Category Archives: Middle East

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

   


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“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


More on Iran’s Qassem Suleimani: Solving the Mystery………………

   


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I wrote yesterday about Qassem Suleimani, the elusive chief of the Iranian Quds Brigade (of the IRGC). It turns out he has been traveling around the world in disguise: that may explain why he can travel freely and so quickly, and be at so many places at almost the same time. These following conflicting reports may shed more light on the man, perhaps eventually unveiling his true identity:

  • My unreliable al-Qaeda source reports that Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani has another incarnation that is, in fact, none other than Ayman al-Zawahiri, better dressed and on steroids.
  • A Syrian source suggested the ridiculous idea that Suleimani is often disguised as Colonel Riyadh al-As’ad, head of the Free Syrian Salafi Army. Perhaps thinned out and beardless.
  • My equally unreliable Bahrain source, right in one of the royal dens palaces at al-Rifa’ enclave, that in fact he is known in Bahrain as Shaikh Ali Salman. Suleimani is none other than head of the al-Wefaq main opposition bloc. (My source rejected the competing notion, pushed by Shaikh Nasser the younger son of Shaikh King Hamad, that Suleimani might be occasionally disguised as either Nabeel Rajab or Sameera Rajab).
  • My Saudi source mentioned something about Shaik Nimr al-Nimr, the opposition cleric who was shot and arrested by al-Saud security forces last month. I explained that Nimr is smaller in size, and he would need a new set of attire. He retorted angrily: “How about the Mufti Shaikh Al Al Al Shaikh as an Iranian mole?” I think he was being sarcastic, but I am not so sure.
  • A Gulf Salafi source, close to the Society for Revival of Islamic Heritage, told me that Suleimani is in fact hanging out in the GCC states, that he moves between Kuwait and Bahrain, with stopovers in Qatar to coordinate with Emir Shaikh Hamad al-Thani (cattily adding “and his wife”). The Salafi, having a Salafi’s usual priorities, added that Suleimani avails himself of both the Shi’a temporary Mut’a marriages and the Wahhabi part-time bedroom-only Misyar marriages on his travels.
  • My Israeli source sent me a terse cryptic message saying: “I know what Netahyahu will come up with, but World War II has been long over.…
  • I was also told by a GOP source that Sheldon Adelson, the family values Las Vegas and Tel Aviv man, tried to insert an item in the Republican Party platform about Suleimani, to make killing him a national goal more worthy than Killing Osama Bin Laden. It got nowhere.
  • Another source told me something unsettling: that Qassem Suleimani is everywhere, in image if not in body and soul. He pointed out something I did not know: that he is the favorite dartboard image in places as far flung as Riyadh, Manama, Tel Aviv, Washington, Arlington, and Omaha pubs (not sure about that last one). He added that some princes and potentates (both Saudi and Bahraini) in fact end up staring at the general’s image whenever they demurely excuse themselves to go and “powder their noses”.


Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com


Warrior Romney: Return of Imperialism Seeking More Enemies in Muslim Lands………..

   


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“If we take the candidate at his word, a Romney presidency would move toward war against Iran; closely align Washington with the Israeli right; leave troops in Afghanistan at least until 2014 and refuse to negotiate with the Taliban; reset the Obama administration’s “reset” with Russia; and pursue a Reagan-like military buildup at home. The Washington Monthly dubbed Romney’s foreign policy vision the “more enemies, fewer friends” doctrine, which is chillingly reminiscent of the world Obama inherited from Bush. In March the Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention told the Romney campaign it could win over “recalcitrant conservatives,” reported the Washington Post, by “previewing a few Cabinet selections: Santorum as attorney general, Gingrich as ambassador to the United Nations and John Bolton as secretary of state.” That suggestion, which might seem ludicrous, not to mention terrifying, is more plausible than one might think………..”

People in the Middle East, Arabs and Muslims, believe Mr. Obama has expanded the war-making policies of George W Bush. He is now involved in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, East Africa, Northwest Africa, Libya (was), Syria (on the side of the rebels: weapons, intelligence, most likely with special forces and intelligence agents as well), Bahrain (on the side of the regime: weapons), Iran (economic, intelligence, cyber warfare, drones). The only people in the region who think Obama is not waging enough wars in Muslim lands are the Israeli right.
Willard Mitt Romney, if elected, seems set to appoint a bunch of right-wing war-mongers, gunboat diplomats, and old-style imperialists of the kind we have not seen since early 20th century. These are people who actually believe that the United States has the “right” to attack, invade, blockade, or otherwise boycott other countries simply for opposing its government’s policies.
Of course most people in places like Mississippi and Alabama and Oklahoma and Idaho also oppose US government policies. Yet none of these states has been invaded, not since 1861, unless you consider Little Rock (Eisenhower) and Birmingham (JFK) invasions.

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

New Band in Middle East Town? Romney’s Warmongers……

    


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“Rick Perry labeled the Turkish government “Islamic terrorists.” Newt Gingrich referred to Palestinians as “invented” people. Herman Cain called Uzbekistan “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan” and memorably blanked when asked what he thought of NATO’s incursion into Libya. Michele Bachmann pledged to close the US embassy in Iran, which hasn’t existed since 1980. Rick Santorum gave a major foreign policy speech at a Jelly Belly factory in California…………. Few advisers personify the pugnacity of Romney’s foreign policy team better than Bolton. He has been a steadfast opponent of international organizations and treaties and seems never to have met a war he didn’t like. “John’s wisdom, clarity and courage are qualities that should typify our foreign policy,” Romney responded……….”

President Obama started in office being generally well-liked by Arabs and Muslim. He has come along way: now he is not liked much in the Arab and Muslim worlds. He is considered no more than any other recent US President, probably less because he is waging more wars in the Middle East than any other American president.
I have no doubt that Willard (Mitt) Romney will immediately become the most-hated (by Arabs and Muslims) US president in history. He is already setting himself up, if elected, to expand America’s wars in the Middle East to Iran and Syria and possibly a few other places. John Bolton is such an extremist that even a Republican-controlled Senate refused to confirm him as UN ambassador when Bush nominated him. He was appointed at recess for one year only. He will no doubt be back with Romney, either as deputy at State or Defense or at National Security or as UN ambassador. Bolton assiduously evaded serving in the Vietnam war, a war he verbally supported. Sort of like Cheney and Bush and many other rightist ‘war lovers from a safe distance‘.

The Romney Middle East and Arab policy looks pretty bad when we know his advisers who are mostly neoconservatives. The only native Middle Eastern among them is a veteran of the Lebanese right-wing militia the ‘Lebanese Forces‘ (LF) which were implicated in massacres like those at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps. (Actually the LF militia committed the rapes and massacre, with the dead estimated at between 1,000-3,000 victims, while Israeli forces kept a lookout outside). His name is Walid Phares. This does not bode well especially for a Romney policy toward Lebanon and Syria. It does not bode well for US relations with a majority of the Lebanese people who, like it or not, support Hezbollah and its allies (they won 54% of the votes during the last Lebanese elections). It does not bode well for relations with the plurality of Lebanese who are the political base of Hezbollah.

No matter who wins next November, he will become the least popular American president in history as far as Arabs and Muslims are concerned.
I am talking the people not the princes and potentates who no doubt prefer Romney but can learn to continue loving Obama.

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Romney and Gingrich and GOPP: Kissing Netanyahu’s Ring, Kissing History Goodbye………

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Quotes from Republican candidates at the Florida debate last night:

ROMNEY: Well, the reason that there’s not peace between the Palestinians and Israel is because there is in the leadership of the Palestinian people are Hamas and others who think like Hamas who have as their intent the elimination of Israel. And whether it’s in schoolbooks that teach how to kill Jews, or whether it’s in the political discourse that is spoken either from Fatah or from Hamas, there is a belief that the Jewish people do not have a right to have a Jewish state. …… I think he (Obama) disrespected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu……..
 

Romney doesn’t give a fig about Netanyahu, He probably recognizes him for the political hustler and serial liar that he is; he probably admires him, if at all, for these qualities more than his being a statesman (he is not). What Romney meant to say was that Obama disrespects the New York and New Jersey and other northeast retirees in Florida. He is appealing to all the Jewish elderly retirees in south Florida, normally a strong Democrat bloc of voters.

GINGRICH: It was technically an invention of the late 1970s, and it was clearly so. Prior to that, they were Arabs. Many of them were either Syrian, Lebanese, or Egyptian, or Jordanian……… ……..”

Funny, when I was a kid at school, many of my teachers were Palestinians: that is what everybody called them. Well before 1970. Gingrich supposedly studied history, so presumably he knows that he is lying here (as do most of his listeners, possibly even a few of the Republicans in the audience).
GOPP: Grand Old Pandering Party.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust: Demagoguery and Spreading the Bull……….

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, citing the lessons of the Nazi Holocaust and the danger a nuclear-armed Iran, said on Tuesday that Israel must not shy from acting alone to thwart any threat to its existence. Addressing parliament ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, Netanyahu praised a European Union decision on Monday to place sanctions on Iranian oil exports. “But on this day of international cooperation and an important achievement against Iran, I want to remind everyone of the main lesson of the Holocaust against our people – that ultimately when there is threat to our existence, we must not leave our fate in the hands of others,”………

Ahmadinejad used to specialize in near denials of the Holocaust. He taunted the West, especially the Europeans who were the planners and executioners and enablers of the Holocaust, with his nonsense. He knows exactly what happened so many decades ago in Europe, what was committed by the parents and grandparents of these Europeans, from Berlin to Krakow to Warsaw to Paris and other places. Not just by Germans: local police forces helped their new German masters round up their own Jewish neighbors to be shipped ‘east’. They were barely less guilty than the Gestapo and the Waffen-SS and even the Wehrmacht. Only about two decades ago, Austria
elected a known former Nazi officer as president (before that he was
their foreign minister then secretary general of the United
Nations!).

Yet his taunts are understandably insulting to the memory of the victims and to their descendents. One dreads what he will say later this week. Mercifully he has been silent on the subject for over a year; maybe someone told him it is not endearing. Maybe he will choose to shut up for once, being embroiled in more important issues at home.
Which brings us to that other Middle Eastern demagogue, Mr. Netanyahu. It is hard to take seriously, or find credible, someone who famously claims that “Ahmadinejad is worse than Hitler“.
Netanyahu has in recent years made quite a political art of using the terrible memory for his own political ends. He is an accomplished expert at what Americans call ‘spreading the bull’, and he knows how to spread it far and wide. In pushing for a destructive war in the Middle East, away from his own borders, he is willing to use any means. He is not being as disrespectful as Ahmadinejad, not nearly so, but he seems to exploit the memory in order to maintain the far right-wing uncompromising coalition that keeps him in powe
r.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

(4) Ron Paul in the Middle East………..

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If Ron Paul ever makes it to the White House, he’ll probably be assassinated quickly (unless he gets an infarct first, not that I wish him any ill, he is the most decent of the two GOP candidates who have some decency). There are just too many private interests and little public empires that he endangers. The list of enemies starts with the defense industry, the neocon foreign policy establishment, the foreign services and security contractors, wild evangelicals, Rapture freaks, and his own putative vice president (wtf that be). Ron Paul doesn’t do any Muslim-baiting. He is the only GOP candidate who does not pander to anyone, American or foreign. He is also the only one not waiting in line to kiss Netanyahu’s a… er,…….. ring.

Paul is an isolationist in the old Republican tradition. His idea of drastically cutting the bases in Europe and Asia is a sensible one (Germany and Japan do not need them, nor does the cash-strapped USA). The United States does not need hundreds of bases in Europe and East Asia. The United States can do with a limited number of bases in friendly Middle East and Gulf countries and with the Fifth and Sixth Fleets to cover the Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean. More important, Paul believes that the United States does not need to be dragged into an unnecessary destructive war in the Middle East, pushed by the Likud and its allies in Israel and by some potentates and the Salafis on the Gulf.
I have deliberately not mentioned Ron Paul’s domestic economic and regulatory policies with most of which I strongly disagree.
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

(3) Mitt Romney and the Middle East……….

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Mitt Romney
hasn’t expressed any solid core position on foreign policy regarding the Middle East. Nothing that diverts much from the usual republican positions. That can be good or it can be bad. He has many former GOP ‘experts’ on his advisory staff but only one of them is from an Arab (non-Muslim) background. He has expressed the usual mandatory love and admiration and adoration for Benjamin Netanyahu. But that is now a necessary thing for all GOP candidates, actually for all Democrat politicians as well. Kissing Netanyahu’s ring has become bigger than kissing the ring of the German veteran who sits in Rome, in the Fisherman’s shoes. He has, however promised that Iran will never get a nuclear weapon as long as he is president. That is the closest thing to a definite policy he has expressed. (Oh, and he has refused to promise to re-invade Iraq, which means McCain and Lieberman will have to do it solo).

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

(1) Newt Gingrich and the Middle East: Calculated Muslim-Baiting…….

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Gingrich’s faltering presidential campaign was completely resuscitated by a 5 million donation from Las Vegas casino king and super-Zionist Sheldon Adelson. (According to Wikipedia, Adelson is currently the 8th wealthiest American and 16th wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of $23.3 billion.) Rising from the ashes, Gingrich now has won the South Carolina primary and has a decent chance of becoming the Republican presidential nominee…… Adelson and his Israeli-born wife, Miriam, have spent time and money lobbying for a bill to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Gingrich has promised that his first executive order as president would be the embassy move. Adelson is an ardent Zionist. Since 2007 the Adelson Family Foundation has made contributions totaling $100 million to Birthright Israel, which finances Jewish youth trips to Israel, Adelson is such a hard-line Zionist that he even stopped supporting AIPAC when it appeared to support a 2007 peace initiative championed by Olmert, President Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In 2009, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), which is a hard-line Zionist group that wants Israel to retain the occupied territories and expand the Jewish settlements, presented Adelson its most distinguished and historic award, the Theodor Herzl Gold Medallion for outstanding achievement in Zionism. His wife received the Louis D. Brandeis Award. The couple now have their names on one of ZOA’s major awards, the Dr. Miriam & Sheldon Adelson Defender of Israel Award. Adelson is intimately involved in Israeli politics………..

Newt Gingrich has promised to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. That is a standard promise for most presidential candidates in the United States, and reneging on the promise afterwards is also standard procedure. The idea of where the embassy is located has no strategic implications, and I suspect that most Arab regimes will just do some posturing and then accept it. Unless it is moved to East Jerusalem.

Gingrich does not seem to believe that the Palestinians deserve their own state(-let) on the West Bank (and Gaza?). This may seem like a strongly pro-Israeli policy, but it is not necessarily so in the long-term. It means he prefers Israel to annex territory covering anywhere between 2 to 3 million more Palestinian Arabs (in addition to Arab Israelis who are less than 24% of the population). Yet what would they do with all these Arabs? Citizenship and voting rights mean a huge, nay a seismic, political shift. An apartheid-type policy is not an option in this day and age (even the Bahrain regime on the Gulf is having trouble keeping its apartheid policy intact). Besides, it would truly upset and turn off most Jewish-Americans who would not condone such policy (in comparison Jewish-Russians probably wouldn’t give a fig about it, nor would the “Christian” right).
Gingrich has also done some of the usual Republican Muslim-baiting. He made some appropriate (to the right wingers) noises about the dangers the Shri’a law presents to the United States. He knows there is no such danger because it won’t happen. He also was slated to share the speaking stage with Dutch Neo-Nazi politician and rabble-rouser Geert Wilders at an anti-Muslim rally a couple of years ago in New York, but he was smart enough to go AWOL on that day. His Muslim-baiting is calculated, unlike that of some other republicans: that only means he is smarter than his colleagues in the Party.

I have not posted anything recently about my earlier suggestion that Newt Gingrich take a hike, literally, on the Iraq-Iran border. That was meant to shore up his foreign policy credentials.  But that hike may be impossible now, given that overt American military presence in Iraq is limited to John McCain and Joe Lieberman camping in Falluja. (Congressmen don’t get much in-depth foreign policy experience unless that sit on certain specialized committee or subcommittee. Just look at poor Rick Santorum, the subject of my next brief posting).
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

SOTU: Obama as a Middle East Hostage………..

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Under Mr. Obama, American Middle East policy has become practically a political hostage of the Likud coalition and a resurgent pro-Israeli lobby. Not necessarily a Jewish lobby that is in fact divided, but more a Rapture lobby of Christians eager for new converts ‘when the moment is right’. That is not all: the administration has several high-ranking strongly pro-Israeli advocates, like Susan Rice who naturally aspires to replace Hillary Clinton at the State Department.
Arabs often complained that U.S. policy was strongly influenced by Israeli interests. That is not exactly the case anymore: U.S. Middle East policy is now truly shaped by ‘perceptions’ of Israeli interests in an unprecedented way. That perception is not necessarily in the interests of Israel in the longer term. Look for Republicans to continue applying pressure on Obama between now and November, pushing him to leave the West Bank alone for now, pushing him to ensure Israeli supremacy in the Eastern Mediterranean.
SOTU: all that pressure was reflected in the Iran part of the State of the Union speech, when Obama repeated the mantra that “all options” are on the table. “All options” means a possible unprovoked war in the Persian-American Gulf.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com