Category Archives: MENA

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

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


“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

A Doctor’s Military Strategy Advice: Declare Victory and Get Out……..

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

I visited my specialist doctor on Monday. Part of a regular annual summer follow-up, but I had moved it up to an earlier date based on some family advice. After a thorough check-up, the doctor said that I was doing well, that he was not sure why I had moved the date up so soon.

Before I started to blame some outside advice, he told me: “You are winning not losing, but that is for now. It is your chance: just declare victory and get out!
I told him it sounded like great advice, that I will try to advise others to do the same. And I quickly got out of his office.


Hear that Mr. Trump? Just declare victory in some of the intractable stupid Middle East wars (Yemen, Syria…. ) and get out, while still ahead. Don’t listen to the advice of your hawks and chickenhawks: one more war just around the next bend will not solve it all. Be like a surgeon: end it all, make that your strategy since your staff don’t seem to have any other.


(Remember, Donald: Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger tried to solve the Vietnam War by expanding it into Laos and Cambodia. They blew it. Gave us the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge, and three Asian defeats instead of one. So, keep that in mind).

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Erdogan as a New Caliph: Ein Volk, Ein Führer, Ein…….Turkey?….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


I tweeted last Sunday that: The ‘alleged’ attempted coup d’état last year was the Burning of the Reichstag for Erdogan. Ein Volk, Ein Führer….

I also presciently added: I’ll be shocked if Erdogan loses his referendum today. The victory will make him the first Caliph of Turkey & all Arab Muslim Brothers. The first anointed Caliph since the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate. More of a Caliph than the other ISIS thug in Raqqa who also claims the title.

Ironically,  Mr. Erdogan was probably more responsible than anyone else for the rise of ISS/DAESH. He allowed Wahhabi money, weapons, and Arab/European Salafist Jihadis to cross through Turkey into Syria (possibly into Iraq). Associates and relatives of Erdogan were reported to have played a crucial role in ISIS selling stolen Syrian oil through the Erdogan Trail in Turkey.  As I have posted in the past on all this here:

Turkish Coup: of Erdogan the Enabler of Jihadis and his Arab Salafi Tribal Admirers……

Caliphate of Erdogan: How Turkey and her Wahhabi Arab Allies Screwed up Syria…

Joe Biden on the Erdogan and Wahhabi Trails: With Allies Like These………

ISIS Oil: About the Erdogan Trail……

The Turks are Coming: Erdogan as a Softer Gentler Ahmadinejad?……

Now Turkey is in a similar position as Germany was in 1933. I know, I know, the comparison is too cute. But it is more valid than you think. The Turks have just killed their democracy, or more likely the ruling party just rigged the election and killed Turkish democracy for the foreseeable future.
Next step? Ein Volk, Ein Führer, Ein…….Turkey?….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Exchange of Qatari Royals in Iraq for Syrian Captives of Jihadis Ends in Bloody Massacre…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“The fates of 26 members of a Qatari royal hunting party held hostage for more than a year in Iraq were used to help negotiate a population swap in Syria, where residents on Friday started leaving two Shia villages and two Sunni towns in a synchronised easing of a four-year siege brokered by regional powers. Residents of the Shia areas of Fua and Kefraya, in northern Syria, were transported to nearby east Aleppo as the first buses began leaving Zabadani and Madaya, Sunni strongholds between Damascus and the Lebanese border, for a final destination somewhere in the rebel-held areas of Idlib province. The deal was finalised in recent days after nearly two years of negotiations between one of Syria’s main opposition groups, Ahrar al-Sham, and Iran. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Qatar have also been central ……..”

Reports from all sides in the Middle East indicate that there may be several thousand Saudis held captive in Iraq. Most of them apparently went north to join the Jihadi campaign of terrorism against Iraqi civilians, a sectarian campaign mainly targeting Shi’as. Many joined Al Qaeda in Iraq in the days of Jordanian terrorist Al Zarqawi, and later joined ISIS (DAESH). They represent a huge headache for the Saudi government, and it probably has influenced the recent Saudi warming up to the new political order in Iraq. Families and especially tribes as well as clerics form an important lobby in Saudi Arabia, as the authorities try to get these prisoners released. Some have reportedly been sentenced to death for terrorist acts and some already executed.

