Category Archives: MENA

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

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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.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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New Umayyad Dilemma: From Russia to Syria with Love and Bombs?……….

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We have been ranting for almost four years here that the foreign Arabs have subverted the early Syrian uprising and contributed to turning it into a religious and sectarian bloodbath. That especially includes some Arab governments: Wahhabi regimes like Saudi Arabia and Qatar and other non-Wahhabi Persian Gulf governments that bowed to Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood pressure.
So Western powers and Persian Gulf potentates kept picking successive new leaders of Syrian “rebels”. These leaders kept failing, as expected here on these posts. Their early followers usually ended up joining the Wahhabi Jihadist cutthroats with their Western weapons.

The Turkish government was happy to help the growth of the Jihad in Syria (and Iraq) by expediting the flow of foreign weapons, money, volunteers, and accommodating women (harems). Now we have ISIS (DAESH) and Al-Nusra Front (Al Qaeda franchise) and Army of Islamic Conquest (Jaish Al Fath), among others as the only credible opposition in Syria.

So, the choice now is: serious negotiations with the Al Assad regime or the continued Jihad. Make no mistake about it: the Syrian struggle is now completely a “Jihad” to establish an Islamist Caliphate in Damascus. Except it will not be like the Umayyads who joined Islam out of political necessity after Mohammed (the original one) conquered Mecca. They will be true blue puritans: more doctrinaire, more corrupt, and less open than the early Islamic state.
Many foreign powers and regimes and forces are involved in Syria, from Americans to Europeans to small Arab states to Iran and Lebanon. So, why not Russians? Especially if they are sanctioned by Damascus? After all, the Russian Chechen Jihadis are among the leaders of the Jihadist side in Syria and Moscow does not look forward to their possible return home.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Cutthroat Alley: the Western Powers and the Sick Man of the Middle East…….

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“At the launch of the latest annual strategic survey published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), experts criticised the west for not doing more to gather support either from other Arab countries or Syrian rebels not attached to Isis. “Since the beginning, western powers have run away from hard choices in Syria,” said Emile Hokayem, IISS senior fellow for Middle East security. He said western policy was “fundamentally flawed” by not realising the extent of the threat posed by the Assad regime. “That makes the threat of Isis bigger,” he said. “The west is still running away from the hard truth … Assad is a much greater threat [than Isis],”………….”

We have heard (or read) this one before. Will the Western powers and their think-tankers ever learn? Will they ever learn not to repeat the same mistakes across the shattered and repressed Arab world, the “sick man of the Middle East“? Will they never learn from the experiences in Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, etc? Yet another “expert” from another think-tank is here advising a repeat of the old mistakes.

In Libya, Colonel Gaddafi was correctly seen as a corrupt repressive dictator. But one big mistake was in the apparent assumption that the Libyan rebels were like the American Founding Fathers: that they would lead the country to democracy. The same was allegedly expected in Yemen: Western powers assumed the repressive feudal kings and princes of the Persian Gulf states would turn their southern poorest neighbor into a prosperous democracy (or did they?). In Syria they apparently assumed the repressive Wahhabi princes and potentates of the Gulf (Saudi, Qatar, UAE) would help overthrow the Assad regime and create a quasi-Wahhabi state that can be tolerated by the West. All with the help of oil money, Wahhabi volunteers, and Turkish logistical cooperation.

Instead, now a large swath of the region, from Iraq through Syria and Yemen and Egypt and Libya can be correctly called Cutthroat Alley.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Potentates of the Gulf Unite! (Against Human Rights)………

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“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recalled the UAE ambassador to Sweden in wake of comments the country’s foreign minister made about Saudi Arabia. In addition to recalling the ambassador, Sultan Rashid Al Kaitoob, the ministry also summoned the Swedish ambassador to the UAE, Jan Thesleff, and delivered a formal memorandum of protest over Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom’s remarks, state news agency Wam reported. Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, highlighted the “condemnation by the UAE of strong statements made by the Foreign Minister of Sweden to the Swedish Parliament against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its judicial system”. Dr Gargash stressed that these statements violate the principle of sovereignty……………..”

This show of outrage by the princes and potentates and their minions. Supposedly ‘sisterly or brotherly’ outrage as Gulf media and officials like to call it. This outrage would be funny if it were not outrageous. Coming from Persian Gulf potentates who meddle in Libya and Syria and Iraq and Lebanon and Bahrain and Egypt, among other places. Who paid billions to crush the Tahrir Uprising by the military and help repress Bahrain even as they claim to seek to liberate Syria and steer it towards the joys of Wahhabism.

