Category Archives: MENA

BHL of Arabia and Kurdistan: From Syrian Jihadis to Peshmerga Beaujolais…….

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

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


French pop-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy has something for the Arab and Muslim worlds. He has been actively seeking to liberate the Arab peoples, which is an admirable thing, but only selectively, and only in the countries whose regimes have not been allies of the West. He has been at it since at least 2011.


He started with Libya, joining the likes of John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Hillary Clinton. They succeeded in getting NATO to bomb the Gaddafi regime into extinction. The West’s newest Arab friend and business partner, the dictator Colonel Gaddafi himself was tortured by the rebels to death (we saw some of their knife-play against the captive leader on TV). Those were heady exciting days, in the autumn of 2011. The colonel, a new friend of Tony Blair and Clinton and other Western leaders was dead. But he had already paid up billions of dollars to the West for the Pan-Am airliner explosion over Lockerbie.

Libya was free: we were told by tribal Arab autocrats and their media like AlJazeera.
So what did the new “and better” regime in liberated Libya do? Their very first measure was to rescinded (cancel) the Gaddafi law restricting polygamy. Some of the Salafi and Wahhabi rebels even started talking wistfully about “slave women” and concubines. Now of course Libya is well on its way into failed-state status.
One strike for Levy and his eager Western fellow liberators.

But Bernard-Henri Levy would not be discouraged. Being French, he wanted to liberate Syria for the joys of a French-style life combined, unknown to him, with a dose of Saudi-Qatari Islamism. We can call it Wahhabi Beaujolais. As it turned out, the early Syrian protests were soon bought and subverted by absolute tribal Arab princes and their tribal Salafist Jihadis. With a lot of help from the Islamist regime in Turkey. The Syrian opposition morphed into groups of anti-democratic terrorists and cutthroats like DAESH, Al Nusra, Jaish Al Islam, Al Farooq, Al Abbatoir, etc, etc. Bernard-Henri was thwarted, and he remained silent about Syria for a couple of years.
Strike two for Bernard-Henri Levy (and John McCain and Lindsey Graham, et al).


Now he is being a bit more focused, perhaps more realistic. He is now into Kurds and the Peshmerga. But the Kurds, militarily speaking, are more than the Peshmerga. They deserve autonomy, and maybe even more, but it is complicated by several countries, including one ornery member of NATO with a humorless fundamentalist leader in Ankara. But I look forward to seeing the new film about the Kurds and Peshmerga.

Odd that Levy ignores that other Arab war, in Yemen. I suppose bringing that up would be embarrassing for friend Francois Hollande.

There is money to be made in some of them wars….
Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

Conflicting Plans for Syria: Hezbollah Plan A, Saudi Plan B, and American Plan C…..

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

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave a public speech today. That was in the aftermath of the death of yet another senior Hezbollah military leader in Syria: Mustafa Badreddine who was suspected of anti-American violence in Beirut bombings and also convicted of terrorism in Kuwait in the early 1980s (before Hezbollah was established).

Nasrallah asserted that his group will remain in Syria until the Jihadi “Takfiri” terrorists are defeated. He added that there is no evidence of an Israeli involvement in the assassination. He also noted that even the Israelis know that he always says what he means and does what he says. Oddly hinting that the Israeli “enemy” knows the truth and tells it publicly, unlike some “Arabs”, meaning the Saudis & Qataris. (I have to agree with him on that point).


Nasrallah also said that the Saudis are leading and arming and financing the Jihadist campaign in Syria from Jordan, with some cooperation from Qatar and Turkey. That the Saudis are sabotaging a political solution.

It is still not clear to me how the general Shi’a population of Lebanon now feel about the Syrian involvement. Clearly if there is any opposition it is limited and muted, although some Arab and Western media tend to magnify it. The Jihadi terrorists themselves may have helped solidify support for Syrian involvement by destroying historical shrines and monuments of all faiths, a favorite Wahhabi pastime. Many Shi’a would be willing to fight and die for the Shrine of Zainab in Damascus (as they would for Karbala). That is Plan A of one side.


For his part, Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir repeated that “it is time for Plan B” in Syria. Nothing new there, just the same mantra. Someone once called him the Saudi version of Baghdad Bob.


My guess for this Saudi Plan B?
The Saudis and Qataris and Turks are waiting for a hawkish American president to take over next year. Maybe even someone who will allow supplying the Jihadists with anti-aircraft missiles (as in Afghanistan in the 1980s). That is not likely to happen: the Syrian regime and its Russian and other allies are creating facts on the ground.

Besides, there is also a well-known popular American plan, I call it Plan C. Plan C has been devised by the American people. The American public largely does not care who rules in Syria, as long as it is not a Wahhabi-type regime like ISIS or Al Nusra or Jaish Al Fath or………. never mind, I should quit typing now while I am ahead.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

New Old Saudi Vision of Total Conformism: from Riyadh to Pyongyang………

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Me1 (2)

“The Council of Ministers endorsed during its session on Monday under the chairmanship of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. The Cabinet session was devoted to discuss the vision, which was drafted by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs upon instructions of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Following is the text of Saudi Arabia’s vision 2030……..”

The new phrase Saudi Vision 2030 has been covered extensively in Saudi, Gulf, and some Arab media. There has been some good coverage in international media as well, until a heavy dose of realistic skepticism set in. I am in no position to openly express my own judgment yet, but I will soon. There is certainly a need to look beyond the years of oil boom, a need for some new (and serious) vision.

Yet I don’t like the quick and intimidating cheering in the Gulf GCC region, the exclusion and rejection of any doubt or questioning.  No debate of  such a vital issue. The distinctly Saudi conformism that is spreading to all GCC states.

As expected, Saudi and Gulf GCC media are not critical: not one iota of criticism or healthy (or unhealthy) doubt has been expressed. A lot of enthusiasm has been expressed, in blissful ignorance. Suddenly everybody on the Arab shores of the Gulf is as conformist as any good Saudi citizen in Riyadh or Qassim, anyone who is not in the safety of foreign exile or in a local prison. It is like the old days when Saddam was issuing his Baathist drivel across the Persian Gulf media and nobody was allowed to criticize him.

No doubt there are many ‘secret’ doubters, especially in the other Gulf GCC states if not in heavily brain-washed Saudi Arabia, but they dare not express their doubt. It is almost like having Kim Jong Un of North Korea (the Cute Leader) publish an economic “vision” for his country! Nobody would even think of criticize him in old Pyongyang.

Similarly, some Persian Gulf states are moving rapidly toward a new common repressive model. Even in places where the press “used to be” relatively free. Criticism of the plan by Prince Mohammed, the the favorite son and possible successor of King Salman, would be considered “insulting a sisterly or brotherly” state. That is a new category of crime that could land you in prison anywhere in the GCC (as in Pyongyang).

If the open doubter is a true Wahhabi terrorist-supporter he could go to prison and maybe get rehabilitated from his doubts. If he is a Shi’a agitator or doubter, he will likely be charged with “terrorism” and lose his head to a sword.

But is this emperor, in this case Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his vision, also naked (as in the famous parable or fable)? I am not certain yet. That will be covered in a new post coming soon to a theater right here. I have not read the detailed outlines of this economic vision in detail, yet. Who knows, I might become an enthusiastic supporter as well.
But the devil is in the details.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

On the Gulf: Tribal Statecraft, an Embarrassment of Poor Alliances……..

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2

Statecraft is not an extended form of tribalism. Its goals are different, so should its tools  Me

Too many international and regional alliances, created at too frantic a pace, are a sure sign of weakness rather than strengthMe

Saudi Arabia has been keeping its military forces active: mostly in doing large military exercises and maneuvers with invited, convinced, and bribed ‘allies’. They have been almost monthly events, all these military exercises, with promising names like Thunder of the North. May as well; given that their real southern war, like the Storm of Determination (the massive war against poor, under-armed Yemen) has failed miserably.

None of the titles given these military exercises and wars are original: they are all plagiarized from the original Desert Storm, the American name for the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 from Iraqi Baathists. As I wrote once before, the Saudi leaders and their minions are rarely, if ever, original.
The Saudis have also been very busy announcing new ‘alliances and pacts’, also on an almost monthly basis. Sometimes even the Arab (and Muslim) countries listed as part of an ‘alliance’ are reported to be surprised. Clearly the Saudis don’t believe that their “allies” need to agree to an alliance, or that they may have legislatures that need to have a say. But they must know that not all Muslim (or Arab) countries are ruled by absolute tribal princes.