An unfortunate development. Today, Saturday, reports came that Jihadi rebels bombed some of the same Syrian refugee buses, killing at least twenty, wounding many others. Not clear yet how this will affect the release of Qatari potentates held in Iraq.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Trump Foreign Policy: Is There a MOAB in the Pyongyang Kid’s Future……

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“North Korea’s military on Friday directly responded to U.S. President Donald Trump’s renewed threats to take “care of” Pyongyang’s nuclear threat amid expectations of a new nuclear test that could come at any time. “Our toughest counteraction against the United States and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” according to unnamed spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army. “Under the prevailing grave situation, the United States has to come to its senses and make a proper option for the solution of the problem,” continued the statement, carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency……..”

Donald Trump spent his first two months in office trying his hands at domestic issues.

His first policy Executive Order, a Muslim immigration/entry ban, was thrown out by U.S. federal courts. His second policy try was a sly but direct attempt at screwing the American people, repealing the ACA Healthcare law (Obamacare) without replacing it with a policy that covers those uncovered. He could not get his own party to pass a healthcare bill that he almost certainly did not understand. His attempt at screwing up the healthcare system was opposed by all professional associations of doctors, nurses and hospitals. It failed, so he blamed the Democrats, ignoring that his own party controls Congress.

He faced a rapidly building up crisis about allegations of his and his associates’ connections to Russia and Vladimir Putin. Democrats milked that issue for all its worth, but Republicans helped along by mishandling the investigation.

So what can a president do when he fails in domestic policy?

He can always revive or inflame a simmering crisis in the Middle East, or in some other Muslim country. Hence Trump’s “seeming” flip flop on Syria. Before any UN meeting, before any investigation, he used suspicions and allegations of Assad using chemical weapons against a rebel area to throw about 60 Tomahawk missiles at a nearly-empty Syrian airbase.

The American media loved it: nothing brings Republican and Democrat political elites together than waging or escalating a war in a Muslim land. Some of the more “liberal” news networks went nearly orgasmic, could not have enough of the attack in Syria, some like CNN were sorely disappointed that it seemed like a one-time event.

The Syrian attack quickly distracted from the domestic Russian investigation. But the Russians and the Syrians mounted their own PR blitz and the need arose for more show of foreign toughness. Hence the first use of the biggest baddest non-nuclear bomb, the MOAB. Few people would argue with the target picked: a territory in Afghanistan reportedly boiling with Taliban and ISIS killers. And with few civilians.

Some, including myself, speculated that the MOAB and even the Syrian bombing may have included a message for the chubby dictator of Pyongyang. One Kim Jong Un, a seeming addict to Twinkies and Ding Dongs. But unfortunately the MOAB use also coincides with a time of serious fireworks in North Korea: the birthday of late dictator Kim Il Song. He was the man who established Communist North Korea and blessed it with his dynasty of nasty murderous despots.

They are reported to be planning some nuclear fireworks for the occasion. Now the Pyongyang regime is not an Arab regime. It is not the type that is expected to bend over and take it, even if it is well deserved as in this case. At the least, they have the city of Seoul hostage to their massive artillery: potentially hundreds of thousands of casualties, including many Americans.

And someone like the Pyongyang Kid can’t afford to seem weak. There are probably some among his own family who would gladly dispose of him.

That is why I doubt that Mr. Trump would authorize the use of MOAB in Korea, not without serious provocation. Unless the generals can find a way to have it land right where M. Kim is napping, taking a shower, among other activities.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Pax Americana and Endless Conflict: War as Hell, War as Salvation…..

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“War is Hell” : Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman (& possibly others)

 

I saw this on a British website. I think it was a BBC interview:
“Would Labour support military intervention against Assad?

Emily Thornberry (MP) says “Have we learned nothing from Iraq?, Have we learned nothing from Libya?” We need a plan……..”

No, you have learned nothing from Iraq or Libya. It is a good thing the Russians are in Syria to limit your folly. They will keep any Western invasion limited, and save the West from another long Muslim war, another folly which the Jihadis can point to as proof that the West is bent on a “new Crusade”. More Muslim wars waged by the West lead to more terrorist recruitment by the Jihadis.

Two extended new wars are looming over Washington now: one in Yemen to save Saudi nuts from the fire of their own miscalculation, the other in Syria.There may be one or two more beside those, if the mad Neocons have their way. The post-war Pax Americana is now a tragedy of senseless endless war extending from Pakistan to the African Sahel.

