Category Archives: Middle East

Funny US Anti-Terror Policy: Today the Taliban, Tomorrow Hezbollah and Hamas?…………..

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After 10 months of secret dialogue with Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents, senior U.S. officials say the talks have reached a critical juncture and they will soon know whether a breakthrough is possible, leading to peace talks whose ultimate goal is to end the Afghan war. As part of the accelerating, high-stakes diplomacy, Reuters has learned, the United States is considering the transfer of an unspecified number of Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay military prison into Afghan government custody. It has asked representatives of the Taliban to match that confidence-building measure with some of their own. Those could include a denunciation of international terrorism and a public willingness to enter formal political talks with the government headed by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. The officials acknowledged that the Afghanistan diplomacy, which has reached a delicate stage in recent weeks, remains a long shot. Among the complications: U.S. troops are drawing down and will be mostly gone by the end of 2014, potentially reducing the incentive for the Taliban to negotiate. ………

Interesting: the Taliban hosted al-Qaeda and were part of the September 11 attacks that killed thousands of Americans and disrupted the economy and politics of the country. They have been at war with the United States for years and they support terrorism in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and in other places. They have been responsible for many more American dearth.
Hezbollah and Hamas have never tried any terror attacks inside the United States. Their attacks were almost always confined to the Lebanese Israeli Palestinian theater, with possibly one or two reported minor exceptions that were not against the United States. They both represent either a majority or a plurality of the people in their respective countries. Hamas won a clear majority of Palestinian votes the last time they had elections, despite the nonsense Secretary Clinton talks about the PLO being a “legitimate government”.
Yet the United States is ‘negotiating’ with the even more fundamentalist Salafi Taliban, the partner in September 11 attacks. Not a single Republican or Democrat politician objects to that. Not even the right-wing. Yet any hint of an approach to Hezbollah or Hamas would cause a twin earthquake and volcano in the country. You wanna know why? It is one word, a six-letter word “Israel”. Or maybe it is a four-letter word: “Iran”.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Egypt Going Back to the Future: New and Old Middle East…….

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A 24-year-old man died tonight at Qasr El-Eini hospital in Cairo after suffering a severe drop in blood pressure and heart failure after allegedly being tortured by prison officials. Essam Ali Atta Ali was serving a two-year prison sentence in the maximum security ward at Tora Prison after being prosecuted in a military court on 25 February in relation to the illegal occupation of an apartment. According to the victim’s cellmates, prison officials sought to punish Ali after catching him smuggling a mobile SIM card into the ward. Prison officers reportedly pushed hoses into Ali’s mouth and anus, causing severe bleeding. Ali’s brother told media that he saw his brother’s corpse at the hospital and it exhibited signs of serious injuries. According to several media reports, an officer from Tora Prison left Ali at the hospital as he lay in a critical condition. Attending physicians immediately noticed liquid secretions emanating from Ali’s mouth and suspected foul play. In the late hours of Thursday, MD Aida Seif El-Dawla of El-Nadeem Centre for the rehabilitation of victims of torture, broke the news of Ali’s death to the public through Facebook and Twitter. She called on activist lawyers to support a traumatised family in their quest for answers. Ali’s mother told media that her son was a victim of police brutality and that she will not rest until his killers are brought to justice………


Is Egypt going back to the future?
The military
trials for civilians, arrest of bloggers, and torture continue, proving that the new Egypt is not much different from the rest. The SCAF junta is writing its own constitution for the country. It looks like Egypt is back into the camp of Arab moderates of the New Middle East again. Trials of civilians in military courts, arbitrary arrests and torture are nothing new in our region: both moderate and radical regimes have used them extensively. From Tehran to Riyadh to Manama and Cairo and Damascus, and a few other places. They all imprison and torture and execute and exile. The only difference is that some are called republics and others are called monarchies; some are allied to the West others are hostile to the West.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Insanity Joins Stupidity and Greed: Republicans and the Mother of All Middle East Wars, new Pearl Harbor………

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Insanity combined with intelligence can be
defined as “genius” in some cases. Insanity combined with stupidity can
be defined as “Republican candidate” these days.
Me

Saturday’s Republican debate, sponsored by CBS and the National Journal, revealed a Republican field that is promising war on Iran and a revival of the use of torture, as well as horrible relations with the new governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya (according to Herman Cain, they have gotten “out of hand,” and he and Gingrich want to deal with them by supporting a muscular Christianity)………. The only adults in the room were John Huntsman and Ron Paul, who have no realistic chance of being the standard-bearer. They denounced water-boarding as torture and generally punctured the warmongering of the others. But it is shameful that potential US presidents are even talking about torturing people and launching wars of aggression………..These people just like the idea of war. War is good for munitions firms and security firms, who give a lot of money to Republican candidates. They’re actively looking for a war. It is good for business, for them……….Juan Cole

These people must be a mix of insane and/or stupid, most likely a combination of both. Insanity combined with intelligence can be defined as “genius” in some cases. Insanity combined with stupidity can be defined as “Republican candidate” these days. (One exception is John Huntsman and maybe Ron Paul to some extent). It is like watching an old film reel of the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe. Minus the beer halls and minus the brownshirts and blackshirts. Is Iran the new Czechoslovakia? Or is it the new Poland? How about Danzig and the Persian Gulf Corridor? Or will it be a Pearl Harbor in reverse? After all, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor for ‘nearly’ the same reasons these candidates want to attack Iran.
Cole is also right: maybe these people are smart after all. There is a lot of money to be made by corporations in a war. On the backs of the American people, who will see their services deteriorate as the deficit grows to a few trillion more from a possible “Mother of all Middle East Wars”.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

A Favorable Exchange Rate: Palestinians for One Israeli……….

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A new report on the conditions of Palestinians jailed in Israel says that since the Shalit prisoner transfer deal last month, the situation has improved little, leaving many to wonder if it was a bad bargain. A report recently published from the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners Affairs stated that improved conditions for Palestinians in Israeli jails agreed on in the swap deal freeing Israeli IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, are not being implemented. The report noted that 60 prisoners in Ashkelon jail have been banned from buying goods from the prison store for two months and have also been denied family visits for more than one month. The prisoners are withheld higher education, room raids are commonplace and beatings from prison administration often occur, the report said………..

I don’t know: releasing over a thousand Palestinians for one scrawny Israeli soldier seems like a good deal for the Palestinians. It even almost seems like a good deal for the Israelis too, apparently since they had only one captive. An exchange rate of 1 : 1000 is steep, and it is not necessarily good for the Palestinians to exchange, say, 2000 of their own for one scrawny Israeli soldier. It has certain unfortunate implications of human valuation: if some think one scrawny Israeli is worth more than one thousand Palestinians, maybe two thousand. There is no way to go around this. On humanitarian grounds, both sides gained by getting their captive people back.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Is Condi Rice as Smart as Henry Kissinger? Iraq, Iran, and Indochina……………

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Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday that it’s time for the United States to confront Iran, and that it should never take the military option off the table, in an ABC interview with Christiane Amanpour. “I think it’s time to confront the Iranian regime because It’s the poster child for state sponsorship of terrorism, it’s trying to get a nuclear weapon, it’s repressed its own people. The regime has absolutely no legitimacy left. We should be doing everything we can to bring it down and never take military force off the table,” she said.
In addition to keeping the military option open, Rice pointed to “even tougher sanctions” as a means of confronting the Islamic Republic…………Rice also commented on plans for the United States to withdraw its troops from Iraq this year, noting that, “This is one of the downsides of having our forces out of Iraq, because we can confront the Iranians in Iraq.” ………….”

I am beginning to think that Condi Rice is almost as smart as Henry Kissinger, almost. Kissinger had a brilliant solution for the United States to stop losing the Vietnam War: escalate into Cambodia and Laos. Brilliant move: within four years the Communists were in power in South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
So Rice wanted the Obama administration to keep forces in Iraq to “confront Iran”. I assume she doesn’t mean having a few thousand American boys and girls sitting targets in a hostile environment. Maybe she would also agree to leave Palo Alto and go to Iraq to advice the troops she wants to remain in harm’s way. maybe Messrs Romney and Gingrich and Perry and some of the airwaves gasbag warriors will volunteer go go with her.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Arab World: Ottomans and Persians, Turks and Iranians………….

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Once friends, Turkey and Iran are finding that their reactions to the Arab Spring revolutions are driving them apart and renewing an old regional rivalry. One sign of the deepening divide was obvious from the attendee list for an international conference on Afghanistan security that opened today in Istanbul. Every primary player is here: 14 regional nations, with the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan in attendance, as well as more than a dozen other countries, including the United States. But Iran had planned to send just its low-ranking deputy foreign minister, despite its long border with Afghanistan and claims of being a regional superpower. While Iran relented at the last minute and sent Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, the diplomatic tension indicates how the people-power uprisings have helped transform the Turkey-Iran friendship into an escalating rivalry. So far, analysts say, Turkey appears the winner in pushing for secular, democratic outcomes …………..

It almost looks like that old rivalry that was fought on territory extending from the Caspian Sea to Mesopotamia. Eventually the Turks ended up with what is now Iraq as well as the rest of the Arab East (it was mainly Iraq they fought over and kept winning and losing to each other).
There is no doubt that the Arab uprisings have enhanced the Turkish role in the Middle East. The Arab uprisings have also sharpened the contrast between the Turkish model and the Iranian one. Many more Arabs now look toward Turkey, a NATO member, as an example. Perhaps it is the comparison between the elected Turkish leaders and their own thuggish Arab dictators and absolute tribal kings. It is also partly the contrast between Turkish leaders and the inarticulate Iranian clergy who come across as repressive (mainly because they are repressive). The Turks have also benefited from moving away from their “former” Israeli friends in recent months. Either way the Turks have benefited from the Arab uprisings, for now.
The Iranians are on the defensive mainly because their system of government is not nearly as free and democratic as the Turkish one. They have also suffered partly as a result of a furious Saudi sectarian media campaign that has continued since the Iraqi elections of 2005. The Saudi dynasty rules Arab airwaves, or most of them. That Saudi campaign has not only been aimed at the Iranian regime: more ominously it has also targeted Arab Shi’as and poisoned relationships within many societies on the Persian-American Gulf.

Cheers
mhg


Condi Rice: a Shower for a Lebanese President, Raunchy Photos with Qaddafi………

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The book recounts her signature diplomatic ventures, including a landmark nuclear accord with India salvaged in a last-minute negotiation and a Middle East peace initiative that came achingly close to bringing Israelis and Palestinians together. She also bluntly assesses foreign leaders. Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, “looked as though he was on drugs.” After shaking hands with President Émile Lahoud of Lebanon, she writes, she felt as if she needed a shower. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt rejected reform, saying, “Egyptians need a strong hand, and they don’t like foreign interference.” As for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, who was killed Thursday after a revolution, Ms. Rice adds details about his well-known “eerie fascination with me.” She writes that he made a video showing pictures of her while a song called “Black Flower in the White House” played. “It was weird,” she writes, “but at least it wasn’t raunchy.”……….”

“Raunchy” is like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. Old Colonel Qaddafi was quite a raunchy old man. What innocent poor Condoleezza Rice
was not aware of is that what is not “raunchy” in America is most
likely very raunchy in Libya. It’ll get even raunchier when the Islamists dominate the new “free” Libya. Also, Condi shook hands with the Lebanese
president and apparently he gave her the creeps: she had to rake a
shower afterwards. Maybe he came across as some kind of sleaze bag. I wonder if she ever shook hands with the prime
minister of Bahrain or the President of Yemen or….. . She would need a cocktail of “Raid” and “Clorox”
afterwards.


Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

New Twist on a Newt Gingrich Trek to Colonial Mesopotamia: the Romney Factor………

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Republicans, and Ed Koch and Joe Lieberman, are pissed that Obama is pulling out of Iraq. None of them is pissed that the Iraqis want the Americans out: they are pissed that the Americans are doing what the Iraqis want. In the old days this was called “colonialism”, when a Western guest force, usually uninvited, overstayed their welcome. The Americans had to fight several years with help from NATO the French (Lafayette and all that) to achieve what the Native Americans (aka Indian tribes) never did: get rid of the British colonial power.
Now the Republicans are all opining that the United States should stay in Iraq. The great veteran of financial and downsizing wars, Mitt Romney, and that other veteran of office wars (and other office affairs) Newt Gingrich are up in arms. As are other GOP candidates.

Now I had suggested here earlier that Mr. Gingrich should head to Mesopotamia, along the border with Persia, with a view to spending some quality time as guest of the mullahs in Iran. I thought that would shore up his foreign policy credentials, if not his credibility. I am amending my earlier suggestion now. I am suggesting now that it is a good idea if Mr. Gingrich would take Mr. Romney along on his trek. To make it easier, they can each take along their hairdressers, sort of like the old colonial masters used to take along their hairdressers, butlers, cooks, shoe-shiners, etc. Mr. McCain also tempted me by showing ire at Mr. Obama for obeying the Iraqi people’s wish that US troops leave their country, but since he is not a candidate, I shall not make any suggestions.
Some Arabs, especially some potentates on my Gulf, are also pissed at the U.S. withdrawal, mainly because the American occupation was like a stick they could use against the Iraqis. Now they don’t have that stick to discredit the Iraqi elections. I would suggest that Gingrich also take a couple of the ‘princes’ along on his trip.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The New American Exceptionalism: Butter for Guns………..

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The huge, bloated military budget, higher than in the Cold War, keeps us forever on a war footing. The US is also arming Israel to the teeth and stoking an arms race in the Middle East, even as Washington seeks de facto to deny Palestinians their right to a state and to the basic human rights that only a state can back. That is, the US is deeply involved in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a partisan. 9/11 was in part a skirmish in that war. US sanctions on Iran are becoming so severe as to constitute a blockade, which in international law an act of war. The war party in the US is salivating for that war with Tehran, which is halfway begun as we speak, and it is freely acknowledged as a goal by most Republican presidential candidates. ……….


That old story
, choice, of “gun” or “butter”. The idea that guns and butter can both be had has not been quite true since Ronald Reagan was president. As the amount of “butter” available to most Americans diminishes even faster
, “gun” production is doing fine, thank you very much. Republicans have not seen a “gun” they did not like and were willing to support finance at the espense of “butter”. They also act and talk as if they have not seen a mound of butter that did not make them wonder What a waste. Think how many guns we can have for that.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

SOFA Repossessed: the Illusion of the Iraqi Vacuum………

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“President Barack Obama said on Friday that all U.S. troops would withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011 as scheduled. Washington and Baghdad had been in discussions over whether some U.S. troops would stay on as trainers, but failed to reach a deal over the issue of immunity for American troops…………

So Mr. Obama announced about one hour ago.


  • The ignorance (and occasionally stupidity) of some analysts, experts, and former high officials and generals (and some reporters) astounds me. The latest news is about SOFA: lack of an agreement on the status of US troops has led to a decision to withdraw from Iraq. This is exactly what President Obama had promised in 2007 and 2008. Yet it is being treated as some kind of ‘quasi-defeat’. Then there is the phony issue of a “vacuum” in Iraq. Iraq is a large country, potentially the richest in the Middle East if it gets its act together. Its population, Shi’a or Sunni or Buddhists, have a strong nationalist streak that goes back to their struggle against the British mandate in the early 1920s. No country in the neighborhood can “control” Iraq: not ancient Iran now under a theocratic regime, not tribal Saudi Arabia under an absolute monarchy, nor former occupier Turkey which has its own border issues. No doubt there will be foreign influences in Iraq: 
  • There will be a strong Iranian influence, mainly in the middle and the south and the Kurdish north. Yet there has always been a strong Iranian influence in Iraq, even under Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist tyranny. It was not overt, as millions of Iraqis were terrified into repeating the Ba’athist mantra.
  • There will be some Saudi (and Jordanian and Syrian) influence but limited to the west (al-Anbar, etc). There have always been tribal connections with these Arab states, especially in the west and parts of the southwest. And there is the Arab money flowing to the tribal leaders, just as Iranian money is reported to flow to some groups.
  • There will be a strong American influence. There will always be some American influence in Iraq, much more than all these “experts” claim. Possibly Iraq may now have the best American-trained armed forces and security forces in the Arab world. Best trained and well-armed, but not necessarily best led. Then there is the fact that most Iraqis, like most Arabs, like even more Iranians, are fascinated by many aspects of American life. Many aspects but not all aspects of American life. Most Arabs, like even more Iranians, would rather live an American life-style than an Iranian or Saudi lifestyle, with some cultural modifications. Most would rather have an American style political system of government than being ruled by mullahs or tribal Arab princes or the usual kleptocrats and despotic dynasties.
  • Iraq is Arab and she will remain an important Arab state.


There will be no vacuum in Iraq. There will, however, be opposing or conflicting influences.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com