Category Archives: Middle East

A Dummy’s Haiku Guide to Free Speech in the Middle East: from Islamic to Nomadic to ……..

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2

Haiku:
About Free Speech…
Can it be free at a price?………..
Tell our leaders…….

So what is this “free speech” that many constitutions claim to allow but few actually do? Especially in the Middle East:

  • The Arab League considers free speech, to the extent that it considers anything seriously, as whatever each existing government in power wants it to be. Especially those regimes with deep pockets.
  • In Egypt, free speech is whatever does not criticize the president and insult the armed forces (apparently there is some difference), or mentions Mohammed Morsi without adding the term “deposed” as a prefix. Or anything that does not point out that Egypt (or even Cairo) are not, as the natives and a few Arabs claim, Mother of the World.
  • Al-Azhar sheikhs in Cairo define free speech as their interpretation of the  Holy Quran, the Hadith, and more importantly whatever the current president of the country says.
  • Less stable and more violent Arab countries have a more flexible definition of free speech. In Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, free speech is more nomadic: it depends on which part of the country you are in (and on who you are). Which might be considered by some as an improvement over what it is in other Middle East countries.
  • In Somalia, Sudan, and Djibouti, also considered “Arab” countries, you ask anyone about free speech and he or she might respond: WTF is that?
  • Free Speech in the whole “Persian-American” Gulf region will be covered in the next post, right after this one.
  • Western powers consider free speech in the Middle East as whatever encourages the ruling avaricious oligarchs to spend more money on weapons of death and repression.
  • Ist das klar?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Adieu Sykes-Picot? World War ISIS, World War DAESH………..

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2

The 1930s saw a complex web of changing European alliances that kept shifting until 1941, when the division of the wartime antagonists took its final shape after the Nazi invasion of Soviet Russia and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
After the Nazi/Fascist victory in the Spanish Civil War, at the sunset of the 1930s, the major Western powers of the time, Britain and France, signed a deal with the devil of the time, Nazi Germany.  That Munich Deal gave up a large chunk of Central Europe to the Nazis and set up the invasion of Poland. Stalin, even more suspicious of the West than they were of him, panicked and decided to make his own Soviet deal with the German devil. Hence the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of  the summer of 1939.
Thus World World Two evolved.

In Syria the alliances have also shifted over time. With the start of the 2011 spring protests, the absolute undemocratic Wahhabi Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf saw opportunities. As did influential Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood groups in these countries. They saw sectarian and strategic opportunities. As did some hawkish but perhaps gullible American politicians (McCain, Lieberman, Graham, Hillary Clinton, etc). They declared that the Assad regime is about to collapse and that they support the “Syrian opposition”. It was like the alliances of the war of 1939-1945: alliances of divergent interests among these mainly foreign groups. The common goal seemed to be to overthrow the Syrian regime, just as they did in Libya, and to bloody the noses of its allies among the dour Iranian mullahs. Then perhaps to fight among themselves over the remains of Syria.

Except that the Wahhabi elements, bolstered with Gulf money, weapons, and Salafi volunteers, soon took over much of the Syrian military opposition in-country. Their efforts were supported by the accommodation provided by the Turkish Islamist regime for Jihadists and weapons flowing through what I have called the Erdogan Trail. The local Iraqi-Syrian offshoot of Al Qaeda split from the original Wahhabi terror group and declared a Caliphate, an Islamic State stretching from west of Al Raqqa to east of Mosul. Other Al Qaeda affiliates and offshoots (Al Nusra, Ahrar Al Sham, Army of Islamic Conquest, a few other “Al”s, etc) took over what remained of the opposition assets and territory inside Syria.

The Western powers stuck to the simple narrative supplied by their Wahhabi allies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar that there is a legitimate Syrian moderate opposition fighting on the ground to overthrow the Al Assad regime and establish ‘democracy’. That these Gulf autocratic kleptocrcies are seeking to establish democracy in Syria, something they deny heir own peoples. But facts on the ground in Syria, and bloody facts in places from Sinai to Paris to Baghdad to Kuwait and Libya and West Africa have proven otherwise. The Western powers are wisely moving away now from the sectarian Syrian narrative as provided by the Wahhabi princes and potentates.

Syria is a mess created by both its regime and the fractious sectarian opposition as well as by Arab and other foreign powers. It needs a solution supported by its people, but not the outcome sought by the neighboring autocrats. That would only replace Sykes-Picot with new sectarian statelets in parts of Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. Even after the inevitable demise of this half-baked Caliphate of ISIS. It may already be too late to save the current shape of Syria and Iraq intact. Islamist Turkey, with its seething ethnic and sectarian divide might be next.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Hungry Militias: Who is Backing Whom in the Middle East and Across the World………

Shuwaikh-school1 RattleSnakeRidge Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2

“The letter accused rebels and forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh of “targeting anything that moves in the city of Aden, preventing medical teams and volunteers from reaching the injured and killing humanitarian agents.” Forces supporting President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, backed by airstrikes, battled Houthi fighters, who took control of the port, Yemeni officials said. The clashes are the latest in Yemen’s months of violence, which exploded before Hadi’s ouster from Yemen by the Iranian-backed Houthis………..”

(FYI: there are no forces supporting Hadi. Not even the Saudis. Only Hadi supports Hadi. Those fighting around Aden against Houthis-Saleh are fighters of Southern Independence or AQAP).

Media here in the United States have a way of describing certain Arab or Muslim political entities or groups by their perceived affiliations. Especially political or military groups that they dislike or disapprove of. For example, any Middle East group deemed friendly with the Iranian regime is described as Iranian-backed (or Iranian-supported) w.x.y.z, and I can almost read or hear a disapproving sniffle. I never read a description like Saudi-backed (or Saudi-supported) q.w.e.r.t.y. No mention of Saudi-backed or Qatari-backed or Turkish-backed Nusra Front. So, I have suggested a list of other potential backed-by list, just to even the playing field (or is it the killing field?):

  • Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’a Militias; Iranian-backed Houthi Zaidi Shi’as; Iranian-backed Hezbollah; Iranian-backed Hamas; Iranian-backed Assad; Iranian-backed anyone who is not Saudi-backed; Iranian-backed Texas used-car Dealer Wannabe Assassin Arbabsiar (LOL);
  • Saudi-backed Wahhabis; Saudi-backed Hariri; Saudi-backed Hadi (actually nobody-backed Hadi); Saudi-funded Jihadis; Senegal-backed Saudis; French-backed Saudis; Saudi-Qatari-Turkish-backed Nusra Front; Saudi-Ignored AQAP in Yemen; Saudi-backed Likud;
  • Qatari-backed Ikhwan; Qatari-backed Hamas; Qatari-backed Jihadis; Qatari-funded FIFA officials; Emirati-backed Sisi; Emirati-backed Clinton Foundation; Saudi-backed Bush Library;
  • Turkish-backed Nusra Front; Salafi-backed Caliphate; American-backed FSA; American-backed Jihadis in Syria; British-backed Bahrain Rulers; 
  • Republican-backed Netanyahu; Netanyahu-backed GOP; Adelson-backed contenders; Caliphate-backed Naftali Bennett; PLO-backed Ayelet Shaked;
  • We can also extend this to other, er, interests: Honey-Baked Ham (something I wouldn’t eat); Chinese-style Beijing Duck and Chicken Kung-Pao; English-style Fish and Chips; Ballpark-style Hot Dogs; Arab-Style Fried Sheep Brain; Serbian-Style Fried Sheep Balls (a k a: fried sheep cojonesبيض غنم)……………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Middle East Democracy: Between Bibi and Sisi and the King of Kleptocracia………..

Shuwaikh-school1 RattleSnakeRidge Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2

  • Al Sisi (Egypt): Al won almost 98% of the vote in a very weak turnout. He had a weak opponent who should have boycotted the “election”. Not that he needed it: the generalissimo was already in power before the vote. He even promoted himself to Field Marshal before the election.
  • Bibi Netanyahu: he is struggling now to keep his job. In spite of the stunt he arranged with the U.S. Congress and the circus in Washington. He is behind by 2-4 seats. Might manage to hang on if he can kiss enough extremist little party arses (even more extreme than he is). Somebody did that in Germany decades ago and became chancellor.
  • Bashar Al Assad: he got 88% of the vote in a very imperfect not-exactly-free election (I am being polite here) at wartime. Oddly, he very likely even won a majority of the Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. Which makes me wonder: who were they escaping when they crossed the border?
  • AbdRabuh Hadi (Bin Zombie of Yemen): a favorite of the GCC potentates, the general won an “amazing” 99.8% of the vote and he had no opponent (so who did the 0.2% vote for?).
  • Hassan Rouhani (Iran): won barely above 50% of the vote.
  • Generic King WhatIsHisFace (of Kleptocracia): 100+%, always.
  • Shaikh Khalifa Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain: he has been 43 years in office, beats the late Gadhafi and closing in on Queen Victoria. 100+%.
  • Mahmoud Abbas (PLO): Lingering in office until death do them part.
  • Actually Iraq may shape up as a good experiment in parliamentary democracy. If they can shake off sectarian and ethnic conflicts. The prime minister has changed twice in peaceful elections, even though the Jihadi terrorists are waging war. Most Arabs don’t like to admit this, but it is the case.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Qatar and Her Sisters: Foundation for the Defense of More War……..

Shuwaikh-school1 RattleSnakeRidge Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2    ChristmasPeanuts

“It has been dubbed the most two-faced nation in the world, backing the U.S.-led coalition against the militants of the Islamic State while providing a permissive environment, in the words of one top American official, for terrorist financiers to operate with impunity. And despite a growing furor on both sides of the Atlantic, Qatar, the tiny but super-wealthy Gulf emirate, shows scant willingness to clamp down on the jihad moneymen. Indeed, it may never unless Western powers start raising the political stakes. A new report identifies more than 20 funders designated as terrorist-linked by the U.S. or UN who have benefited from a mixture of benign neglect or support in Doha. “With every important case of suspected terror finance involving a Qatari national in past years, the government in Doha has refused effectively to crack down,” according to the study, “Qatar and Terror Finance,”……………Al-Nuaymi, who has also been fingered by the UN and the European Union as a funder of terrorism, has held major roles in official Qatari organizations, including serving as a board member on charities backed by the government and at the Qatar Islamic Bank…………….”

This Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) website claims it is “a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)3 policy institute focusing on foreign policy and national security………” The most reasonable among its leaders is dead: one former NFL quarterback named Jack Kemp who went on to Congress and the Reagan cabinet. I usually take their analysis about the Middle East with a pound or two of salt, and I am being extremely polite here.
The Foundation For the Defense of Democracies has little to do with “democracy”. It is an extreme warlike group inhabited by frustrated American warhawks/chickenhawks and scurrilous Arabs and other exiles who seek more Western wars and destruction on their native region. The group is dedicated to two things: (a) absolute Israeli supremacy in the Middle East, and (b) waging more wars of choice on any remaining Middle East country that is not allied with the United States. Just a list of its board and its comments and its contributors will tell the story.

Having said that, this is not to deny that certain elements in the Persian Gulf states are heavily involved in financing Jihadi terrorists in Iraq and Syria. And not just Qatar, the Little Wahhabi gas power. I have written on this since before 2011, before the first Wahhabi suitcases of cash money from the Gulf entered Syria, through Turkey and Lebanon (the latter care of the pro-Saudi March 14 bloc). In Iraq the trail can lead all the way back to the elections of 2005 and the rise of Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, possibly earlier.

Ironically, there were no Qataris involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks, mainly Saudis, and Egyptians and Emiratis. Qatar has a tiny native population (some 90% are imported temporary foreign labor) but a lot of surplus money. Unlike some other Gulf states, they send more money and less Wahhabi volunteers to kill Shi’as and people of other faiths.

Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

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


Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

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………

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Middle East Leaders Tweeting: Khamenei’s Sports and Abdullah’s Market Crash………

      


 Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter      

Bashar Al-Assad (June 17 TV interview): when the nation is in crisis, the president’s job is even more important, and must remain to solve it. (I don’t know about this thing of “must remain to solve it”: the Saudi king returned home from Morocco last week and their market immediately crashed as he landed).

Ahamdinejad: (no tweets from his account for month, very uncharacteristic, unless he violated the TOS. Could he have gone online incognito?).

Ali Khamenei (June 17) dissing the US Electoral College system, calling it gerrymandering (a surprise use of an American political term): @khamenei_ir How is it possible 2 become US president with fewer votes…..?“
Khamenei has also been waxing nostalgic this month about his youth, and about sports, from mountain climbing in Iran to volleyball (presumably not Beach Volleyball). Which makes you wonder: does he know something the public doesn’t, yet?

Hassan Rouhani (June 17): @HassanRouhani #Rouhani’s Opposition to the Bomb: The Iranian President-Elect’s 2006 Letter to TIME via @TIMEWorld”.  Benyamin Netanyahu immediately opined that he is opposed to this Iranian opposition to the bomb. Said he smelled a whiff of anti-Semitism, retroactively. Said he ought to be bombed just for saying it.

Saudi King Abdullah: (Wish tha Twitter?= WTF is Twitter?) And who is this Gerrymandering thing the Iranian Rafidhi turban-head cleric was talking about up there?

Saudi Mufti: This is evil. Spit out and ask forgiveness, otherwise you’ll never see hide nor hair of them virgin houris. Instead the flames of hell shall caress your walnuts.

Nuri Al-Maliki: I gotta learn about real longevity from the PM of Bahrain.
Psst, Nuri: It’s the family and the mercenaries and the Saudi troops, stupid!

Morsi: @MuhammadMorsi Evoked blood in the same sentence as Nile waters (it is common Arab political bullshit to insert blood into a political statement). Jumped on the Syrian war while kissing up to Sudan’s Al-Bashir.  We shall aid the Syrians with words, liberate Nile headwaters or switch to our blood for irrigation, regain the Sudan (without al-Bashir), and drive the Israelis……….. mad trying to figure me out.

Hip Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal:
They say I ain’t no leader, but I own Twitter………. almost.

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com



Wars R Us: Another Warmonger Joins AEI, Lieberman Decides against WINEP…………

         


 Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter      

“In a bid to lend a patina of “bipartisanship” to its ideas, the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has made former Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) the co-chair of its newest foreign policy initiative. The move has been met with raised eyebrows, as progressives have not considered Joe Lieberman an authentic representative of their foreign policy positions for quite some time, if they ever did in the first place. Lieberman will co-chair the new “American Internationalism Project” with former Senator John Kyl (R-AZ). As the project is intended to “rebuild and reshape a bipartisan consensus around American global leadership and engagement,” Lieberman’s participation is aimed at blunting the perception that anything coming out of AEI is a dogmatically Republican plan. AEI generally hews to a hardline neoconservative standard on foreign policy; its staff in the area includes former Bush Administration officials John Bolton, Richard Perle, and Marc Thiessen………………..”

Joe Lieberman is a one-issue guy as far as foreign policy is concerned. His focus is on that one issue and other peripheral issues that touch on it. Yet he has picked to join a different special interest institute than the house that AIPAC built (Washington Institute for Near East Policy). But he fits in right with that other one-issue guy, John Bolton. Mr. Bolton is so extreme that even a Republican U.S. Senate refused to confirm him as Bush’s ambassador to the UN. He had to be appointed for only one year during a recess. Bolton has one other issue, besides cultivating his mustache: pushing for a new war of choice in the Middle East, a war that even Bush-Cheney were not stupid enough to start. In this issue, Lieberman and Bolton are in complete agreement.
Lieberman spent the past few years in the US Senate trying to subvert its resolutions toward another war in our region. Until his very last month. Not that he needed much hard work to do it.

With Jon Kyl as part of the team, we might as well call it :Wars R Us.

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com




Iranian and Arab Population Policies: It is the Quality, Stupid! It is the Economics, Stupid!………

         


 Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter      

“Mohammadi represents a worrisome trend to the Iranian government: More young couples are wary of having babies in the climate of economic instability caused by international sanctions. The disenchantment comes as the ruling Islamist clergy, alarmed by Iran’s meager population growth rate — estimated at 1% in 2011 by the United Nations — has mounted a campaign for families to have more children. Iran’s leaders fear the prospect of an aging population that would burden the welfare system and severely diminish productivity. Without a change, Iran’s median age is expected to rise from 27 to 40 by 2030…………The desire to migrate has also played a significant role in the lack of interest among young Iranians to have children — along with a turn away by women from conservative religious values as they seek equal footing with men…..………”

I posted on this topic before regrading Iran, and also about the Gulf GCC population policies. I still suspect that the main reason for this policy reversal is economic and financial. The mullahs couch it in religious and nationalist terms because that is what their base, their political supporters, understands best. It is the same story in other places, especially Europe and Japan: as the population ages, there is more demand on retirement age-related resources and less money going in. They need to get creative and find ways of replenishing these resources and making them more productive. A huge population explosion now a la Egypt or India would only postpone the problem and have it pop up later on a larger scale.
Now there is an idea in our region that more people means strength. The rulers, especially on the Gulf, encourage population growth. It is probably a tribal-ethnic-sectarian thing. In the old days, and even now in some places, the larger the tribe the more powerful it is. Yet this is erroneous. Look at Israel with a population of around 6 million: she defeated all Arab regime armies in whatever combination one could think of, several times. Six million defeated more than 200 million. Look at Hezbollah: representing less than 50% of Lebanon, barely two and maybe a half million people, yet it defeated the mighty Israeli IDF, twice (in 2000 and 2006)! I have no doubt that they can also defeat any Arab army now (that includes the Bahrain and Abu Dhabi and Qatari and Saudi Wehrmacht combined).
It is not the quantity, stupid. It is the quality, stupid!

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com


African Zebras and Middle East Donkeys, Asses and Power from Damascus to the Gulf……..

   


    Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter                          
                                Neck of the woods

“Why zebras evolved their characteristic black-and-white stripes has been the subject of decades of debate among scientists. Now researchers from Hungary and Sweden claim to have solved the mystery. The stripes, they say, came about to keep away blood-sucking flies. They report in the Journal of Experimental Biology that this pattern of narrow stripes makes zebras “unattractive” to the flies. They key to this effect is in how the striped patterns reflect light……………..”

“A team of Washington University Sscientists have reached an explanation for why a Zebra is born with black stripes. They have managed to identify the gene responsible for it. They claim it is the same reason that some panthers have brown and gray spots on their skin……………..”


The Zebra is called “Humar al-Wahsh” in Arabic, meaning Wild Ass or, si vous préférez, Wild Donkey. Humar means ass or donkey, ‘wahsh’ means beast, and ‘wahshi’ means wild or untamed. The Arabic name makes sense, since the usual ass is not wild and free, unlike the zebra which is not domesticated but is wild and free (certainly wilder and freer than the ass). Apparently African cultures, where the zebra has chosen to live, did not require beasts of burden. Otherwise the zebra would have become as domesticated as the asses of the Middle East.
I have written in the past about the donkey and why it is a fascinating animal with a long glorious history in our region. The donkey, the ass, the jackass (in Americanese) has not done so badly either in our region. In many places, the asses not only thrive, they also rule. If you are interested in this fascinating animal, friend, and leader that often affects our lives, then I would recommend some of my posts on this topic:

 
Iraq, Helen Thomas, and Shoes- The Shi’a Question: Wahhabis’ Own Group- Jackasses of Arabia Shall Rise Again

Valentine and Equus Asinus in the Middle East- Damascus The Ancient City of Asses- The Revered Donkeys of Egypt……  (This post is one of my favorite Valentine pieces)

Those Underrated Powerful Asses of the GCC States………

Rumi: Iranian Cleric Mixes Bestiality with Politics……

Political Animal Planet: An Assembly of Jackass Penguins of Patagonia…
This one made me homesick last time I read it)

Obama’s Colombian Donkey Gift, Asses of the Middle East……

Political Donkeys of Kurdistan, Jackasses of the Gulf, Harry Belafonte………

Donkey Milk, Donkey Brain: Middle East Gender Gap…….

When Saudi Asses Opined on Egyptian Happiness, Cyprus Donkeys……

The Dog, the Cow, the Ass, and Arab Leaders……

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com