The Iranians apparently realize that “alliances” are complicated things, given that they have not had many in recent years. So they seem to take them more seriously. They do, however, try to match the Saudi military exercises with some of their own. They also apparently realize that too many international and regional alliances, created at too frantic a pace, are a sure sign of weakness rather than strength. This last fact is something the Saudi princes don’t seem to understand.

Statecraft is not an extended form of tribalism. Its goals are different, so should its tools.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Hospitable Jordan: Risky Geography and Questionable Alliances…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2

“He added that “this is also happening in Afghanistan,” warning that if the Islamic State (IS) was degraded in these countries “Iran will come in to fill the gap,” according to MEE’s source. Jordan has backed Saudi Arabia in its long-running rivalry with Iran……….. In the congressional meeting, Abdullah said that Shia Muslims had been “lumped in” with the executions carried out that day. To purely kill Sunnis would have “looked bad domestically,” he said. He added, however, that it was unfortunate that Nimr had been included among those executed……………”

Jordan, an early child of Sykes-Picot, is in a bind. It is a small country with a divided population and few economic resources, like most other Arab countries. It is sandwiched between large unstable neighbors (Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia), as well as Israel/Palestine. Jordanians have had a long history of unfortunate and failed alliances within the Middle East.

It goes back to 1967, when the King of Jordan joined the Six Day War, apparently without being prepared for the consequences. As a result, the Jordanians handed the West Bank and East Jerusalem (including the Al Aqsa Mosque) to Israel with barely a fight, and within two days. The biggest and most important loss of Arab “property” in modern history. That disaster in itself is sufficient to make any nation lose its sense of humor, assuming it had any such sense before.

In 1980, the Jordanians repeated their mistake. They sided with Saddam Hussein when he invaded Iran. They did not fight directly, but King Hussein made occasional visits to the Front and fired some symbolic shots towards the Iranian lines. Not very kingly behavior, but it stopped once Saddam started losing that war. Another defeat ensued eight years later, but by then King Hussein did not get involved directly, a wise decision.

In 1990, the Jordanians sided again with Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait. They lost big in that one economically, although they were not involved directly in a military sense.

Then came the Syrian civil-proxy-Jihadi war after 2011. The Jordanians helped the Syrian Jihadist “opposition” that was sponsored by the Saudis and some other Persian Gulf autocrats. They also at one point reportedly allowed the US and the Saudis to start training some new opposition groups near the Syrian border. But apparently that did not last long, perhaps it petered out.

In Yemen the Jordanians threw their support more directly behind the Saudi paid alliance that has been bombing Yemen’s cities and infrastructure for over a year. And blockading the country. A futile and hopeless war. But that is a low-risk venture for them: limited military involvement in a faraway country, with the cost paid by the Gulf princes and potentates.

A long record of betting on the losing side. No wonder the king is often welcome to address the U.S. Congress under Republicans. No wonder Jordanians are among the most humor-challenged in our humorless region. Now the humorless Jordanians have gotten more wary of involvement in foreign adventures of other sisterly and brotherly Arab countries, and wisely so. They especially stay away from disputes that are on their border, lest they spill across into their country (the example of the growing instability in Turkey provides a good lesson).

One good thing about Jordan: they (and Lebanon) do welcome many refugees, which is a good thing and almost a national industry now in Jordan. Unlike the richer Arab countries that have provoked and instigated many of these civil wars but refuse to accept the resulting refugees. In that sense of hospitality, they are more characteristically Arab than most of the rest.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Obama’s Middle East Doctrine: How Familiarity Bred Contempt……..

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2

Familiarity breeds contempt……….

The American and Middle East media have made a lot of President Obama’s recent long interview with columnist Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic magazine.

The result has been called the Obama Doctrine. In the series of interviews he complained, correctly, that much of the problems of the Arab states, especially those on the Persian Gulf, are the creation of their ruling elites. He also complained how the princes and potentates (he named Saudi Arabia) have tried to drag the United States into their sectarian campaign, and to drag him into another Gulf war against Iran. The coup de grace for the princes and potentates was his suggestion that they have to ‘share’ the region with Iran. This only further enraged the American neoconservatives, the hawks of both parties who have not heard of a new Muslim war that they did not like or encourage.

Back to Barack Obama. For years Mr. Obama has been facing a three-front war of warmongers: Gulf allies, Israel’s dominant right wingers, and American hawks in the Senate and in some think-tanks. And the lobbyists funding most elected officials. All pressing him to launch a couple of new wars of choice in the Middle East: a big one against Iran and a smaller one in Syria.

I believe that his other problem with some of the above has been partly racial. Not only with some Republican-Tea Party types at home, but also with some Arab leaders and with Netanyahu of Israel. The fact is that these Arab leaders, most of them, are used to dealing with white American leaders. Most of them have deep prejudices, even as they themselves are quite swarthy. A form of nuanced racism that lingers across the Arab world toward foreigners other than Westerners.  These potentates grew up seeing men like Eisenhower, JFK, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, even John Wayne bring order (or mayhem, depending) to countries or to towns like Abilene or Dodge City on the screen. Then suddenly John Wayne of Rio Bravo is replaced with Cleavon Little of Blazing Saddles.

It is partly psychological and partly racial. Suddenly and unexpectedly the leader of the Free World is a guy who looks to them like a neighbor or a cousin, albeit a lot smarter, more cultured, and better looking. How can you expect a Saudi king or prince or a UAE potentate to defer to someone who looks like one of his nephews, or even one of his many black servants who are barely this side of slavery? Well, much better looking and much smarter, but…….

Mr. Obama, on his part, got to know the princes and potentates well over the past years, too well for their good. Inevitably he developed a deep and healthy degree of contempt for them. And who wouldn’t? In that case familiarity was bound to work as the famous saying goes.

To add insult to injury, the failed Arab uprisings of 2011 uncovered how naked the  Arab emperors, the ruling elites, were. From the giant emperors in Cairo and Tripoli and Damascus to the little wee emperors in Sanaa and Manama. For a few glorious weeks the Arab masses pulled off the sheets to show how naked their leaders were underneath.
It was a brief spring that was followed by an even colder winter than ever. That was when the worst of them, the oligarchs, the moneyed kings and princes took over after the protesters were killed, imprisoned, exiled, cowed, or bought. They bought the Arab uprisings, from Egypt to Syria to Yemen. In fact they have bought the whole Arab League, which they now mostly own. With a couple of exceptions plus Tunisia, and Algeria.

Now, like some here in the USA, they can’t wait to go back to dealing with a “real American” leader. One who looks like the previous ones. It would be a great divine justice if they get Bernie Sanders, whom they will dislike for more than one reason and these reasons are all obvious.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Fatwa on Donald Trump and the Republican Dilemma of Arab Princes………

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 ChristmasPeanuts

It is no secret that most Arab princes and potentates would prefer a Republican administration in Washington. That is based on long-standing oil and other mutual business relations as well as on the warlike statements of Republican politicians toward Iran, Lebanon, and others. Most of them believe a Republican would have attacked Iran years ago, something the Saudis openly urged as the Wikileaks cables exposed, although George W Bush declined to do so. On several Middle East issues, they take the same stand as the Israeli Likud rather than the Obama administration.

Yet Mr. Trump presents them with a dilemma in the aftermath of the recent Wahhabi terrorist attack in San Bernardino. Actually even before that attack. You see, they don’t realize that he is unlikely to win the GOP nomination, and if he did he will not win the presidency. Americans have never elected to the presidency a gambling boss with a big mouth who is openly bigoted. Not in the past hundred fifty years anyway. And they are not about to do so now. So the princes worry about his Muslim-baiting and Nazi-like proposals on how to treat Muslims in the United States.

The potentates have not heard of my tweeted Fatwa that by March or April Mr. Trump will be back in the trash-bin of history or on reality TV (both, since he needs the money).  They actually believe he has a chance of winning, and therefore they can’t afford to antagonize him. Hence their official silence from Riyadh to Doha and Abu Dhabi toward his outrageous, politically-motivated, public uttering against their faith.

Of course no U.S. president would do what Trump is proposing, nor would he in the prohibitively unlikely event that he is elected. But going public with such proposals eggs on many people into more violent Islamophobia, especially many Republican voters of the historic know-nothing inclination. In other words the Trump bullhorn makes those so inclined ever more hateful.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Wahhabi Terrorism in Paris: Bush-ification of Francois Hollande?……..

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2

Francois Hollande: We will fight, and it will be ruthless…………..

It is natural that France feels besieged. They have had at least two major Wahhabi terrorist attacks in the incomparably beautiful city of Paris this year. Real terrorist attacks, unlike those informant-provoked entrapment “plots” of some addled schmuck at a mosque as has happened in New York and a few other states.

M. Hollande has now asked for a three-month State of Emergency, which is sort of like “closing the barn after the horse, or is it the ass, has escaped”. Hopefully the French State of Emergency does not become permanent, Arab-style. M. Hollande has gone beyond anything an American leader would go to. He has requested a law that any French citizen involved in terrorism be deprived of his/her citizenship, even if born in France. Provided he/she has another citizenship: meaning that “true” French, those who are not of Arab or African origin, are not covered by the new law.

In that, M. Hollande the Socialist has gone well beyond, say, George W Bush. He has out-Bushed Bush. It is an emotional move, and almost certainly a political move for the next French elections. It is unlikely to have any impact on national security or on the fate of the cutthroats of the Caliphate of ISIS.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Syrian War: the Advantage of Gospodin Putin, Poisonous Straws for the West………

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2

Almost everybody who is anybody is involved in Syria now. Plus a few nobodies. The Western powers have been ‘in’ Syria since long before they started their tepid bombing of the terrorists of ISIS (DAESH, ISIL). Some Republican senators have also crossed the Turkish border into Syria for photo-ops, Western trained fighters have crossed from Turkey and Jordan, before handing their weapons to ISIS or Jabhat Al Nusra (I called them Jabhat Al Qaeda three years ago) and defecting to one or another Wahhabi Jihadist groups. Now we also have Jaish Al-Fath, whose name translates correctly into Army of Islamic Conquest, which some Westerners seem to pin their dwindling Syrian hopes on. A poisonous straw to cling to.

The Arab oil potentates of course entered Syria from the beginning in 2011, with money, weapons, and Wahhabi jihadists from the Persian Gulf states and now from across the globe. That is how the early Syrian protests were quickly taken over by the Islamist jihadists. The West commenced its own bombing campaign after the fall of Mosul and other towns in Iraq and the consequent piling up of mass sectarian and religious atrocities in Iraq and Syria.
But the Western bombing campaign has been “measured”, a polite way of saying it was half-assed (which is how I would describe it if I were rude and crude, which I’m not). It is seemingly aimed only at preventing the expansion of ISIS (DAESH), perhaps rolling it back in Iraq. But the goal in Syria seems to be to keep the status quo: for if ISIS is pushed back in Syria, only Assad and his foreign allies would gain. Or, worse, the Al Qaeda allies and offshoots among the various Jaish Al or Jabhat Al or Ansar Al. Keeping the status quo in a civil war and in a multi-faceted international proxy war is nearly impossible. Hence the tepid air campaign that failed to alter the situation on the ground in Syria. Until a few days ago, when Russia decided to upend this strategy which Mr. Putin probably sees as either wimpy or sly.
Now Gospodin Tovarish Putin has decided to join everybody else and also interfere into the Syrian War, but in his case more decisively and with some authority. He has the luxury of knowing who he supports and who he opposes. He wants to defeat the Syrian opposition, most of whom are genocidal Jihadists with many Russian Chechens among them. He wants a victory for the Assad regime and its allies, if he can get one.


Unlike the Western powers, his campaign is straightforward and focused because it does not seek to mollify rich Arab allies, oligarchs whom he needs to mollify with an indecisive and week air campaign. And unlike Mr. Obama, Mr. Putin has a tame Doma (house or parliament) that does not pounce on every move he makes.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter


m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com