongyang, the other omnipotent leader Kim Jong Un is watching these machinations and plots cooked up by the novice hustler in the Oval Office. Can you guess what he is thinking?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Miracle of the IRGC: Shipping Weapons to Yemen through Western Media………

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“Using this new route, Iranian ships transfer equipment to smaller vessels at the top of the Gulf, where they face less scrutiny. The transhipments take place in Kuwaiti waters and in nearby international shipping lanes, the sources said. “Parts of missiles, launchers and drugs are smuggled into Yemen via Kuwaiti waters,” said a senior Iranian official. “The route sometimes is used for transferring cash as well.” The official added that “what is especially smuggled recently, or to be precise in the past six months, are parts of missiles that cannot be produced in Yemen”. Cash and drugs can be used to fund Houthi activities, the IRGC official said……..”

Apparently Iranian Revolutionary Guard leaders, soon including Brig General Qassem Soleimani, are always dying to confess to Western media reporters. Amazing how these high ‘officials’ always confess to Western media, divulging the deepest operational secrets of their organizations and their countries.

From Hezbollah of Lebanon to the Iranian IRGC: all it takes is a Reuters or NY Times correspondent based in Beirut or Abu Dhabi, and they all spill the beans. On condition of anonymity of course, and how convenient is that.

But the important question here is: does anybody actually believe this nonsense, except for the already converted? I mean they should try to make it more plausible: shipping weapons from Iran to Yemen through Kuwait and Iraq (who are at the northernmost tip of the Persian Gulf, hundreds of miles away from Yemen)? Isn’t Saudi Arabia the closest border to Yemen?

Oh, and the “drug” angle is also a cute touch, often used in these cases against “the other side”, and it is always worth adding a bit more darkness. Maybe it is all true, but it is still cute…

Meanwhile, over ten thousand Yemenis have been killed, hundreds of thousands have been wounded. They did not get hit by these alleged simple missiles, smuggled through impossible routes. They got hit by more genocidal bombs, cluster of otherwise, imported by Arab princes from Britain and the United States.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Western Hubris and Regime Change Obsession: From Iran to Latin America and back to the Middle East…….

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Regime change has been an American obsession in the post-war era.

In 1953, the CIA (and British MI6) did not like the elected government of Mossadegh in Iran. There were issues of Iran taking their oil industry back, and worries about the strong Tudeh (communist) Party being legal. So they staged a play where the petulant young shah left for Europe, mobs of paid agents provocateurs were brought into the streets, and the generals staged a coup d’etat (to bring order). That was the beginning of the torturous love affair between the Iranian people and the United States government (as represented by the CIA). It set the stage for the Revolution of 1979, the US Embassy affair in Tehran, and the continued rancor. It could lead to another endless American war in yet another Muslim land, if the warmongers in the Republican Party (and some Democrats) have their way with Donald Trump.


Easy early success in Iran encouraged the CIA, which quickly shifted to another elected “leftist” regime, in Guatemala. President Árbenz was overthrown, and the rest of Latin America knew who was boss, until Fidel Castro and Che Guevara broke the mold.
But there were other “incidents” in Latin America: the Dominican election of 1965 was followed by the usual military coup and Lyndon Johnson’s invasion; the Brazilian military coup; the bloody overthrow of the elected Allende regime in Chile and the mass murders that followed (Nixon, Kissinger).
Those were all successful coups and invasions with the goal of regime change. The attempts in Cuba failed.


But the Western attempt at regime change with the bloodiest long-term consequences for the West was in a Muslim country: Afghanistan. The mistake of intervention in Afghanistan would come to haunt the West, especially the USA, for decades later. It started the ball rolling on Islamic Jihad and terrorism:

After the Communists took over in Kabul in 1978, through a counter military coup, the USA and its Saudi allies started encouraging a tribal insurrection. In 1979 Moscow did its own version of regime change in Kabul, but eventually ended up paying a heavy price. Afghanistan became a battlefield for competing regime changes: the Soviet Russians supporting the ruling secular Communists, and the West and Wahhabi Arabs supporting the reactionary tribal Afghan Mujahideen (Islamist Fundamentalist) rebels. We all know how that story evolved: the Wahhabi Taliban Jihadists eventually took over in Kabul, Al Qaeda found a safe haven, 9/11 happened, then ISIS, and all that. And the longest endless futile war in American history that nobody has the courage to end, apparently not yet.

In the Arab World, Saddam Hussein opened the door to direct American military intervention and regime change. His failed attempted invasion of Iran bankrupted Iraq and led him to the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, perhaps to recoup his losses. That set the stage for George W Bush and the neocons to invade Iraq in 2003, after the September 11 attacks.

Then there was the NATO operation that culminated in regime change in Libya. The dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown, tortured, and murdered along with one of his sons. Libya is now a divided failed state, exporting more terrorism than it did even before 2011.
The Syrian war is another example. One can just imagine what will happen when tens of thousands of Jihadis from Arab lands (mostly from Saudi Arabia and North Africa) and from European cities go back home to roost.

But wait, it is not over yet. Some old unrepentant Republican Necons and paid Democrats and lobbyists of generous despotic un-elected Arab princes are again taking up the old call of regime change in Tehran. Using a former terrorist group that acts as a Saudi surrogate.  Some of these folks actually believe they will be received with flowers and cheers in Tehran and other places. Will they ever learn? Apparently not. I think they should leave any regime change to the Iranian people.

Most people in the Middle East consider these continuous Western (mainly American) interventions as a return of Western colonialism, probably correctly so. The more Islamist fundamentalist peoples in the Middle East, some among the Arab Salafis, consider these interventions a new Crusade.

Right now some American politicians might want to focus on regime change closer to home, if you get my meaning….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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