So why would the Abu Dhabi potentates protest a diplomatic issue between two other countries? Maybe it is a case of “If the shoe fits, wear it“. In Arabic it would be “He who has a bump on his head will reach and touch it” (اللي على راسه بطحة يتحسسها).

Likely it has to do with a (non-mathematical) principle of transfer. They also do it, so maybe they expect the Swedish diplomats to mention them as well at some point. They feel entitled to certain consideration and accommodation, because they can threaten to block lucrative contracts (some may consider it a sort of blackmail). You never see the British or French governments talk about human rights in these countries. Why do you suppose that is so? Certainly it has nothing to do with principles: both these European governments leave their principles on the other side of the Mediterranean before they hit our shores. They always have.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

McCain’s Half-Empty Glass: Questionable Terms of Reference…….

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Saw John McCain on MSNBC (Morning Joe). It was predictable: he did not add anything new to my knowledge. He never disappoints (me or his interviewer):

  • When asked about the Iran nuclear talks (P5+1) talks: he quoted Netanyahu (always of questionable veracity to the world on the other side of the Atlantic or the Pacific), Arab allies (Wahhabi powers Saudi Arabia, Qatari, UAE……… all true democracies).
  • When asked about Syria: insisted on his old mantra of no-fly zones, train more dubious current or future Wahhabi recommendations. Roll the dice again and see what comes up, maybe something better will happen than in the past (Al-Nusra, ISIS, Al-Sham, etc). He did not mention that the main US trained opposition group just joined Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria today.
  • About Iraq. When asked about some towns freed from ISIS by Iraqi forces, he grumbled that there were also formerly-hostile Iraqi Shi’a militias who contributed. Always a half-empty glass.
  • He did praise Zbigniew Brzezinski, to his daughter, as a cold-warrior. He forgot to add that the Afghan campaign (against the Soviets and their Afghan allies) gave us modern Jihadism, then Al-Qaeda, then its ISIS offspring. That the Arab (and Turkish) intervention in Syria funded and enabled the growth of this new monstrous Caliphate.
  • Asked about Russia and Ukraine: send forces to Poland and the Baltic.
  • I didn’t hear anything about “liberated” Libya. Remember Libya that was liberated by McCain and Lieberman and Bernard-Henri Levy and Tony Blair (and NATO)? Or maybe I just subconsciously blocked it.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Year of Chopping Heads: from Mosul to Oklahoma……

_9OJik4N_normal Sharqeya-Baneen-15    DennyCreek2

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Suddenly decapitating seems to be ‘in’ (at least in our region and in world media). It is certainly as ‘in’ as slowly and agonizingly, hit-or-miss, experimental injection of poison to death-row convicts in Oklahoma and other states. It is a toss-up which method is more cruel: you never know until you try both, personally. Beheading is probably more cruel; besides, it is happening more frequently. Especially now that the Wahhabi cutthroats (literally) of this Hollywood Caliphate are resurgent in Iraq and Syria.

The Caliphate unceremoniously mows down Yazidis and Shi’as and native non-Wahhabis into mass graves. But it reserves the more ceremonial beheading for Westerners. It is a tough choice: would you rather be mowed down as one more anonymous body among thousands or would you rather be murdered ceremoniously but painfully?
To keep up with the other Wahhabi Abus, the Saudis have also ramped up their beheading state machine. Reports claim they have accelerated the number of public beheadings, that it is close to 50 so far this year, give or take a couple.
Not to be outdone, the Algerian Salafis have gone back to their 1990s civil war practice of beheading hostages. Not to mention reports of the Philippines Abus, Abu Sayyaf (?) resorting to the endearing old practice.
Not to be outdone, some nutcase in Oklahoma just beheaded a co-worker. Oklahomaaaaaaa Okay? Oklahoma that has been worried about the Shari’a Law creeping into its statehouse and legislature and has been dabbling with laws to forestall it.

Odd, how they believe that chopping heads is the ‘Islamic’ way to execute someone. Just because they did it in the old days. What they overlook is that they had no other choice in those days. They did not have guns or hypodermic needles in the seventh century. Everybody chopped heads at that time, be they Muslims or Christians or Vegans. Even Henry VIII did it, even the French reveled in it for a mad brief period.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

UAE Pivoting: Brothers Karamazov to the Shores of Tripoli……..

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“From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land, and sea………”

“Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were responsible for carrying out two series of air strikes in the past week on armed Islamist factions in Tripoli, Libya, US officials said on Monday. The officials said the two Arab countries used aircraft based in Egypt. Earlier the New York Times reported that the two US allies acted without consulting Washington………..”

If you have a choice between believing Egyptian (and UAE) officials and American officials, whom would you believe? I’d take my chances with U.S. officials, since they are subject to public and media scrutiny (er, ahem, not that they would lie even if they could get away with it). Besides, Egyptian officials are notorious serial liars, possibly the lying-est in the history of the Middle East.

But the United Arab Emirates flexing military muscle in the MENA region (with help from their little man in Egypt)? The private fiefdom of the Bin Zayed Al Nahayan brothers? As someone who is rude and crude (which I am not) would exclaim: the UnitedFuckingEmirates? The funny country that is 87% composed of imported temporary foreigner laborers and reportedly relies on a Blackwater-advised foreign mercenary force of Colombians and White South Africans and Australians and others to keep order? That is a shocker.

The Al Nahayan brothers are pivoting from the Persian Gulf toward North Africa now. They helped mess up Bahrain by joining the Al Saud invasion to crush the popular uprising and prevent the liberation of Bahrain in 2011. They joined up with French pop-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and John McCain and NATO bombers to help liberate Libya in the same year. They helped muddy the waters in Syria in 2011 and convert a popular uprising into a Wahhabi-financed and armed Jihadi terrorist campaign. There are some reports of a sisterly role for the brothers in the rise of ISIS and its Caliphate in Iraq and Syria and back to Iraq.
What Mr. Vladimir Putin should worry about now is if the brothers decide to pivot to the Ukraine and maybe seek to liberate the Crimea. Mr. Obama may have to worry about the brothers Al Nahayan pivoting toward the far east, thus complicating his own efforts at pivoting toward the arms of his Chinese business partners and Kim-Jong Un.


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Will Netanyahu Visit Riyadh or Will the King do the Ghazwat Jerusalem?……….

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“No, the surprising cooperation and doors that might open to which Netanyahu referred, seems an allusion to key Sunni countries in the region, particularly Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Just a day before the prime minister’s comments, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah issued a statement read out on Saudi television about the situation in Gaza. Incredibly, Abdullah decried the “collective massacre” in Gaza, but did not pin it on Israel………… Abdullah’s words were real-time proof of what American political scientist Walter Russell Mead wrote last week, that “the battle between Sunni Arabs and Israelis is no longer the most important issue on the table for key Arab governments as well as for Israel……………”

The alliance, I called it a coalition, is in place. It has been forming for some time, it was awaiting the advent of Generalisimo Field Marshal Al Sisi to return Egypt to it. Now that the Egyptian Tahrir Uprising has totally failed: he is in place. The Al Saud and their Al Nahayn sidekicks had wanted Egypt back, which they have now bought back. They have also wanted Iraq back (demographically not possible) and Syria back (their chances were ruined by their Wahhabi militia allies) and Lebanon back (demographically not possible).
A coalition of convenience, between arguably the most democratic (it still is, even with the plight of the Palestinians under occupation) and most aggressively militarized country in the Middle East and two of the least democratic countries in the Middle East, possibly in the world (Saudi Arabia and the UAE).

Egypt is now another traditional Arab military oligarchy, its fate sealed with Al Sisi engineering a victory of 97% out of the few Egyptians who bothered to vote earlier this year. The goal: on the one hand aimed at maintaining the status quo of pre-2011, and on the other aimed at pushing back the eastward expansion of the mullahs away from the Mediterranean.
Don’t expect Netanyahu to land at Riyadh anytime soon: no such invitation is likely. If he did, he might bring along a bunch of lawyers with claims to Jewish property confiscated at Madinah and Khaybar some fifteen centuries ago. The Saudi king is unlikely to fly anywhere other than Morocco, or maybe to some medical facility in the West.


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Our Fertile Crescent of Turmoil and Violence: Neither Shi’a nor Sunni nor Wahhabi……

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In our native region, the origins of symbolic crescents go back deep into history. In modern times it makes for some memorable sound bites. From the original Ramadan Crescent we have gone through others. From the Fertile Crescent to Zbigniew Brzezinski‘s Arc (or Crescent) of Crisis of 1978 to the more recent sectarian “Crescents”.

Remember when the “Shi’a Crescent” was the fashionable term among the foreign policy connoisseurs of the West? That was when they talked about a Shia Crescent (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon) and the media picked on it and spread it? That one imploded early in 2011 with the explosion of what became the doomed Arab Uprisings.

Remember when some started to talk of a broad “Sunni Crescent” (Turkey, Qatar, Saudi, GCC, Syrian Opposition, etc)? All these were cute sound bites that sought to summarize and hence (mis)represent the march of events and history across the Middle East. As usual, the sound bites simplified and grossly misrepresented a set of complex situations.

Then there is the more specific “Wahhabi Crescent” that is defined by Saudi Arabia and Qatar at one end (one tip), and by the Jihadist terror groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS and Al-Nusra and the Salafi movements at the other end (the other tip). There is some serious interaction in between. No need to go over Taliban and Boko Haram and their ilk.

What we have now is one huge wide Arc of Sectarian Turmoil and Violence that spreads from the northeastern shores of the Tigris and Euphrates south to Yemen and north up through the Sinai and across the Nile and into Libya. I am not even including the distant peripheral neighbors like Afghanistan and Pakistan and northwest Africa. Now, more than three years after the so-called Arab Spring, we are having the beginnings of a possible regional bloodbath. In some cases like Syria and Iraq and Libya and Yemen it is well advanced, in other cases like Egypt and Palestine-Israel it is somewhat controlled and sporadic. The violence is also nibbling at some other states of the region, like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Lebanon, threatening to get out of hand.

Oddly, or maybe not, the non-Arab countries and quasi-countries of the region are quite stable, given the storms raging around them. Turkey, Iran, Israel, and even Iraqi Kurdistan have managed to go through non-controversial political processes, in one case with smooth and peaceful leadership change. Yet these same non-Arab countries are deeply involved in the turmoil raging through the eastern part of the Arab world. In some cases feeding it, in others exploiting it. 

Stay tuned………


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Qassem Suleimani: Plotter with Morsi, Drug Smuggler to GCC, Election Manager in Iraq …….


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to the Kuwait daily Al Qabas Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani has been a master at multitasking over the past few years. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard chief of the Quds Force is reported everywhere from Basrah to Damascus to Cairo. He is quoted extensively in Gulf and Western media, although he has never talked to any of them:

  • Last year when the Muslim Brotherhood were ruling Egypt the newspaper claimed that they sought help from Iran’s Brigadier Suleimani. Morsi was president in Egypt at the time and Al Qabas claimed in a bizarre story that Qassem Suleimani had met a senior Egyptian (Muslim Brotherhood) leader at a famous Cairo hotel. It did not claim they met at a hotel bar over drinks. But where else? 
  • Now we all know Morsi was as sectarian as anyone else in Cairo, as sectarian as any of his former Salafi allies who betrayed him last July. No doubt the purpose of the leak was to discredit the local Muslim Brotherhood (both Kuwaiti and Gulf) and perhaps influence events in Egypt. 
  • Now the same newspaper, which represents the interests of traditional business oligarchs in Kuwait, has a new gem which it claims is based on Saudi and Gulf intelligence sources (as suspect in my book as Iranian and Syrian and Israeli or any other intelligence when it comes to disinformation). Mr. Suleimani is also in the illegal drug business.
  • They report that Qassem Suleimani is now also in charge of a network that prepares and smuggles drugs into the Persian Gulf states. The daily claims that the ‘raw drugs’ are originally shipped through Iraq (according to Saudi and Gulf GCC intelligence agencies) to Syria and Lebanon where they are processed (not clear where the raw materials come from into Iran). Then the final products are presumably shipped from Lebanon all the way to Bandar Abbas, an Iranian port on the Gulf. A hell of a long way to ship drugs, several thousand kilometers through the Suez Canal (or maybe the longer route around Africa?). Why not process the drugs in Iran, or even Iraq, instead of shipping them all the way to Lebanon to be shipped back to the Gulf by sea? Somebody is very stupid here, either the Iranians or the writer for Al Qabas. I pick the Al Qabas writer for the prize.
  • Al Qabas also claims that Suleimani runs the drug operation from Southern Iraq, where he is also managing a campaign to get another term for Nouri Al Maliki as prime minister of Iraq. Imagine that.
  • Now that is true multitasking. Notice how all the countries involved are the “usual suspects”: all either Shi’a majority or plurality or members of a certain camp? I mean Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria?That must be a coincidence, no? 
  • Al Qabas did not say, however, that Qassem Suleimani is also in charge of the Iranian nuclear program and operates execution squads, as well as the Amsterdam Red Light District and the Mexican Drug Cartels (all based on Saudi and Gulf intelligence source). Not yet. But maybe some Saudi prince would hire him to run their family campaign to become king after their next election.
  • All this can be true, of course. Anything is possible these days and not only on paper. But I am not buying it.