Amazing how any president with questionable legitimacy and scandals hanging over him quickly thinks of a foreign war. An easy way to divert attention. The American mainstream media is always willing to accommodate. Who said war is hell? War is often a salvation of a faltering leader.

Once I advised about the next time Western powers feel the need for bombing someone. Please pick some other region of the world to bomb and invade. Leave Muslims and Arabs to their/our own devices, to sort out their own mess. Just bomb someone else, bomb Burma or anyone else. Just leave our region alone. You have done enough to screw it up in the past 100 years…

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Will America Join the Jihad in Syria? How Do They Line Up in Eastern Mediterranean……..

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demands that Russia drop its support of Assad in Syria. Sure: Putin, current heir to the rough and tough Soviet and Romanov empires, is almost certain to listen to the Texas oilman and his TV celebrity boss.

Nikki Haley seconds the Tillerson motion and threatens to take the names of anyone opposing it and add it to her famous list of names. And to cut their weekly allowances.

China‘s Xi, a guest of Trump at Mar-A-Lago, grins and remains “inscrutable”, as he is supposed to remain as leader of PRC (Chi-Com to the American Right). But he knows the futile game Trump is playing with him. Too transparent. No doubt, Trump was trying to unnerve Xi by attacking Syria during his visit. The problem with that is that Chi-Com leaders don’t get unnerved easily by television or real estate celebrities. Haven’t done it since the days of Chairman Mao and his Little Red Book. They can smell the bull from far away, they have done their fair share of spreading it.

Russia‘s Lavrov will ask that Trump drop his unwitting (or is that witless) support of Al Qaeda and other Jihadi cutthroats in Syria, including those in Idlib. The latter probably owned the same cache of chemical weapons that were bombed by the Syrian regime last week.

American mainstream media, often copying the media of Arab royal regimes that are as repressive as Assad, are gung-ho on avenging the Alamo, or the Maine. They have been since 2011.

Turkey wants Trump to help install a nice clean-cut Muslim Brotherhood regime in Damascus like the one in Turkey, and as humorless. It would be more repressive, given that it will include former Baathist renegades as well as current fundamentalists with Wahhabi ties.
Saudis want Trump to install a Wahhabi-esque regime in Damascus. Or, barring that, any regime that is hostile to the Iranians and Iraqis and not secular like the Baathists. They promise to shower the “right” regime in Damascus with many billions that they will not have.
UAE rulers don’t seem to care that much, as long as they get to have a naval base somewhere in Syria to protect their “national interests”, whatever the hell that be. In the Mediterranean of course.

The Bahrainis have no money to give to anyone outside the ruling family and their minions. So they will offer to receive the new Trump-anointed Caliph of Syria in their well-policed capital. On the assumption that this would legitimize both their regimes. Yes, they are clueless.
Iranians and Lebanese make the “right” noises, essentially they make the same noises in unison. But they keep on doing the voodoo that they do in Syria. So far.

Bashar Al Assad (America’s bête noire de la semaine) is a man who has had a target on his back for six years. He has been pronounced a dead-man-walking many times, mostly by Arab despots and Jihadis inside Syria and gullible believing Westerners. Yet he doesn’t seem worried about it. In fact I haven’t seen him worried since before the brief 2011 uprising that became a Jihadi insurrection that became a combination civil war and proxy war. Does he know something we don’t? Is he taking something we don’t? 

More on this later….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum.
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

UAE-Saudi Game of Bases: from South Arabia to Horn of Africa with Temporary Love and Money….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“Somali President Mohammed Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo request for mediation Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to persuade not to complete the establishment of a military base in “Somaliland”……..”

“Somaliland signs agreement allowing the United Arab Emirates to set up a military base in Berbera with a 25-year lease…”

An interesting and unexpected development in the Middle East in recent months. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is getting deeply into the business of foreign military bases. In one sense it has been in it for many years now. From early on, the UAE has had military bases on its territory for various counties: the United States, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, as well as Canada (canceled after a commercial dispute). All the while vigorously criticizing foreign (non-Western) bases in Iraq and Syria. Not bad for a country of a little more than 1 million citizens (plus about 6 million foreign residents).

Now the UAE, ostensibly a part-time and wary ally of Saudi Arabia, is getting into the dubious business of establishing foreign bases of its own. Basically the UAE are (for now) the strongest foreign power in the Aden area of South Yemen, having easily outsmarted and elbowed out the Saudi Wahhabis. The Saudis are closer allies to the deposed president Hadi and his corrupt old partners in misruling Yemen (the Islah, the local Muslim Brotherhood). The UAE rulers hate nothing more than the Muslim Brotherhood.

The main Saudi problem in Yemen is that they share a long border with that country. They occasionally get tempted to test these borders. Hence their fear of any perceived foreign (non-Western) influence over Yemen, be it real or imagined. The war they have been waging on Yemen for more than two years often comes back to haunt them in the form of Yemeni retaliatory attacks on their border towns and cities. As well as Yemeni rockets, reportedly local versions of Iranian and maybe Russian missiles.The rockets are a new introduction into the war, and the Yemenis in the capital Sanaa have promised more and more potent ones to come if the Saudis do not desist.

So the Saudis are stuck in a destructive but futile genocidal bombing campaign (with strong and indispensable American and British help), as well as a worrying border war. They are cornered, while the Emiratis expand their influence in South Yemen and now in the Horn of Africa. The Emiratis can better afford it than the Saudis who need to support and subsidize about 16 million citizens (there are also about 10 million foreign residents, a few million of them reportedly illegal).

To the Horn of Africa. That area seems like a favorite place for many powers to establish military bases in recent years. The Russians (Soviets) had a large base at Berbera for years under the Marxist Siad Barre military regime of Somalia. Eritrea and Djibouti have both had bases or presences of the French, Israelis, Iranians and others (including the famous pirates). Natural for an impoverished region. Now the UAE is establishing bases in Somaliland, formerly part of Somalia, which apparently still considers it part of its sphere. To the extent that Somalia can have a sphere. There have been earlier reports of a UAE base in Eritrea as well. There have been reports of a potential UAE presence in Libya as well, but that would be a foolish undertaking.

It is not clear what is the purpose of all these foreign bases and presences by a small country like the UAE. Only Oman among GCC states has had an extensive foreign presence until the 19th century, mainly in East Africa (including Zanzibar).

Oddly the Saudis don’t seem interested in foreign bases, except in Bahrain. But that is a historic cultural thing: Saudis, especially the elite Najdis of Central Arabia, were historically a landlubber people never known as sea-going people, unlike others like the Emirates (or Oman and Kuwait).

There is more. The UAE often splits from the Saudis on Yemen. The two alleged allies support different outlooks for Yemen, but the UAE can afford it financially although they have limited human resources and need local groups as allies. Hence the Hirak Movement which wants South Yemen (capital Aden) to regain the independence it lost in 1990.

My educated guess is that the UAE has the upper hand over the Saudis in that southern part of Yemen. But they need to reckon with three groups that have been strengthened by the destructive Saudi-led air war on Northern Yemen: the Southern Secessionists, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and Islamic State (ISIS). These three groups have gained strength as the Saudis bombed their main enemies in Yemen, the Houthis.

In any case, in the end neither of these Arab allies can last in Yemen. It is already bleeding them, and will kill off many of their soldiers before they realize they have to leave. And they will leave: it has been the story of Yemen since the days of the ancient Persian and Roman empires. The rugged tribal country wears them down, and the aspiring conquerors are forced to give up and leave. A hostile foreign power cannot control Yemen, it has been the case since the days of the rule of Balqis, the Queen of Sheba.

More on this later, stay tuned.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

IDEX and MAGA in MENA: How Arab Regimes Buy More Weapons to Kill Other Arabs……

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


Arab kids in IDEX candy store…

“The world’s largest military fair is wrapping up in the United Arab Emirates. The IDEX exhibition attracts mainly African, Arab and Asian officials who are shopping for weapons. For defence companies at the fair, it’s a highly lucrative market. Never since the end of the Cold War have countries spent so much on defence, with deals worth a total of 100 billion dollars signed worldwide last year. Our correspondents report from Abu Dhabi…….”

They call it IDEX (the International Defense Exhibition), but much of it is not defensive. It is a new form of Newspeak. Most of those Arabs who buy the weapons have not been attacked by anyone in recent history, at least not in a quarter century. Those few who have been directly attacked were attacked by other Arab regimes (let’s leave Israel out of the equation here: these weapons are aimed at other Muslim/Arab states). Many of the rich Arab buyers are actively involved in wars in other poorer Arab countries. Some of these oligarchies are also stockpiling weapons to help repress their own people’s aspirations. Western weapons bought by Arabs from foreign “friends” to kill other Arabs.

Sometimes the local potentates get “commissions” from weapons deals (an important consideration). In some cases the weapons purchases are used to exert political influence on the exporting Western governments (British governments have been easy targets for such blackmail, and occasionally the French as well).

As Donald Trump would say or tweet (but he won’t in this case): Sad! So Sad! …….While he runs to the bank.

According to SIPRI data:
Saudi Arabia ‘s share was second largest world weapons importer: 7% of total international arms imports in 2011-2015 (compared to 2.1% in 2006-2010). The United Arab Emirates (UAE) share was fourth largest weapons importer: 4.6% in 2011-2015 (compared to 3.9% in 2006-2010). Each imported more than much bigger countries. But then one of these two Arab states (Saudi Arabia) has been engaged in indirect wars in Syria and Iraq and both are engaged directly in Yemen (active air and land war against local Yemeni forces). Saudis were the largest importers of total American arms exports (9.7% in 2011-2015), while the UAE were the second largest (9.1%).

Some of these Arab-bought weapons find their way into the killing fields of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Possibly other places as well. In an era when revenues are declining and poverty expands even in petroleum-producing countries. Helping Make Arabia Great Again.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

 

A New Persian Gulf War? A Message from Marcus Licinius Crassus to Donald Trump……..

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“The Saudis have been bombing the Houthi rebels and ravaging their country, Yemen, for two years. Are the Saudis entitled to immunity from retaliation in wars that they start? Where is the evidence Iran had a role in the Red Sea attack on the Saudi ship? And why would President Trump make this war his war? As for the Iranian missile test, a 2015 U.N. resolution “called upon” Iran not to test nuclear-capable missiles. It did not forbid Iran from testing conventional missiles, which Tehran insists this was. Is the United States making new demands on Iran not written into the nuclear treaty or international law—to provoke a confrontation? Did Flynn coordinate with our allies about this warning of possible military action against Iran? Is NATO obligated to join any action we might take?………..”
Also sprach Pat Buchanan, now older and even wiser.

Mr. Trump is a Manhattan businessman and a showman. Which means he has mastered the arts of showmanship and bluffing (and bullying).
His nonsensical campaign promise to ‘Make America Great Again‘ was absurd, as if America is Egypt or Peru. But it was bought by enough of the desperate industrial working classes, and much of the campaign-money-donating upper classes, to get him into the White House. Even as he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes.

His promise of America First looks set to be set on fire by his new adventurism in the Persian Gulf region. Possibly egged on by some of the same Arab and Jewish regional allies he detests so much. He has surrounded himself by a few former military men and civilian hawks who have a chip on their collective shoulders regarding the Middle East, especially Iran. They think they can win the wars of choice that Bush and Obama squandered.

Now they have made Donald Trump into a George W Bush on steroids. But a new military conflict in the Persian Gulf will last much longer than the hawks and chickenhawks think. Remember the Iran-Iraq war? It was started by Iraq as a blitzkrieg victory, but it lasted eight years and ended up destroying Iraq. This latest war in Afghanistan has lasted 16 years, so far. The latest Iraq war started in 2003, Syria is in its seventh year.

A lesson for Mr. Trump from ancient Roman history, if he and his new generals care to read. Read the story of the Roman consul and general Marcus Licinius Crassus, a friend of Julius Caesar. He collected a huge army of many invincible Roman legions to invade ancient Persia more than two thousand years ago. Another unprovoked war. Crassus and his Roman legions vanished somewhere in the Iranian Plateau, never to be seen or heard from again.
Lesson? Wars of choice half-way across the world are not a good investment (as you, Mr. Trump and your class would say).
Mr. Trump, there are no direct American national interests threatened by the Iranians. They have not broken the Nuclear Deal with the world powers. They have not attacked Americans or America’s regional allies, yet. So, tone down the bluffing.

Mr. Trump, you are used to playing the cheap game of Casino poker, but the mullahs play the more enduring game of Chess. A game their country invented when your ancestors were still lurking in the caves and forests of Central Europe.
So, call back the dogs of war, get them out of your White House. Don’t throw good money after bad in the Middle East. Save a few more trillions of dollars and many lives on both sides.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum