Category Archives: Persian Gulf

Donald Trump’s AI War: Alexa, What Should I do about Iran?……

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I can imagine it.

Donald Trump in the Oval Office, or maybe in his official bedroom (not the real one at Mar A Lago). Rapping his fingers on the desk, finally turning to a little blinking cylinder (black or white? probably Bannon-white):

Alexa? Siri? Google? How many missiles should I fire at that empty airbase in Syria to keep the media happy? (Aside): Or maybe I can just ask the stiffs in Congress to tighten sanctions on Iran, they’d love it. They’ve been doing it on their own every month anyway. Sheldon Adelson would love it too, worth millions for 2020.

Alexa? Why is the Iranian Navy always prowling in the Persian Gulf? Why is it provoking us barely 8,000 miles from Tampa Bay? (Aside): Maybe I’ll just ask the stiffs in Congress to tighten sanctions on Iran, they’d love it. They’ve been doing it on their own every month anyway.

Alexa? What do I do about Putin? How long will the Good Cop (me) vs Bad Cop (Nikki Haley) routine last before Vladimir catches on? (Aside): Maybe I’ll just ask the stiffs in Congress to tighten sanctions on Iran, they’d love it. They’ve been doing it on their own every month anyway.

Alexa? How can I turn down another request by Netanyahu to visit the White House? By the way: what the fuck do my fellow Republican Congressmen see in this guy? I swear they seem to love him more than they love me. Love is blind.  (Aside): Maybe I’ll just ask the stiffs in Congress to tighten sanctions on Iran, they’d love it. They’ve been doing it on their own every month anyway.

Alexa? What do I do about Kim Jong Un? The ChubbtyLittleFuck is messing up my foreign policy plans. I’ve got him sanctioned up to his YouKnowWhere. Next step would be to sanction the Chinese banks and businesses that keep him going. But Ivanka and Jared tell me that is a no no. (Aside): Maybe I’ll just ask the stiffs in Congress to tighten sanctions on Iran, they’d love it. They’ve been doing it on their own every month anyway.

King Salman? Hi there, Sal. Salam Aleikom, King, I love you Muslim guys, especially the Wahhabis: my kind of Muslims. Shook hands with one greas….,er, Muslim once in Brooklyn. Sal? I’ve got a problem. Oh, no never mind Yemen. JASTA? not today. I need some advise…….
Salman:  Just ask the stiffs in Congress to tighten sanctions on the heretic Magi in Iran, they’d love it. They’ve been doing it on their own every month anyway.

Bannon? Steve? What do you think I should do? Will the stiffs in Congress tightening sanctions on Iran help make it all go away?

Bannon: Sir? Call Kim Jong Un. You did say during the campaign you’d meet with him. Call him secretly.

Hello, Kim Jong Un? Kimmyyyyyy babe! I’ve got a question for you…

Kim Jong Un: And I’ve got you by les gonades, Donald. Don’t waste my time, Donald. Don’t be wishy-washy. The answer is simple. Just bomb Iran…… Sheldon Adelson would love it, worth tens of millions for 2020 campaign.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

On the Persian Gulf: the Disappearance of Saleem the Jew……

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Saleem Yehudi, Saleem the Jew. That was what everybody that I knew called him in those days. That is the way my father and uncles called him when I was a kid. Saleem is a common name in the Middle East, and they were distinguishing him from some other Saleem(s) they knew. There are/were Arab Saleem, Iranian Saleem, Jewish Saleem, African Saleem, etc.
My father often took me along when he had some business near the port in our small capital city on the northern mainland tip of the Persian Gulf. In those days the dhows and fishermen boats were moored to piers right downtown, just behind the Seif Palace. Often my father stopped at the small front office used by Saleem Yehudi. I recall the man behind his desk, he seemed old to me as a child, but he was probably middle aged. He always gave me a piece of candy or a cookie or two, no doubt to keep me from fidgeting and getting into trouble while he talked with my father.

Then a day came when there was no Saleem Yehudi. A day when I realized that I had not seen him in a long time, maybe a few weeks. I don’t recall his name coming up at our afternoon meal Sofra (roughly the equivalent of a Western dinner table). Normally in my family we discussed all developments, everything and everybody. Adults and kids, men and women eagerly participating, interrupting…..

One day I was tagging along behind my father on the way to the port, when I suddenly asked him “Where is Saleem Yehudi, father?

There was a long pause before he said “Gone….. They’re all gone“.
Gone? Gone where, father?” I’m not sure if I was concerned about Saleem the Jew or the piece of sweet he gave me.

Another long pause before my father said “Probably gone to Shiraz, or Tehran….” Then another pause, he usually thought out what he said to me, “Or maybe some port in Iran. They can’t go to Iraq anymore……. Maybe Israel“.

Saleem the Jew, another fellow traveler who disappeared, almost certainly involuntarily……

But that has been the story of the Middle East, from the days of Babylonia and Cyrus until now. Just like Saleem Yehudi, others of other faiths, Arab Muslims and Christians, were also displaced, sometimes forcibly, by the same conflict. They still are in parts of the Old Mandate of Palestine (now Israel and the ever-shrinking Palestinian Territories). It goes on among Arabs as well: in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, the Persian Gulf and other places. The ethnic cleansing goes beyond interfaith, to inter-sectarian. A mad search for an ever narrower false homogeneity that never seems to stop these days. It goes on and it dooms the region, especially the countries undergoing this ethnic and religious cleansing.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Wyatt, Doc, Calamity and Beautiful Science: a Day in the Life of Trump Administration…….

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More recent potential Trump Administration news:

An uncharacteristically exasperated Attorney General Jeff Sessions has finally put Sanctuary Cities “on notice”, by yelling: Basta! (actually he did a combo Mexican-Rebel yell: Byeesta!).
Sessions also has temporarily changed his name to Wyatt Earp, and started calling Trump ‘Doc Holliday‘, calling Betsy DeVos ‘Calamity‘. No comment on Elaine Chou yet…….

For his part, Donald Trump asserted from Mar A Lago that: “I love Science. I believe in Science. I have here–> some beautiful Science to share with the American people. Wait for some big news on Science sometime next week, or maybe the week after. Will knock your socks off….”

Secretary of, er, State Rex Tillerson grunted again (at his usual speed of 0.5km/hr) that : “Eyeran represents an imminent danger to the United States national security, piling up their naval warships in the Gulf of Mexico, Oops, I meant the Persian Gulf“.

Rexy was leaving too quickly for a big man, as he is wont to do, when Andrea Mitchell asked if that means Trump is ready to start yet another stupid war. His parting shot was: “all options are on the table, we’re betting the farm on this one. The mullahs should remember what we did to Eyeraq! It took some fifteen years but we totally screwed up their country, our credibility and our economy. Created ISIS too. Never underestimate President Trump.”

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Arab Leaders Blowing in the Wind: Torn Between Many Lovers…….

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The Arab regimes that care, mainly in the Gulf region, have failed to devise and implement a strategy against the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East. Military attempts in Iraq and Syria (via insurgent Jihadi proxies) have failed. An extended and ferocious destructive bombing campaign with Western help seems to have failed against the fierce Yemenis. Attempts at forging various reliable foreign alliances, from Turkey to Africa, have failed. Now they think they have a chance at a reset with the Trump administration, but that is probably just another illusion.

A leading Saudi newspaper editor, Mr. Turki Al Dakhil who is close to some potentates, has asked Saudis to launch a campaign on Twitter and other social media praising Donald Trump’s criticism of Iran. In the process also exaggerating it. Many, including the huge official Saudi Electronic Army have been tweeting hashtags (most common hashtag has been #TrumpWarnsIranianTerrorism or something like it) supposedly egging Mr. Trump on, pushing him toward a confrontation with the Iranian regime.

Wahhabi extremists, Salafis, ISIS fans, Al Qaeda fans and other assorted fans of Jihadi cutthroats are all suddenly tweeting in praise of the new President of the United States.

Remember when President Obama complained to the Atlantic Magazine last year that some Arab oligarchs in the Persian Gulf were trying to get the USA to join their regional sectarian conflicts? They are now trying to egg Trump on to fight their sectarian war in the Gulf region and possibly beyond. Only a few weeks ago they were blasting Trump as an Islamophobic racist, now they are clinging to him as a potential war ally. The last great (very) white hope.

Of course this is not new. After the fall of Baghdad in 2003 some Arab autocrats tried with George W Bush to provoke yet a new Gulf war. But he turned out smarter than that, less cooperative. Obama was even more skeptical of the Arab oligarchs, especially after the uprisings of 2010/2011 started. So, the oligarchs soured on Obama and hitched their wagons to Benyamin Netanyahu of Israel. As they waited for their old Clintonista friends to retake the White House.

Netanyahu talked tough against the mullahs, but he would not go to a risky war for the sake of Wahhabi kings and princes who don’t even recognize his country. You see, I suspect that much of Netanyahu’s bluster about the Iranian regime was to divert attention from the settlements in the West Bank (he has been warning since 1995 that Iran will have a nuclear weapon within six months). Some Iranian leaders helped him along with their absurd and bigoted comments about the Holocaust and their silly “Death To” slogans. The Iranian hardliners are good at milking these hostile slogans to their advantage in the Middle East, even if they harm their country’s interests in the halls of power in the West.

Enter Donald Trump and his frustrated hawkish former generals and cultural religious racial warriors.

So that is where it stands now. The Arab oligarchs are suddenly admirers of the American leader they called a clown only a few weeks ago. They think they have a chance against Iranian expansion with Trump, given that the president is surrounded by hawks and by cabinet members and advisers who have been close to the Iranian Mujahideen-Khalq opposition group.

Trump promised to avoid foreign wars and focus on America, but he is now making ominous noises. Will he go to war for his new autocratic admirers? Hopefully not: the Middle East has had enough of foreign meddling and Western wars.
Just help defeat ISIS and Al Qaeda, Mr. Trump, then get the hell out. You don’t belong in the Middle East permanently. The Iranians and the Arabs (and Kurds and Jews and others) belong there, and they have for thousands of years.

Cheers

M. H. Ghuloum

A New Persian Gulf War? A Message from Marcus Licinius Crassus to Donald Trump……..

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“The Saudis have been bombing the Houthi rebels and ravaging their country, Yemen, for two years. Are the Saudis entitled to immunity from retaliation in wars that they start? Where is the evidence Iran had a role in the Red Sea attack on the Saudi ship? And why would President Trump make this war his war? As for the Iranian missile test, a 2015 U.N. resolution “called upon” Iran not to test nuclear-capable missiles. It did not forbid Iran from testing conventional missiles, which Tehran insists this was. Is the United States making new demands on Iran not written into the nuclear treaty or international law—to provoke a confrontation? Did Flynn coordinate with our allies about this warning of possible military action against Iran? Is NATO obligated to join any action we might take?………..”
Also sprach Pat Buchanan, now older and even wiser.

Mr. Trump is a Manhattan businessman and a showman. Which means he has mastered the arts of showmanship and bluffing (and bullying).
His nonsensical campaign promise to ‘Make America Great Again‘ was absurd, as if America is Egypt or Peru. But it was bought by enough of the desperate industrial working classes, and much of the campaign-money-donating upper classes, to get him into the White House. Even as he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes.

His promise of America First looks set to be set on fire by his new adventurism in the Persian Gulf region. Possibly egged on by some of the same Arab and Jewish regional allies he detests so much. He has surrounded himself by a few former military men and civilian hawks who have a chip on their collective shoulders regarding the Middle East, especially Iran. They think they can win the wars of choice that Bush and Obama squandered.

Now they have made Donald Trump into a George W Bush on steroids. But a new military conflict in the Persian Gulf will last much longer than the hawks and chickenhawks think. Remember the Iran-Iraq war? It was started by Iraq as a blitzkrieg victory, but it lasted eight years and ended up destroying Iraq. This latest war in Afghanistan has lasted 16 years, so far. The latest Iraq war started in 2003, Syria is in its seventh year.

A lesson for Mr. Trump from ancient Roman history, if he and his new generals care to read. Read the story of the Roman consul and general Marcus Licinius Crassus, a friend of Julius Caesar. He collected a huge army of many invincible Roman legions to invade ancient Persia more than two thousand years ago. Another unprovoked war. Crassus and his Roman legions vanished somewhere in the Iranian Plateau, never to be seen or heard from again.
Lesson? Wars of choice half-way across the world are not a good investment (as you, Mr. Trump and your class would say).
Mr. Trump, there are no direct American national interests threatened by the Iranians. They have not broken the Nuclear Deal with the world powers. They have not attacked Americans or America’s regional allies, yet. So, tone down the bluffing.

Mr. Trump, you are used to playing the cheap game of Casino poker, but the mullahs play the more enduring game of Chess. A game their country invented when your ancestors were still lurking in the caves and forests of Central Europe.
So, call back the dogs of war, get them out of your White House. Don’t throw good money after bad in the Middle East. Save a few more trillions of dollars and many lives on both sides.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

Trump Middle East Policy Confusion: America First? New Muslim Wars First?…….

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The slogan America First implies focusing on internal US affairs: the economy, trade, infrastructure, even immigration.
Yet the Trump administration is already being pulled into a new morass in the Middle East (the Muslim World in case you didn’t know). It is falling for the trap of an Iranian missile test that is apparently unrelated to the Nuclear Deal (JCPOA). Perhaps it is a test by the mullahs of a new administration that is already shooting itself in the foot in domestic matters (healthcare, immigration). The new alleged ballistic missile test, which at least Russia and China certainly consider unrelated to the Nuclear Deal, came quickly after reports of a phone call between Trump and the Saudi King that mentioned containing Iran.
The Iranians most likely look on their ballistic missiles as defensive weapons, since hey don’t have the threatening Western-made sophisticated warplanes that their potential regional enemies have. Part of their deterrence that would prevent a repeat of an attack similar to the Iraqi Baathist invasion of their country.

Or maybe the mullahs in Tehran were giving Mr. Trump and Netanyahu something to discuss when they meet next month. The latter would be eager to sell Trump the snake-oil of another Muslim war/quagmire that neither Bush (W) nor Barack Obama would buy from him. The Trump administration probably won’t get far in the UN Security Council: even the European allies may oppose them. New President Trump has no reservoir of goodwill in Western Europe, or in most of the world, to draw on. He never had any beyond his own base and his own party.

In fairness, the Trump administration apparently have discarded the silly notion of “tearing up” the Nuclear Deal. It is not really a “piece of paper” as experienced right-wing hawks like John Bolton still think. They now seem to realize that it can’t be undone beyond campaign rhetoric.

In response to reports of the recent Iranian missile test, the White House NSC issued a tough statement mainly attacking Barack Obama for it (Obama, not the UN). A very retro reaction. Expect a Trump tweet to follow soon. Also expect more muscle-flexing in the Persian-American Gulf region by both sides, something even allied regional governments worry about.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

The GCC Game of Musical Alliances: from the Gulf through Africa and Beyond………

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Something strange has been going on recently among member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
They had their summit in Manama a couple of weeks ago, which ended with nothing spectacular to announce. The Salafis of the Persian-American Gulf and the usual Bahrain potentates (both fiercely Saudi proxies) have tried, again, to create some excitement about a possible “union” based on the European model. But it would be a union of ruling families, not based on the popular will, since Kuwait is the only GCC country that has free popular elections. But Kuwait has the misfortune of being stuck between three large and menacing neighboring countries: Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia (the country was invaded by both Iraq and Saudi Arabia in the last century).

The idea of a Gulf union was a no-go, and DOA at the summit: it was not even discussed publicly. Some others within the GCC saw it as a way to formalize a fearsome Saudi attempt at hegemony. They/we all know how the Saudi Kingdom was formed during the last century by swallowing smaller neighboring emirates in the Arabian Peninsula.

After the summit, Saudi King Salman visited every member country except for Oman. Certainly because Oman is the least likely member to follow Saudi policies and wishes. It is odd for the ruler of a member of GCC to start visiting other member states immediately after the summit ends. Why not meet them individually during the summit? They apparently want to send a message to other members and to some Arab counties.

Soon after all that, a Saudi delegation last week visited Ethiopia, a country with which Egypt has serious disputes over the Nile waters. The delegation also pointedly visited a new Ethiopian dam that Egypt claims seriously reduces its share of the Nile waters. That visit created an uproar within Arab media and social media.
But wait, that is not all, there is more (as the TV ads say)…..

Now there is an announcement that the foreign minister of Qatar is visiting, you guessed it, landlocked Ethiopia. Almost certainly just to bother the hell out of the Egyptians.

Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar (and Turkey as well) have just suffered an immense strategic defeat in Syria, when their Jihadist surrogates were forced out of the eastern part of Aleppo. Egypt has been moving towards siding with the Assad regime (and hence by association with Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Russia) in the Syrian war. This has clearly angered some of the Gulf allies who either support the Jihadis in Syria or need to show that they do so for domestic political reasons.

That leaves out the UAE, the third major partner in the Saudi regional alliance. The UAE shares one very important thing with the current government of Egypt: they both hate and fear the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile Qatar is practically a Muslim Brotherhood monarchy (and so close to the Turkish Islamist regime that they have agreed to have a Turkish military base in their country). The Saudis have warmed up to the Brotherhood recently because they are their allies in the Yemen War (through the corrupt Islah Party).
These are fascinating developments that are now unfolding in the Middle East.

As I said: wait, there will be more, and soon. The GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia, have been playing a game of “musical alliances’ in recent years. Since 2011 they have allied on and off with Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Eritrea, Djibouti, Mauritania, Sudan, and now Ethiopia, among others. A list of mainly countries with deep economic problems. And the game of Musical Alliances goes on.

As I said: but wait, there will be more, and soon………..
Cheers

M Haider Ghuloum

In the Persian-American Gulf: a Tribal Sectarian Island of Mad Snakes……

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An island, or islands, in the sun.

The United States has its largest regional naval base on it.
Britain, its former colonial master and perennial enabler of its despots, is re-establishing a permanent military base on it.

Saudi Arabia has a military base since 2011 when it helped crush a democratic uprising.

Assorted imported foreign mercenaries, goon squads, are based on it: interrogators/torturers from the humorless Kingdom of Jordan, security forces recruited from Pakistan and Syria and other places.

An island of poverty and tear gas once one leaves the Potemkin facade glitter of the capital. A majority of its native people are being gradually ghettoized, terrorized, and disenfranchised by the ruling tribal oligarchy.
Pro-democracy advocates, original natives, and critics of the ruling family are rendered stateless and sent into exile. Often they are arrested on trumped up charges and imprisoned, tortured.
Western powers, especially the USA pay lip service to the need for freedom and equality. Others don’t even bother to pay lip service to the idea of freedom on the island.

The British establishment (government, royal family, and business) are part of the problem of the people of the island. They are the greatest enablers of repression on the island. The royal family of Britain goes out of its way to show its support of the despotic rulers of the island. Idle English princes and princesses of questionable character fly occasionally to show their support (and get Saudi contracts). The despots are often feted at Buckingham and other palaces.

You know which small captive island I am talking about. A small monarchy ruled by a nest of tribal sectarian snakes and thieves, it is very close to the southeastern shore of the Persian-American Gulf. Just across the waterway from the oil fields.

I have called it a Devil’s Island in the past, a slight exaggeration. I have also called it an Island of Tear Gas, a slight exaggeration.
Any exaggeration here about this island is bound to be “slight”.

I will not name names here, leaving it to your knowledge or imagination, although it is a very real island. In the Persian-American Gulf.
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Islands Afloat: Lebensraum from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea……..

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Speaking of Al Sisi selling two strategic Egyptian islands in the Red Sea to the Saudi ruling family (my previous post).

I must add that Generalissimo Field Marshal President Al Sisi got a better deal, financially speaking, than the potentates of what is now the UAE did a few decades ago. Rather better than some rulers of the Gulf (emirates) Sheikhdoms in 1970. At that time, many of the smaller sheikhdoms of what was called Sahel Oman (Omani Coast) on the Persian Gulf had no oil fields, and they needed cash. They usually sold colorful stamps, passports, as well as their share of the rights to some of the islands in the Persian Gulf.

That was before the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was created to join all these small tribal neighborhoods. Through a deal brokered by the British overlords of the Arab side of the Gulf, the Shah of Iran paid a few million dollars for the deal to “get the islands back”, according to the Iranians. The islands are near the Strait of Hormuz. Actually the agreement was for “joint administration” of Abu Moussa. The Iranians claim the British took the islands in 1921 and put them under the jurisdiction of the sheikh of Sharjah, which was part of the British Empire. They also claim the Qasismi ruling sheikhs were at one time living on the Persian shores of the Gulf, and hence were Iranian subjects.Another convoluted complication.

Now the UAE leaders, who were not part to the deal since the UAE did not exist in 1970, would like to re-purchase the islands from Iran. Not sure why they want the islands since they have had to import 6 million foreigners to populate their own country on the mainland. It is not like they need Lebensraum.

In short: both sides in the Gulf are using any argument, whether it makes sense or not to support its case. Nobody seems in a mood to share the islands anymore: that would be too sensible for the Middle East mindset. History has been telling us this for at least 70 years.

Anyway, all this is history, but some sheikhs in the smaller Emirates of the UAE are now kicking themselves for not knowing at the time that they had so much oil under their privies and outhouses. Right under where their pet goats dropped their pellets. (FYI: I had pet goats as a kid, as well as pet birds. We also had chickens but I ate my pet eggs whenever I could).
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

On the Gulf: Tribal Statecraft, an Embarrassment of Poor Alliances……..

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Statecraft is not an extended form of tribalism. Its goals are different, so should its tools  Me

Too many international and regional alliances, created at too frantic a pace, are a sure sign of weakness rather than strengthMe

Saudi Arabia has been keeping its military forces active: mostly in doing large military exercises and maneuvers with invited, convinced, and bribed ‘allies’. They have been almost monthly events, all these military exercises, with promising names like Thunder of the North. May as well; given that their real southern war, like the Storm of Determination (the massive war against poor, under-armed Yemen) has failed miserably.

None of the titles given these military exercises and wars are original: they are all plagiarized from the original Desert Storm, the American name for the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 from Iraqi Baathists. As I wrote once before, the Saudi leaders and their minions are rarely, if ever, original.
The Saudis have also been very busy announcing new ‘alliances and pacts’, also on an almost monthly basis. Sometimes even the Arab (and Muslim) countries listed as part of an ‘alliance’ are reported to be surprised. Clearly the Saudis don’t believe that their “allies” need to agree to an alliance, or that they may have legislatures that need to have a say. But they must know that not all Muslim (or Arab) countries are ruled by absolute tribal princes.

The Iranians apparently realize that “alliances” are complicated things, given that they have not had many in recent years. So they seem to take them more seriously. They do, however, try to match the Saudi military exercises with some of their own. They also apparently realize that too many international and regional alliances, created at too frantic a pace, are a sure sign of weakness rather than strength. This last fact is something the Saudi princes don’t seem to understand.

Statecraft is not an extended form of tribalism. Its goals are different, so should its tools.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum