Category Archives: Middle East

The Questionable Wisdom of Friedman: From Beirut to MBS, and Beyond Saddam………

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“I never thought I’d live long enough to write this sentence: The most significant reform process underway anywhere in the Middle East today is in Saudi Arabia. Yes, you read that right. Though I came here at the start of Saudi winter, I found the country going through its own Arab Spring, Saudi style. Unlike the other Arab Springs — all of which emerged bottom up and failed miserably, except in Tunisia — this one is led from the top down by the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman……. only a fool would not root for it.To better understand it I flew to Riyadh to interview the crown prince, known as “M.B.S.,”………..”

The prominent gullible American fool said: “only a fool would not root for it”

 

“‘Our Hands Can Reach You’: Khashoggi Case Shakes Saudi Dissidents Abroad…… A Saudi women’s rights activist was driving in the United Arab Emirates when she was pulled over by security officers, thrown on a plane to Saudi Arabia and jailed…….. In Canada, when a Saudi student refused to stop making YouTube videos criticizing the kingdom’s rulers, two of his brothers back home were imprisoned…….. So when a prominent Saudi critic, Jamal Khashoggi, disappeared after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week, it hardly surprised Saudi dissidents living abroad — until Turkish officials said they believed he had been killed……”

Well, I know the same fool who has been rooting for various Middle East despots and movements, always to be proven wrong at the end. His problem is that he always listens to ‘insiders’, be they in Cairo or Riyadh or Abu Dhabi. That is, when he is not gleaning wisdom from his Arab airport taxi drivers (invariably named Abed, Abduh, Abbadi, Abdul, Abu Lama’a etc…..)

As I have often opined: the West often seems blind to one fact about the Middle East region, Saddam Hussein is always with us. One Saddam is dead, now long live the new Saddam……fully supported and armed by the West, just as the old one .

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

This Week: Ashoura and Hezbollah Missiles, Trump to Raid the UN, F Troop to Man a Fort Trump in Poland……

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“On Thursday, Nasrallah claimed Israeli strikes in Syria to prevent Hizbollah from acquiring precise missiles were ineffective.”I tell (Israel) no matter what it did to cut the route, it is over. It has already been achieved,” he said, adding that Hizbollah “now possesses precision missiles and non-precision and weapons capabilities.” Nasrallah was speaking during a traditional televised speech at the end of Ashoura, a top religious holy day for Shia Muslims that lasts for 10 days. He told supporters to be confident and Israelis to be concerned of Hizbollah’s capabilities. Nasrallah said the balance of power in the region has changed…..”
Normally Nasrallah, whatever you think of him, is not known as a boaster, not much anyway (unlike you know who). Even the Israelis especially know that and now seem to plan and act/react accordingly.

But I am not sure about his claim that “the balance of power in the region had changed“. I am not completely sold on this one. Although it is probably true that in the war of July 2006 Hezbollah had a few thousand limited-range missiles, and now they are reported to have close to 150,000 longer-range precision missiles. In spite of occasional bombing (and other) attempts to stop the flow. Besides, they are very likely to have developed their own domestic know-how over the years.

Jerusalem Post headlined what it called Breaking News! “Trump to hold meeting with Netanyahu, other leaders at UN General Assembly“…
To which I tweeted: Breaking! Shocker Indeed: Amazing development! Trump and Netanyahu! Trump to meet his chief cheerleader at UN General Assembly!

Poland‘s slick President Duda suggested in Washington a permanent American base in his country be named Fort Trump. To be manned by a force called F Troop. I almost expected him to turn to his host and call him “The Duke”.
I commented that this President Duda sure knows how to kiss it!

Middle East/Arab social media are making fun of the Russian reaction to the Ilyushin shootdown near Latakia, in which Israeli warplanes hid behind the Russian Ilyushin to bomb a Syrian airbase. Many Russian military personnel died. They recall that Arab governments always threatened the same “severe reaction” to Israeli violations, which usually meant: they won’t do nada. Although a few claimed that Netanyahu’s freedom to bomb wherever he wants in Syria in support of the Islamist groups may be nearing an end after this.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Middle East Roundup: From China to Iran, Iraq, West Bank Exile, and Suggestive Saudi Potato Chips…….

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

Round-up of recent Middle East news and some comments:

In Iraq, it looks like Muqtada Al Sadr has abandoned his near-alliance with caretaker PM Haidar Al Abadi. He has now called for Abadi to resign.
My comment? If it holds up, that will seal the fate of the incompetent PM. Alliance with Muqtada was Abadi’s only route to remaining in power, after he threw his Iranian and PMU allies under the bus to appease Donald Trump.

Israeli and other media report Israel has banned teenage Palestinian protester Ahed al-Tamimi of the Occupied West Bank from traveling abroad.
My comment? That’s freedom for you, in the “only democracy” in the Middle East. But it’s done all over the Middle East, banning travel of dissidents From Tehran to Riyadh to Cairo and Algeria and beyond. It is a form of internal exile, to be locked up within the borders. Probably better than a prison or a dungeon. Unless you can escape into external exile before it is too late.

Saw an article in Foreign Policy to the effect that: China’s Continent-Spanning Trains Are Running Half-Empty. Beijing’s funding dozens of new rail routes as part of its global ambitions — and losing money on every one. So what’s the long game?
My comment? That is China. Meanwhile, back in the USA, Mr. Trump’s Infrastructure non-plan is still just hot air, unexplained and likely misunderstood by Trump, opposed by a small-minded miserly short-sighted Congress.

Reports that the US administration has warned Syria not to attack the Jihadists holed up in Idlib. Some US sources even claimed the Syrian regime is preparing to use chemical weapons against the rebels in the region. Idlib is the last major outpost of the Al Qaeda-led Salafist terrorists in Syria.
My comment? Who would have thunk it! That a day would come when the USA (Trump Admin) is allied to an Al Qaeda Salafist branch in Syria.
September 11, 2001 forgotten, buried in Wahhabi oil money. And how do they know the Syrian regime will use WMD? Did the Jihadis tell them, directly or through Israeli or Arab sources?

A piece sponsored by the Atlantic Council suggested that “Iran and the US Should Use the UN to Reopen a Channel for Dialogue”.
My comment? To start with: Trump has just reneged on the UN-adopted JCPOA Nuclear Deal. As a rule, US Iran policy (and Middle East policy) should be formulated in the United States, in Washington DC, as it was in the past, not in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem (or Las Vegas or Evangelical-LalaLand). And it should not be based on the whims and purchasing power of a few Persian Gulf absolute princes and potentates with money to burn.

The Washington Post reports from the Democratic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that a man was detained in Saudi Arabia for eating potato chips with a woman — and then posting the video.
My comment? Sharing a bag of potato chips with a woman in Saudi Arabia can be very suggestive. Especially if her whole face is completely covered with a burqa/niqab, which makes it even more suggestive, even if nobody can tell who she/he/it is.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Dhahran Summit of the Incompetent and the Impotent and General Sisi’s Plastic Missiles……..

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

Arab leaders started their annual summit yesterday. This year it is in Dhahran (Zahran), Saudi Arabia, right on the Persian Gulf, right over the oil fields. Right across the waterway from Iran and the scowling ayatollahs. One can imagine that you can see the mountains of Iran if you squint hard enough, if you can see through all the Western naval warships clogging my Gulf.
These Western warships that are there presumably to deter an alleged Iranian attack that will never materialize, that has not materialized in over two centuries.

So far in my lifetime (and in my father’s and my grandfather’s lifetime), the only aggression in my Gulf has been committed by one Arab country against another, in one case by one Arab country against Iran:

Kuwait was invaded from what is now called Saudi Arabia at least twice, last time in the 1920s.
Kuwait was often threatened and then actually invaded and occupied by Baathist Iraq in 1990. Only the USA and Western allies liberated it, with some token Arab forces.

Yemen was invaded at least twice from Saudi Arabia. Large chunks of its territory were annexed, Israeli-style, by the Saudis during the last century.

Yemen has been, still is, the target of daily bombing and genocide by Saudi Arabia with active British-American help for the past three years.

