Category Archives: Middle East

Middle East Peace Index, War Index……………

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Peace indicators:
Level of organized conflict -Armed services personnel -Weapons imports -Military expenditure -Number of conflicts fought -Jailed population -Deaths from conflict (internal) -Potential for terriorist acts -Level of violent crime -Political instability -Military capability/sophistication -Disrespect for human rights -Number of homicides -UN Peacekeeping funding -Number of heavy weapons -Number of displaced people -Neighbouring country relations -Weapons exports -Deaths from conflict (external) -Violent demonstrations -Access to weapons -Perceived criminality in society -Security officers & police.

Middle East compared to others:

Iceland 1
Qatar 12 –  Kuwait 29 –   UAE 33 –   Oman 41 –   Morocco 58 –   Jordan 64-  Egypt 73 –   China 80 –    USA 82 –     Bangladesh 83 –    Congo 98   
Saudi Arabia 101-    Syria 116 –    Iran 119 –    Bahrain 123 –    Turkey 127 –   Algeria 129-  Mauritania 130 – 
Myanmar 133 –     India 135 –  
Lebanon 137 –      Yemen 138 –    Libya 143-     Israel 145 –
Pakistan 146 –    Afghanistan 150 –  
Sudan 151 –     Iraq 152 –      Somalia 153

Cheers
mhg


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Following Laika and Armstrong: Abu Dhabi and Iran Head Into Space………

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The world could soon see the first Emirati in space, as the Global Space and Satellite Forum 2011 (GSSF)focused on developing the regional space industry’s experts of the future. During the final day of GSSF, senior representatives from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) delivered an interactive UAE Space Career and Exploration video uplink to a gathering of aspiring Emirati astronauts and space industry hopefuls. Dr Omar Al Emam, Voluntary Space Technology Advisor, Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF), spoke about the work of the NASA Lunar Science Institute in California and the importance of hands-on space technology for the youth of the region..……..

Space exploration sure has come a long way. Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space. I believe Alan Shepard (?) was the first American in space, although Neil Armstrong is the most known. In addition to so many humans having gone into space, there are many of other species as well. The Soviet Union, the first country to invade space, sent the first dog and first human into orbit in space (not together). Laika, a dedicated communist whom some Russians suspected of being a secret Trotskyite, was the first dog and her name means “barker”, as in woof woof. The Americans also sent many animals over time. The most popular animals for sending into space were your nearest cousins the simians. Which makes sense.
The UAE is hoping to send an astronaut into space aboard an American spaceship. The Saudis sent one of their princes on an American mission during the 1980s. When the prince landed back on Earth safely he was asked what was the toughest task he faced in space, and his answer was typical “I had a hard time determining which way to face Mecca”. The prince was a pilot but apparently he was no scientist. I understand that he was never asked another question again.
Back to the United Arab Emirates: it is not clear who they will send if NASA agrees, some years down the road. Can it be another shaikh? I doubt that Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed al-Nahayn, ruler of Abu Dhabi will go: he is probably too old and looks rather lumpy. Shaikh Mohammed of Dubai looks too damn serious for anyone to be locked up with in a small spaceship. All the other Bin Zayed al-Nahayan don’t look any more cheerful for company. I was going to nominate their foreign minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed al-Nahayn, Metternich of Abu Dhabi, but then who will run the march of our world toward peace and democracy in his absence?
The Iranians have also been threatening to send a man into space during this decade. They already have some satellites up and will launch more this year or next. They have not announced yet whether their spaceman will be a mullah (cleric) or a ‘civilian’. Ahmadinejad will be out of office by that time, which may mean something in this context, or maybe not.
Cheers
mhg




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Shaikh Fatah and Prince Hamas and King Bibi of Palestine and the Gulf…

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Palestine to merge with GCC when liberated. The Palestinian government seeks support from the GCC countries to resolve their long-standing conflicts with Israel and wants to merge with the GCC bloc when liberated. Dr Khairi Al Oraidi, Ambassador of Palestine to the UAE., addressing the media on the occasion of the Nakba or catastrophe day at the embassy premises on Thursday, said: “I believe in the important role which the GCC countries have been playing in the region socially and politically.” So, if Palestine or any other country becomes part of the GCC countries, it will be a great support for them especially for the people of Palestine, the ambassador said. Palestinians mark Nakba Day to remember the 63rd anniversary of ‘Nakba’ or ‘catastrophe’, a term Palestinian refugees use to describe their expulsion from their homes and towns when Israel was created on occupied Palestinian 
territories in 1948……..”

Okay, this should run its course soon. First Jordan, then Morocco, and now Palestine-of-the-future. I do believe the GCC summit in Riyadh opened the door for this new #FunnyGCC laughter-fest, and deservedly so. Time to stop: we already look, and sound, like the idiots of the international community (for elaboration read my blog post of yesterday and other posts of earlier days). The GCC leadership, the secretary general, that close friend and retainer of the Bahrain regime, ought to hold a news conference and explain to the peoples of our region WTF the GCC leaders meant, if anything, with their strange statement about Morocco and Jordan. I joked in one of my tweets that Benjamin Netanyahu may apply as well, but afterwards I realized that he is not an Arab ruler. Netanyahu would have to get the approval of his Knesset and his people first. And he knows it, he is not a total schmuck (that would be Lieberman, both of them). Dommage.
Cheers
mhg




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Arab Press Freedom: Same Old, Same Old……….

     
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Freedom of the Press rankings (Freedom House):
I have my doubts about some of these rankings: for example I think Lebanon (109) has more press freedom than several countries that are listed above it. I am also not sure why the US (22) and UK (29) are ranked lower than some European countries. France is ranked 42. Bahrain (159) has no independent press anymore, and should now be at a lower level than Saudi Arabia (178) or Iran (188), closer to Libya. Saudi Arabia (178) should be lower after now because they just passed decrees and regulations that make a mockery of any concept of press freedom:

Finland (1)- Norway(2)-Sweden(3)……
Israel (62)
Lebanon (109)- Turkey (113)- Kuwait (127)- Algeria (138)
Jordan (142)- Egypt (147)- Qatar (148) – Iraq (151)
As for the rest of the Arab states? The less said the better.

Frankly, I am not sure wtf these rankings mean. In many Arab states the press knows a red line when it sees one and would not cross it. It is called censorship by silent intimidation. How do these rankings account for that?
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Hamas and Bin Laden……………

     
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Al-Qaeda and other Salafis never cared about the Palestine issue, at least not publicly. Salafis are too obsessed with killing “the infidel” and with worshipping living, well-paying, kings to worry about the thorniest problem of our region. During the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon, al-Qaeda and other Salafis joined the absolute tribal Arab monarchs in siding, nearly openly, with the Israelis against the Lebanese.
Now Hamas, a somewhat milder, even gentler, fundamentalist organization, never a friend of al-Qaeda, comes out condemning the killing of the Salafi master terrorist and mass murderer. They sure know how to shoot themselves in the foot.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Battle for Iran: the Arab Factor, La Marseillaise………….

     
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Que veut cette horde d’esclaves         What do they want this horde of slaves
De traîtres, de rois conjurés?                Of traitors and conspiratorial kings?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves              For whom these vile chains
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés?           These long-prepared irons?
Français, pour nous, ah! quel outrage        Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
Quels transports il doit exciter?                What methods must be taken?
C’est nous qu’on ose méditer                    It is us they dare plan
De rendre à l’antique esclavage!
             To return to the old slavery!……La Marseillaise

Iranian sources report that the dispute (s) between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the conservative clergy led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei continues. Apparently Ahmadinejad has his supporters among some parliamentarians and within the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Two recent developments highlight this dispute: (1) the removal of Mr. Mashaie as chief of presidential staff and (2) the removal then reinstatement of the minister of intelligence. Mr. Mashaie is a suspect among the more conservative clergy and politicians: he has been accused of pushing Iranian nationalism and culture over the Islamic identity (probably a good election position among mullah-weary urban Iranians). The minister of intelligence (Mr. Moslehi) was forced to resign by Ahmadinejad but the more powerful Khamenei has reinstated him. Some exile media report that Ahmadinejad has been boycotting cabinet meetings since the reinstatement of Moslehi.
Mr. Mashaie is almost certainly the favorite choice of Ahmadinejad to run for president in 2013 when he has to step down. He will have a hard time now if he decides to run. He may get approval from the clergy to run, but his chances depend on who, if any, is running on the reform or ‘opposition’ side. It looks like that after the Khatemi experience and the 2009 election dispute, the senior clergy may vet potential candidates more carefully. That would insure the election of a conservative president but it would also increase the pressure among young Iranians yearning for change and more freedom.
A year or two ago, silent docile Arab peoples looked at the Iranians protesting in the streets and wondered: why not, why not us? Just as they did during the Iranian revolution in 1978-79. Now the Arabs are having their revolutions, with the reactionary Arab forces led by the al-Saud and their allies trying to stop and subvert them. Now the Iranians may start wondering as they look at the Arabs: why not, why not us, again?
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

My Disagreement with Ayatollah Khamenei………..

        
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Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said on Monday that there is no difference between the uprising against tyranny in Bahrain with other Arab countries such as Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia or Libya. The Leader, who was addressing a large group of people in Mashhad in the first day of Noruz (the Persian New Year), said this claim that Iran is supporting the Bahrainis because they are mostly Shia is absolutely false. Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran has been supporting the Sunni Muslims in Palestine over the past 32 years and this shows that Iran makes no difference between Shias and Sunnis. The Leader said those who are trying to interpret the Bahraini people’s uprising against despotism as the conflict between Shia and Sunni are in fact doing the “greatest service” to the United States. “Do not turn the anti-despotic movement of a nation into a Shia-Sunni problem,” Ayatollah Khamenei warned. “We will not make a differentiation between Gaza, Palestine, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia,” the Leader asserted……..” Mehr News (Iran)

I don’t agree with Khamenei on many issues: the idea of Wilayat Faqih (rule of a supreme cleric), on theocracy, on secularism, on free speech, on the death penalty, and on many other issues.
But this one is different. Apparently Khamenei is pissed (putting it succinctly) that the vast Saudi official media dominating the Arab waves, and its surrogates in the Gulf states, are painting the Bahrain uprising as primarily a Shi’a-Sunni conflict. I happen to agree with Khamenei on this point, as do most Arabs, almost all Arabs, outside the sectarian-divided Gulf region. The rulers of Bahrain and their partners in Apartheid have been using this Shi’a-Sunni rift, enlarging it shamelessly for their own purpose, dividing the region and inflaming it. The Saudis and some other tame and controlled Gulf media have been aiding and abetting this shameful sectarian approach. On this one I agree with Khamenai, even though I disagree on many others.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Is the UAE Falling Behind in its Armaments Goal?………….

        

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This CIA entry gives spending on defense programs for the most recent year available as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP); the GDP is calculated on an exchange rate basis, i.e., not in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP).
The UAE has been the second biggest importer of weapons since 2005. This means the al-Nahayan had the world “silver medal”. In the region, the UAE has been the first biggest importer of weapons, i.e. the gold medal. Not sure what they have been doing with all the hardware, since they don’t have enough citizens for all these arms (some 80-85% of the population is composed of Asian laborers and housemaids who are not eligible for military service).
Now there is a new shocker for the UAE, something they did not know: in terms of total defense spending as a percent of GDP they are way down the list. They are number 40! Well below lowly Oman and rival Qatar and the even lowlier Bahrain!
Now the rulers of Abu Dhabi have three choices to catch up: (1) Speed up the purchase of weapons, and that is okay, it means more bribes commissions for the potentates. (2) Induct many thousands of expatriate workers into the armed forces which would push up military spending at the expense of civilian spending. (3) Find a way to reduce the GDP! I leave that last one to them to figure it out.
Cheers
mhg

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From Tehran to Doha to Riyadh to Abu Dhabi: Watching the World Go By, a Talent for Boring………….

     

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How the Arab and Middle East uprisings have caught regional leaders off guard:


  • Iranian mullahs go bi-polar and worry about the British. They did not say why the British, they never say, but I suspect it is because it is easier to sell “hate the British” than “hate America” to their people. Many Iranians have American relatives now. Maybe some mullahs don’t realize that Churchill is not only out of power, but has been quite dead for almost half a century. 

  • The ruler of Qatar continues to play his cards close to his chest (no problem there, a lot of space), realizing after watching hours of Qaddafi tapes that silence is more than golden. The Emir does get a petition for ‘reform’: I hope he didn’t write it himself, just to make things interesting for his surely bored people (they must feel that the world is passing them by).

  • Saudi princes had thought they owned the status quo: they had thought their people were winners of the Gold Medal for Conformity. Mufti Shaikh Al Al-Shaikh is so upset he may decide to take another wife (as will his cousin and head of the appointed Shura Council, one of the other Shaikhs Al Al-Shaikh). Friday’s Day of Rage may have fizzled in Saudi, only worked in the Eastern Province (al-A’hsaa, al-‘Hasa: you name it). The sectarian angle plus the loyalist Salafi shaikhs on the payroll plus flooding the streets with security men, carried the day again for the regime. For now.

  • I am beginning to suspect something about the Saudi people: the princes may be right, and many of them may prefer to see the world pass them by. That is a boring thing these days. I am not sure if it is the case for most of them, yet. Which means that perhaps the Saudi princes deliberately keep their people bored either by doing nothing or by making periodic public statements or by just doing things, anything. Some people are like that: they have a talent for boring their people no matter what they do or don’t do (Iran’s Ahmadinejad has that same talent for boring, but he is not quite as good at it as the Saudi princes, nobody is except for the Abu Dhabi and Bahrain potentates). I recall once watching a news tape of Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, and I had a hard time staying awake, and afterwards I did not remember any important points that he had made, if any. This talent for boring has so far served the al-Saud well, and it may safely get them through this year of revolutions, that and their guns.

  • The ruling family of Abu Dhabi decide to upgrade: from the world’s second biggest importer of weapons to the world’s first biggest importer of weapons in the world (as their foreign minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Bin Sultan al-Nehyan may have said, or maybe not). They may also decide to import a couple of million more Asians, just in case. They are still up there on the boring scale, at least the top few of them.

  • The King of Morocco, and whoever/whatever of Mauretania, figure that the wind is blowing to the east and they have ample time to get ready. These last two have forgotten about the ripe rotten Algerian fruit that could fall at any time and sweep away Bou-whatishisface and screw up their plans big time.

Cheers
mhg




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