Category Archives: Middle East

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

More on the Proposed Newt Gingrich Iraq-Iran Hike…………….

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This morning I thought of Newt Gingrich, not sure why. I Binges him (I don’t patronize only one search engine) and clicked on his Twitter link. Here is some of what I read:


  • “If we reestablish the constitutional basis of America this election will be historic-your help at newt.org makes big difference”

  • “The tea party movement should seek to educate the protesters-the tea party has it right-return to constitutional government”

  • “Looking forward to the debate tonight. But today I’m taking questions from you. Use #LeadNow to ask me about the issues.”


As I read his seriously witless remarks (tweets), my thoughts traveled back toward my home region, back to the Middle East, moving along the coast of my (Persian-American) Gulf and farther north, well past the Gulf. I focused on the common northeastern border between Iraq and Iran.
I wondered if Newt Gingrich has given up on the idea of taking a hike along the Iraqi-Iranian border (in the Kurdish region). (Actually it was my suggestion to him, my contribution to his campaign posted here last week). It would be a great way to shore up his (non-existent) foreign policy credentials before the Iowa Republican caucuses. Nothing like a hike straddling the Iranian border, preferably in an undersized business suit that would accentuate his body curves. The mullahs may be thrilled: the prize this time would not be three crazy hapless students seeking innocent adventure.
Newt, like most Republican political and radio warriors, never served in the military. They are so good at evading service yet sound more patriotic than Democrats who did. He will come out of Tehran almost as another John McCain but not as thin and not as injured. Of course the cuisine in Iran, even in Evin prison, is better than the Hanoi Hilton.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Unfinished Libyan Gunfight at the OK Corral………….

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The scrublands that surround Moammar Kadafi’s hometown have become a confused patchwork of loyalties. As vehicles of the revolutionary forces patrolled the dusty villages in newly seized territory Sunday, many residents peered angrily from their homes. “The rebels are worse than rats. NATO is the same as Osama bin Laden,” said a father, his seven children crowding around him. Surt has been a primary target in the seven-month NATO bombing campaign that helped rebel forces gain control of most of Libya. The intensity of the bombing, coupled with recent rocket attacks by the opposition forces, has turned Surt into a “living hell,” several families said. Hundreds of families fled the city Sunday, anticipating a new assault. But too frightened, angry or mistrustful to flee to opposition-controlled territory, many sought refuge in nearby loyalist homes……….


The new Libyan rulers, or rather their NATO and other allies, have so far failed to dislodge the Qaddafi side from Sirte (or is it Surt) and Bani Walid. Apparently Bani Walid was a near disaster for the new Tripoli government. There are also other towns and villages and regions that are still contested in the vast Libyan desert. Neither Bani Walid nor Sirte have turned into the decisive OK Corral that the NTC and world media expected it to be. The Clantons are still fighting, the Earps are trying, and Doc Holiday NATO is getting frustrated.
Told ya: Arab dictators and depots, be they royal or military, are very hard to dislodge. Bin Ali and Mubarak were surprised by the speed of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, but the others were ready. From Libya to Syria to Yemen to Bahrain to Algeria, even to Saudi Arabia, the oligarchs were ready when the Arab Spring spread toward their neck of the woods.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Decimating Jihadists: America’s Secret Muslim President Succeeds where Cheney, Talk Radio, and Fox News Failed …………

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Osama bin Laden, hunted as the mastermind behind the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, has been killed, President Obama announced tonight……..

Same US military unit that got Osama bin laden killed Anwar al-Awlaki. Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born al-Qaeda leader linked to terrorist plots in the UK and US, has been killed in a drone strike in central Yemen, the country’s military has announced…….

A senior leader of the militant Haqqani network, Haji Mali Khan, has been captured in Afghanistan, the Nato-led international force Isaf has said. He was detained during an operation by Afghan and coalition forces in Paktia province on Tuesday, Isaf said. He was heavily armed but did not resist, it added……

So this “Manchurian” American president with a Jewish-sounding first name, an African last name, and a decidedly Muslim middle name has bested Dick Cheney in the war against al-Qaeda. I wonder what the Cheneys are up to these days.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Tony Blair as Scarlett O’Hara: Blair-Gate and the never Ending Saga of International Corruption………..

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Tony Blair is facing calls for greater transparency in his role as Middle East peace envoy after it emerged that he visited Muammar Gaddafi in 2009 while JP Morgan, the investment bank that employs Blair as a £2m-a-year adviser, sought to negotiate a multibillion-pound loan from Libya. Blair also championed two large business deals in the West Bank and Gaza involving telecoms and gas extraction which stood to benefit corporate clients of JP Morgan, according to a Dispatches investigation to be broadcast on Monday night…………In Palestine while working as the quartet envoy, Blair persuaded the Israeli government to open radio frequencies so mobile phone company Wataniya could operate in the West Bank. The company’s owner, Qtel, a Qatari telecoms company, is a client of JP Morgan and its deal to buy Wataniya was funded with a $2bn loan that JP Morgan helped arrange..……..”

And the beat goes on: in terms of corruption, the life of Tony Blair is a gift that keeps on giving. A veritable Blair-Gate. It started with his killing of the investigation of the British Serious Frauds Office (SFO) of BAE Systems bribes to Saudi prince Bandar Bin Sultan. Tony has never looked back. From oil potentates to international bankers to the most despotic dictators and absolute tribal kings, Blair seems to be their man. Along the way he also went to war. He is also at the forefront of the right-wingers who are calling for yet another bloody war in my Gulf, no doubt he is getting some benefit from the potentates as well for that effort.
Tony Blair, the ‘former’ Laborite, now reminds me of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. When Scarlett rises from the dirt and promises I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.
Scarlett kept her promise, but she was much more discriminating and more gracious than Mr. Blair about how she did it.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Next Year in Jerusalem, Next Year in New York, Next Year at the U.N.………….

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Israeli officials: Palestinians routed, about to fold YNet News (Israel)

“French president Sarkozy says UN will not vote on Palestinian state this year, promises a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli impasse within a year” Reports

Yesterday it almost looked like the Palestinian “authority”, never known for its backbone, had surrendered again. Reports quoted American and French officials that ‘negotiations’ will resume to reach a solution within one year. Sounds familiar? Remember 2009, when the new and “extremely naïve” Obama administration started negotiations with Israelis and Palestinians with a solemn promise that they will solve everything within one year. At that time I wrote here “forgetaboutit”. One year? It is too short a time to reach never.
The Jewish people have a mantra that they repeated during their long Diaspora , especially at every Passover Seder: “Next year in Jerusalem”. It kept them focused on the promise and the goal, which they eventually achieved. Now the Palestinians will have to adopt a new mantra “Next year in New York” or maybe just “Next year at the UN”.

Except it won’t be next year, or the year after, or any other year after, as long as the Likud and its right-wing allies rule the roost.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Turks are Coming: Erdogan as a Softer Gentler Ahmadinejad?…………..

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday fired his visit to post-revolution Tunisia with the kind of trademark warning to Israel that has earned him hero status on his “Arab Spring tour.” After a rapturous welcome in Cairo confirmed the Turkish strongman’s soaring regional popularity, Erdogan came to Tunisia where the wave of pro-democracy revolts sweeping the Arab world all began. He said that Israel could not do whatever it wanted in the eastern Mediterranean and that Turkish warships could be there at any moment. “Israel cannot do whatever it wants in the eastern Mediterranean. They will see what our decisions will be on this subject. Our navy attack ships can be there at any moment,” Erdogan told a news conference shortly after arriving in Tunis………“Relations with Israel cannot normalize if Israel does not apologize over the flotilla raid, compensate the martyrs’ families and lift the blockade of Gaza,” Erdogan said. Ankara said it was prepared to escort any future Gaza-bound ship with naval ships……..

Interesting how the popularity of the non-Arab neighbor leaders soars with the tempo of their anti-Israeli rhetoric. Long ago, there were the Soviets, (although it is hard imagining anyone, even Arabs, getting excited about an old fart like Brezhnev or the dour Kosygin). Then along came Ahmadinejad who went beyond his Iranian predecessors and adopted the old Arab and anti-Semitic theme of Holocaust-baiting. He became wildly popular on the Arab street until the vast semi-official Saudi media, which dominates Arab airwaves and owns most Arab TV screens, started working on him and on their favorite theme of sectarian divisiveness. Ahmadinejad’s other problem is that he represents a theocratic system of governance that most Arabs, be they Sunni or Shi’a or Episcopalian, reject (just as most Arabs reject a system of absolute tribal repressive monarchy). Few Arabs, and probably few Iranians, like the idea of supreme clerical rule.
So now there is a persistent vacuum of leadership in the Arab world, the type of vacuum Ahmadinejad himself had talked about in the past. The Al Saud have tried to fill that vacuum of leadership, to inherit the old regional mantle of Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt that nobody could claim. The Saudis have failed even more than the Iranian mullahs, and for the same reason: they both represent regressive regimes, anomalies in this day and age. Iran is a repressive theocracy with quasi-democratic elements; Saudi Arabia is an even more repressive absolute one family dynasty where they pretend that the Quran is their ‘constitution’ while in fact it is the whims and greed of the ruling family that is the ‘constitution’.
Into the vacuum steps Turkey, newly reinvigorated both politically and economically. The Turks have long thought that they belonged in Europe; that their prosperity depended on being part of Europe. Events since the establishment of the Euro Zone indicate that the Turks can do fine without Europe, tyvm. Besides, the agnostic Europeans have a hard time shedding their ethnocentric ‘religious’ and racist prejudices and all the fears of the Siege of Vienna.
Having been rejected by Europe, the Turks have rediscovered their old domain, the Arab World, now the “sick man of the world”. They have also discovered that certain tweaks of their relationship with Israel can be wildly popular on the Arab street, if not in Arab palaces. The Turks are mindful of the growing new rivalry with their old Iranian rivals for places like Iraq and Syria (and possibly the Gulf). The Turks have an even better card: they have a democratic system of government that only two Arab states come even near to matching. And they know when to raise the rhetoric against Israel and when to tone it down, with the help of the Israeli right wing.
Then there is NATO………..

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

On Bushehr Nuclear Power, Zaroastrian and Royal Pagan Rites on my Gulf of Madness……..

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Iran has condemned the “negative” position of the Gulf GCC which had criticized the Iranian “provocations” toward some Arab states in the Gulf. The spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, Ramin Mehmanprast that the “regional policies of the Islamic Republic has always been one of mutual respect, good neighborliness, and noninterference……Regrettably some have waged a campaign against Iran…….. He considered that the GCC ministers expressing their deep worry about developments in the Iranian nuclear issue” an unnecessary thing……..

Okay: the “GCC” ministers have criticized Iran’s nuclear program, just as the new Bushehr plant is now providing electric power. The Iranians interpret the IAEA reports different from the way Western powers interpret them (the glass half-full vs. the glass half-empty syndrome). As for me, I have no idea if the glass is half-full or half-empty: there is an important difference, depending on which half is empty and which is full and taking into consideration one of Newton’s Laws. I do hope the Iranians are right and there will be no nuclear weapons in the Middle East (except in Israel), but I have my doubts on this issue. I would dread the prospect of a nuclear arms race between the mullahs in Tehran and the potentates in Abu Dhabi. I also wonder if mullahs would lie to us? In any case, nuclear technology has a logic of its own, sort of like when……..oh well, no sense getting obscene here.
What is

intriguing in this brief and ordinary report from a daily newspaper in my home town on my Gulf, is the unrelated picture and the caption it added to this report. This picture below is captioned with the words “Iranian Zaroastrians perform their religious rites at the Temple
of  Fire in Tehran”.
    Also sprach the mullahs?
To

foreign eyes it looks quite innocent, maybe even quaint and cute (as it does to me in fact in a different context). Now WTF does the photo have to do with the nuclear program? This is something that divisive semi-official Saudi media outlets like Alarabiya or Asharq Alawsat often publish, not a daily that claims some remnant of the old bygone pre-Salafi liberalism of my hometown. In the Gulf of Madness, such photo and caption only serve to fan flames and divisions these days. Before you know it, there will be retaliation: some Saudi princes will start bowing to al-Lat or Hubal of the good old pagan Jahiliya days, or some Egyptian expatriates who have gone native will start worshiping a Pharaoh again (that era may be over now but there are plenty of princes available). In this age of confessional and sectarian tensions stoked by irresponsible potentates and their retainers……………..
(I found the photo rather cute: men and women performing their common rites. WTF is wrong with that?)

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com