Bahrain has been the beneficiary of a joint Saudi-UAE expeditionary force that helps the ruling family crush a popular uprising and the popular calls for reform.

Qatar was the target of a Saudi-instigated coup in the 1990s. It failed and several high Saudi intelligence officials were jailed in Doha for years. Now Qatar is again the target of a Cuba-style economic and total blockade from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Bahrain and Qatar have had their territorial disputes and clashes for decades.

Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, starting a war that lasted eight year. That losing war bankrupted Iraq and was the beginning of the end of the Baath regime of Saddam Hussein.
And there is more….

This Dhahran summit was weakly-attended: several Arab leaders sent second or third or even fourth rate representatives. The Emir of Qatar was smart enough to stay home; he probably did not want to be taken hostage by the fellow Arab princes of Riyadh. He remembers what happened to Lebanon’s Saad Hariri last year. Algeria, Oman, Morocco, even the UAE downgraded their delegates.

Bashar Al Assad would not stoop to attend the summit even if he were invited. There was no mention of the GCC crisis, of the Arab blockade of Qatar, of the Western attack on Syria.

The Saudi king declared that the Dhahran Summit will be called the Jerusalem Summit (presumably to celebrate his new friend Trump’s move of the US embassy).

In recent decades, Arab summits have been impotent gatherings of incompetent leaders. In the shadow of the huge American and British armadas and military bases, the Saudi king talked against “foreign” interference in Arab affairs. As if the NATO military forces and bases dotting my Gulf region were purely Arab forces.

In my lifetime, I have never seen the Arab world in such disarray and weakness, largely controlled by outside powers: be they American, Iranian, Israeli, or Turkish. This was probably the worst summit of them all, and the most hypocritical.

Its incompetence was summarized by Egyptian dictator Generalissimo Al Sisi, who raged against what he called “plastic” missiles being fired from Yemen in retaliation for constant Saudi bombing. I believe Al Sisi meant “ballistic” missiles. But he was onto something, inadvertently. The huge Arab armies, very expensively armed by the West to face a non-existing enemy across the Persian Gulf, are almost like “plastic” missiles. They are useless without Western help, guidance, and management. And very likely they also need imported personnel to operate them…

Cheers (if you can)
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Tweets on GroupThink: Alleged Syrian Chemical Red Lines and the Push for a ‘Trump’ Quagmire……….

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

It is not clear what happened in Douma, Syria yesterday. US media and many politicians are accepting the rebel Islamist narrative that the regime used chemical weapons in Douma, just as the regime was about to take control of Douma anyway (without use of chemicals). I don’t know what happened, but I carry a bag of salt over my shoulder. Some of my (modified) tweets about the recent alleged chemical attacks in Syria:

Sen. Graham (former desk-bound lawyer for USAF- US Air Force): “he’s going to look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran
He sure knows how to rile up the dotard…..
But Graham also has never seen a Middle East war he didn’t like….

I: He can punish Syria by having USAF carpet-bomb Damascus with millions of his inaugural photos…….

Hey, @realDonaldTrump, this is still valid —-> Donald Trump in Syria: Not Beau Geste, not Dien Bien Phu, not Khe Sanh, not Desert Storm……. 

US main media is urging “an attack” against Syria…
Saudi Arabian princes urging a war against Iran….
Israeli Likud urging war against Iran….
John Bolton acting as a Fifth Column for all of the above….

UN Security Council to meet today about Syrian chemical attack. Will not discus Israeli “illegal” air attack on Syria. Will not discuss US supported genocide in Yemen.

Russians claim they are in Douma now, see no chemical weapons effects. Call it a fabrication.

Most US GroupThink media are afraid to question all allegations….

All this obsession with “Red Lines“….. All this macho crap….
Democrats whining about Trump “abandoning” Syria ……

No mention of Obama….
Yet when when the quagmire materializes, they will scream a “Trump Quagmire!”

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

War Planner Bolton Misses a Red Wedding, Bin Salman’s World Conquest, Khamenei the Conqueror…….

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

This looks deceptively like a slow news weekend, outside of Germany and the Gaza killings. But this can be deceptive; there are other bits of news in the Middle East: 

Wars in Syria and Yemen grind on…..

Saudi Crown Prince MBS, officially called New Hunk in Town by female anchor women of his own media, is on the tail-end of his Tour of World Conquest. He wants to accomplish it before the old Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei takes over the world. The prince has been told by expensive lobbyists in Washington that the Hitler analogy is always popular, hence this silly breathless headline in the Atlantic. The Prince has already secured the allegiance of Britain and the USA (including media icons like Norah O’Donnell and the Empress Oprah). He also already owns much of the eastern half of the Arab world outside Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Qatar.

The eldest sons of Donald Trump (Eric and Donald Jr), attended the wedding of some Real Estate tycoon in the United Arab Emirates. The wedding of some son of a DAMAC Properties Dubai oligarch.

John Bolton (not related to the Red Wedding characters) declined the Dubai wedding because, they say, he’s busy planning a couple of new Muslim wars in the Middle East.
Young Barron declined that he had better things to do (he does)……
But the weekend is just starting….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Donald Trump in Syria: Not Beau Geste, not Dien Bien Phu, not Khe Sanh, not Desert Storm……

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

President Trump has been flip-flopping on a Syrian  withdrawal again. But he was quoted Monday that he might keep the (uninvited) troops in IF the Saudis pay him (as they pay mercenaries?). Now his staff say he might keep some forces in Syria for a ‘short time’. Such alleged intentions have often led to prolonged wars of attrition (Vietnam, latest iteration of the Afghanistan War).

But nobody has asked Syria’s government or people if they want American troops in their country (funded with Saudi money and hence beholden to the potentates’ unrealistic goals in Syria).

The advice Trump will get, is getting, from his advisers and from self-serving Arab potentates seems to be to keep a ‘substantial’ small force in Syria. Under the guise of mopping up the remnants of ISIS. But many believe that this has nothing to do with ISIS anymore. And this force will be isolated in the ‘desert’. Besieged by unreliables and hostiles/potential hostiles: disgruntled former Turkish allies, Arab Jihadists, Kurdish factions, Syrian regime forces, Hezbollah, Iraqi PMU, Brigadier Qassem Soleimani & his men, et al. Their access will depend on cooperation from some highly unreliable players in a highly unreliable region.

This is not like a repeat of the first Persian Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, when all sides were identifiable, lined up behind clear and visible battle lines. When the goal was clear.

Is somebody setting these American troops up as sitting ducks in the desert for their own agenda? A more isolated, unwinnable version of Khe Sanh? But the brave fighters at that Vietnamese outpost were not nearly as isolated as the strip of Syria that is relevant here. Besides, Khe Sanh, although not a Dien Bien Phu, was apparently just a diversionary battle that preceded the Tet Offensive.

Unless Mr. Bolton and all those pushing for this dubious project are willing to suit up, go to contested eastern Syria.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Next Middle East War: Passing the Buck to Trump and his New Madman……..

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking


“OPINION: Iran is expanding in #Syria and approaching the borders with #Israel which will not stand still and accept growing Iranian influence near it…. It seems there is no prospect of a US-Israeli war against Iranian sway over Syria and Lebanon before major upcoming political and military developments unfold, i.e. before the Syrian regime and its allies grab more districts from the factions fighting in the Damascus suburbs and before the parliamentary elections are held in Lebanon on May 6. Speculation over the outbreak of this war recently increased and some indicators hinted it was likely. The Israelis have been closely watching developments in the Damascus countryside and have said that Iran is getting closer to these areas. Meanwhile, the US has included more hawks in its administration – hawks who believe that the confrontation with Iran has become a necessity. The most recent addition to the US administration was John Bolton………”

Almost funny, this clear and obvious Saudi attempt to provoke Israel (and the USA) into waging another Muslim war. But the consequences can be tragic for our native region.

Saudi officials, their controlled media, and their regional Salafi sidekicks and allies, have been pushing for two decades for America to join a new sectarian war in the Persian Gulf and the wider Middle East. The same goes for Benyamin Netanyahu of Israel and his omnipotent American lobbyists. They all have been pushing America to wage one more war in faraway Muslim places on their behalf. George W. Bush and Barack Obama were too smart for that, they declined the honor. 

They still want an aggressive American war of choice. And they always want it now! Now, they think they have a chance with this new vain, insecure blusterer as president of the USA. Just praise him, appeal to his insecurity and vanity. Especially now with a fringe warhawk, a chickenhawk, as White House National Security advisor.

In this piece, one of many “pieces”, the official Saudi Alarabiya network is trying to egg on Israel to fight their war on Iran. Another of their Lebanese mercenary columnists…..

Meanwhile in Israel, Netanyahu is doing his part in trying to egg on America to fight his war against Iran. He knows there is a balance of terror now between Israel and the camp that calls itself “Axis of Resistance”. Enough missiles stockpiled and produced in Iran, Lebanon, and Israel to create mayhem across the Middle East. Enough missiles to possibly offset all these warplanes Mr. Trump is selling to Israel and others in the region.

Everybody seems to want someone else to fight their own sectarian Muslim war in the Middle East. The “buck” seems to aim straight at the Oval office, where it will stop. But the man in the oval office talks big but apparently carries a tiny stick (not a pun). His concessions to the man he calls “Little Rocket Man” indicates that he talks big but pulls his punches when the moment is right. Has been doing it since the days of the Vietnam War. The same goes for his new National Security chief, famous Vietnam Evader but otherwise warhawk John Bolton.

A politically desperate Netanyahu, domestically in as much trouble as Trump is, could be enticed into yet another stab at Lebanon, another folly. Or worse, he could try to launch his own blitz over Iran. That will very likely inspire the US Congress to demand action of the wrong kind.

Cheers

Mohammed haider Ghuloum

There But for the Grace of God: Großvater Trumpf to Grandpa Hitler to John Bolton…..

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

Did you know: Adolf Hitler was thinking of emigrating to the USA from Austria? Just like Großvater Trumpf did from Germany? Like so many others in Europe did at the time. And almost around the same time, early in the 20th century. Then The Great War (WWI) started.

I believe there were some hints of that among his Mein Kampf rantings. Otherwise could there have been a President Adolf Hitler III, elected in 2016, without the murderous baggage of Nazism and WWII? He could even have been elected as a Democrat.

Imagine, Großvater Hitler could have saved the lives of tens of millions in Europe, had he followed the Trump-(f)s to America. His grandson could have ended up in the White House, screwing up America instead.

He (Adolf Hitler III) could have been elected even with a small acceptable toothbrush moustache and his vegetarian bent. He could win Red Beef states like Texas and Montana even if he were a vegetarian like his Grandpa Hitler.
He wouldn’t even be considered a maniac: instead he could have hired a real maniac like Ramsay or John Bolton with his bleached walrus moustache to screw up the Middle East and bomb more Muslim countries….

Some reports also claim that the immigrant Herr Trumpf, the Großvater of Donald, didn’t like it in America, wanted to return to Germany. But the Great War (WWI) started and precluded that. So he settled down in New York…..

There But for the Grace of God…………

Cheers (if you can)

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Prince Bin Salman Coming to America: of Christian Evangelicals, Muslim Salafists, and the Anti-Christ…….

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KuwaitCox2 Hiking

I came across a tweet from a frustrated and befuddled man. I wish I could remember his name. He wrote that for years Christian Evangelicals had warned him that the Anti-Christ was coming, that he should be ready for that dark day. He then added that: now that (he thought) the Anti-Christ has arrived (at least in the USA), he is shocked that they have joined him, that they voted for the same Anti-Christ they had warned him about and they continue to strongly support him.
(I wondered what he was talking about, clearly a Democrat).

Which reminds me of the Salafists (or Wahhabis), our Muslim equivalents of these Christian Evangelicals he was talking about. They also face a dilemma now. The Sunni Salafist clerics, and others, in the Persian-American Gulf region are mostly educated in Saudi theological colleges, where they have absorbed the teachings of Shaikh Mohammed Bin Abdul-Wahhab, the founder of Sunni Wahhabism, the official faith of Saudi Arabia. He, of course, based his doctrine on earlier extreme fundamentalists.

Over the years those Gulf Salafists became strong advocates and supporters of the Saudi theological school as well as strong advocates for the policies of the Saudi government, good and bad. That was a natural result of the Saudi establishment being an alliance between the ruling Al Saud dynasty and the strict Wahhabi clerics led by the Al Shaikh family who descend from Bin Abdul-Wahhab. The higher echelons of the Saudi establishment are full of Al Al Shaikh men, the current top religious Mufti is among them. A few times in my earlier posts I have often opined here that Gulf Salafists were essentially a Saudi fifth column in their native countries. Most of them anyway, although I know there are a few exceptions.

Saudi Salafist leaders in exile, almost all of them in the West, are furious about this new social and educational reform movement by MBS. They say it is a plot to end Wahhabism as they know it. It is, after all, threatening to deprive them of their only theological anchor: the Wahhabi clerical establishment in Saudi Arabia. The secular opposition, those not in prison in Riyadh or in Western exile are mostly silent for now, regrouping.

Now the Salafists of the Gulf states are facing a dilemma. The new Saudi strongman, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is trying to move away from strict Wahhabism. He is trying to tap the dormant discontent and excruciating boredom among the huge population of young educated Saudis, male and female, as well as to impress Western policy-makers to his side. He is also doing it out of economic necessity, given this country’s heavy dependence on foreign labor and foreign talent. Given the depleting nature of fossil fuel resources. This position is unusual for a Saudi prince who was not educated in the West, especially in the USA.

Gulf Salafists have for years been cheerleaders, money collectors, as well as volunteers for Al Qaeda and later ISIS (Islamic State), although they have toned it down in recent years because of political pressure by regional governments as well as American efforts. Some of them have even tried to follow the official line and pretend to abandon ISIS, by irrationally claiming that it was a creation of the Iranian mullahs (or was it the Emir of Qatar, as some of their minions seem to claim, although before last year, before-Trump and his Kushner baggage, many of them were claiming that Israel helped create ISIS).

In recent months, as I follow Salafists, and some Gulf Muslim Brotherhood members, on media and social media, I notice the effect of their dilemma. Some of their most outspoken commentators and rabble rousers are silent for now. Uncharacteristically silent. As if shocked by this turn of events in Riyadh, as if they are waiting to see where it leads to. Here they were pushing their own countries, like Kuwait and others, to impose restrictions on social life and on education, along the sectarian model of  Saudi Arabia. Yet now Prince MbS seems to have pulled the rug from under their feet.

I wish him well in his attempts to open up Saudi Arabia and diversify it. I don’t wish him well in his attempts to pull America into his plans for a sectarian war in the Persian Gulf region. He does not need my wishes for his genocidal war on Yemen: it is clearly a hopeless quagmire, a failed war, just as I wrote here about three years ago.

It is now in Donald Trump’s hands: will he be foolish enough to rush into taking sides in a disastrous new sectarian war in our region? Will he take the tempting money, the bait being offered by this Saudi prince (and others in the Gulf) and start a war of choice with Iran? A war that will be a folly, just as this Saudi prince’s war on Yemen has turned out to be……. 

Other relevant posts to enjoy:
Norah O’Donnell Interviews Prince MBS, Sans Pom Poms…..

From Brexit to the Gulf: Saudi Arabia Set to Annex Great Britain ?………

A GENUINE ARAB SPRING LED BY THE REVOLUTIONARY PRINCE OF SAINT VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE

ARABIAN PR AS HISTORY: FRIEDMAN HAS EPIPHANY, JOINS THE REWRITING OF HISTORY OF JIHADISM…..

MIDDLE EAST WARS: ASYMMETRIC MILITARY SPENDING, ASYMMETRIC MILITARY COMPETENCE……

THE SECOND FRUSTRATION OF PRINCE BIN SALMAN: A FIASCO IN QATAR……

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum