Category Archives: Saudi Arabia

American-Saudi Ties: Poisoning the Gulf, Trapping Washington………..

     
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Saudi Arabia is pursuing a combination of domestic and regional policies that risk destabilizing
the Persian Gulf and that risk undermining the United States interests there. Amid calls for political change, Saudi Arabia is failing to address pressing concerns about its political system and the need for political reform. Instead of responding favorably to calls for more political openness, the Kingdom is pursuing a risky domestic agenda, which ignores the social, economic, and political grievances that might fuel popular mobilization. Saudi Arabia’s military intervention into Bahrain has escalated sectarian tensions in the Gulf. The crackdown in Bahrain is not only provoking Iran and creating the conditions for a regional crisis, but it is also creating new opportunities for Iran to expand its sphere of influence. The United States has reasons to maintain a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia. It also has the leverage to encourage the Kingdom to refrain from escalating tensions in the Gulf and further inflaming sectarian anxieties………USIP

It is true: the al-Saud brothers, like the al-Khalifa clan, have used sectarian divisions effectively. They have created a poisonous atmosphere of divisions on the Gulf unseen in modern times. In that task they have had help from their Salafi followers. That is how despots and absolute tribal Arab monarchs stay in power, by dividing the people: Sunni vs. Shi’a, Muslim vs. Christian (not many Jews left in the region). They have even managed to carry their sectarian poison to Lebanon where there are actually Salafis allied with their man Saad Hariri around Tripoli. They are still trying disruptions in Iraq.
They are also trapping the United States into an odd position: there are many people now in the Gulf region who believe that the U.S government is behind the divisive sectarian campaign of the al-Saud and al-Khalifa.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Brave New Saudi-Israeli World of the West, Royal Red Eyes……..

     
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Saudi authorities have arrested over 160 peaceful dissidents in violation of international human rights law since February 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch urged the interior minister, Prince Nayef bin Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa’ud, to order the immediate release of peaceful dissidents, including Nadhir al-Majid, a writer and teacher arrested on April 17. Allies of Saudi Arabia have not publicly protested these serious and systematic violations. The European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said on April 18 that she had been “very pleased” with her two-day visit to Riyadh and made no public comments about the political prisoners. Neither Tom Donilon, the US national security adviser who visited Riyadh on April 13, nor Robert Gates, US defense secretary who visited on April 6, publicly commented on the kingdom’s human rights violations………

Of course Western dignitaries will not bring up the issue of human rights violations and abuses in Riyadh. Already the aging al-Saud brothers have given Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton what is called the ‘red eye’ in the Gulf, in what the Saudis call the Persian-American Gulf. The red eye is our Gulf term for a serious scowl, where the eyebrows drop to somewhere between the nose and the shoe-polished dyed mustache of a potentate. Neither of these two leaders, nor their functionaries, would dare criticize the al-Saud brothers in public anymore. Now the new “third rail” of U.S politics consists of two: Israel and the al-Saud. Criticize the first at your own risk: every other politician will come after your hide. Criticize the second publicly and the aging despotic petroleum brothers will have a collective hissy fit, sending their septuagenarian offspring menacingly to China and Russia, threatening to replace American Kool-Aid with Tsigntao or Stoly.
Somehow, silently, by stealth, criticism of the al-Saud have become taboo in Western capitals. With all the Saudi abuses of human rights, much more flagrant than in Iran or Syria or Egypt under Mubarak, when was the last time anyone heard a US president or cabinet member, or a French president or a British prime minister publicly mention the issue? Silently and by stealth, even some members of Congress have added the al-Saud dynasty to the ‘third rail of politics. Soon the old king or one of his brothers will be invited to address a joint session of Congress. I suppose he can talk about the joys of absolute tribal monarchy. Or maybe he can spend his ten minutes on the joys of polygamy and how it can keep some senators out of those famous black books that can get them in trouble.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

A Gulf Proclamation: a List of Honor, a List of Shame………..

     
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A group of political activists, human rights activists, academics and opinion-makers in the Gulf GCC countries have issued a proclamation asking for: (a) release of political prisoners in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Oman- (b) an end to arrests and torture by Gulf regimes- (c) stopping the use of sectarianism to divide the peoples of the region- initiating political and economic reforms., amomg other needed steps.
I know some of the names on the list of signers, and they are respectable activists and political people and academics (most others I have never heard of). Many of the Saudi prisoners have been held for fifteen years WITHOUT TRIAL.

The contemptible ones: those are the ‘respectable’ ones, which brings me to the subject of the “others”, the not so respectable ones. What is interesting is not who signed this proclamation. It is who did not sign it. There are many known faces and names, academics and journalists and opinion-makers who did not sign it. These are mostly the ‘palace’ academics and journalists and opinion-makers, and there are so many of them on my (Persian-American) Gulf. The vast Saudi media (I can never over-estimate how vast it is; some day I shall list it all) and the nascent official and semi-official UAE media have first claim on many of these. These are the ones who spend a lot of time and “ink” and paper either denying or justifying oppression and midnight raids and mass arrests and torture and sectarianism across my Gulf. Many of them belong on a list of shame.
This proclamation has made the news, but mainly on the Internet or in non-Gulf media. I have not seen any reference to this proclamation in any ’mainstream’ GCC Gulf media, not even in the two GCC countries that are not listed among the oppressive torturer regimes. Not even in my hometown. At least I could not see any when I searched last night.
Which makes me think of yet another list.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Only Brave Man in Riyadh: I Protest, Therefore I Am………….

     
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Officials of the General Investigations Department (al-mabahith al-‘amma), the domestic intelligence service, arrested al-Majid at his school in Khobar, in the Eastern Province. At the same time, mabahith officers searched his house in the presence of his wife and children, who said that officers confiscated al-Majid’s personal belongings. Al-Majid had written an article entitled “I Protest, Therefore I Am” on April 2,….. Several user groups on Facebook had called for protests on a Saudi Day of Anger on March 11, but a heavy security presence prevented demonstrations in all but the Eastern Province. In Riyadh, Khalid al-Juhani, a Saudi citizen, appeared to be the sole person to brave the security presence to speak to assembled journalists. In an interview with the BBC, al-Juhani described how he lost his fear and despite knowing he would be arrested wanted to experience the freedom of speaking his mind. Al-Juhani’s brother, Abdullah, told Human Rights Watch that mabahith officers arrested al-Juhani at his home later that day and that Interior Ministry officials told his family that he is being detained incommunicado in Riyadh’s ‘Ulaisha intelligence prison………..”

Al-Majid was brave, maybe the bravest in al-Khobar. But the bravest of all is Khaled al-Johany who stood alone in the middle of Riyadh and talked openly about his country being a big prison. Reports say that not another man joined him; such is the atmosphere of fear in Riyadh. Before the day ended, they had caught him: he was in a smaller prison within the big prison, and nobody has heard any news from or about him. In the kingdom without magic.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Breaking News: Prince Bandar Found Alive…………..

     
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Prince Bander Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud briefed the Prime Minister on the Saudi perception of the situation in the Gulf and Middle East and their stance on the current political developments in the region. The socio-economic difficulties in some areas of the Gulf and Middle East affected the political environment, he added. The process of dialogue started in some Gulf countries had helped to understanding the problems of the people, he said, adding dialogue and reconciliation is the only mean to move forward. He expressed confidence that the economic packages announced during the recent GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) meeting would help to bring about peace, prosperity and economic development of the entire region…….. Saudi Arabia, he reaffirmed, will always stand with Pakistan to confront any challenge and support any initiative to further expand the bilateral ties. Our thinking and approach on international issues have remained the same and would continue in future as well, he added……..

Breaking news!
Prince Bandar found alive! Alive but not sure how well.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Fifth Columns in the Gulf: Iranian Threat, Saudi Threat……….

     
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For some years now, it has been perceived by many that the only threat to the Gulf states, the GCC, came from Iran. Iran is a large strong country that is quite militarized and it has been expanding its sphere of influence well beyond the Gulf and the Shatt al-Arab in recent years. It also has an ancient history of domination of the region up to the Mediterranean Sea and into Egypt. Political changes in Iraq after the fall of the Ba’ath regime amplified the notion of a modern Iranian threat. The defeat of the Israeli invasions of Lebanon by Hezbollah in 2000 and 2006 also amplified this Iranian threat around the Gulf, given that Hezbollah depends on Iranian money and weapons.
The Saudi government has focused on the Iranian threat since at least 2005. By that time the Saudis had acquired and built the largest media empire anywhere in Europe and the Middle East: newspapers, satellite television channels, magazines, and general entertainment outlets, Only Aljazeera stood as the competition to Saudi domination of Arab media. Alarabiya, Asharq Alawsat, al-Hayat, ART, LBC, MBC, Rotana, etc, etc: these are all Saudi owned, either by princes or their relatives, and hence they are all official or semi-official media.

In the past few years the vast Saudi media started to amplify the “Iranian threat”. So far so good: that is fair enough among governments and nations. It also started to do some serious sectarian “Shi’a-baiting”, slowly at first but gathering speed after 2006. Soon they were all but accusing the local native Shi’as of their Eastern Province of being a fifth column (in their own native territory that preceded the arrival of the Saudi invaders from Najd). They were joined in that by allies from among the Arab despots such as Mubarak and King Abdul of Jordan. Mubarak’s state security started to uncover “Shi’a cells” dedicated to converting Egyptians. King Abdul of Jordan reportedly established a special branch of his security services dedicated to hunting down Shi’as bent on spreading their “faith”. I suspect all this was to keep the al-Saud and their Wahhabi clerics happy.
Not that the Iranians could not have been a threat. A huge militarized country like Iran can always pose a threat to its smaller “neighbors” under certain circumstances. If one chooses to disregard the huge American navy and other Western forces controlling the Gulf.

Then came the Arab revolutions which spread eastward and into Bahrain, an island that practices its own version of Apartheid. Before Bahrain, the al-Saud and their fundamentalist Salafi agents have been for some years trying to disrupt and sabotage the political process in another member country of the GCC. There is no political process in Saudi Arabia. The Bahrain uprising and the Saudi incursion divided the Gulf region deeper along sectarian lines, and much of the blame for that goes to the Saudi and official Bahraini media and their agents in another Gulf state. The goal has been to scare people and throw them into the lap of the Saudis: an old game often played by nations. And to kill the Arab Spring on the shores of the Gulf, in the bloodied streets of Manama and the villages of Bahrain.

Now a combination of seeing the tanks rolling easily into Bahrain and calls by Saudi Salafi surrogates for a Gulf “confederation” under Saudi control is giving some Gulf people second thoughts. Some people, hopefully enough people. The tanks rolled into Bahrain, and I don’t expect them to leave any time soon, if ever. These two factors have also reminded some people of just how the Arabian Peninsula came to be named after a family, Saudi Arabia. Old Ibn Saud started by re-entering Najd, in central Arabia, with money from a smaller Gulf state in the north, took Riyadh, then continued to conquer Hijaz and al-Hasa and Aseer, etc, etc. They even tried at one point to conquer the country that provided them with seed money to start with, using the Ikhan “militia”.

These recent events and the not too distant history have awakened some Gulf people to one important fact: it is much easier and faster for a land neighbor to send in the tanks than for a force to cross the Gulf. It has also made others aware of another likely fact: if there is a Gulf fifth column with divided loyalties, it is most likely not the Shi’as looking toward Iran, but the Salafis and their “allies” looking back toward Saudi Arabia. Maybe the al-Saud have overplayed their hand again.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

A Suspicious Saudi Confederation on my Gulf…………

        
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The Saudis are beginning to push the idea of a “GCC confederation” again. This time the push is directly from Saudi media (which is all official and semi-official, unless the publisher is in exile). This writer in Saudi daily al-Riyadh is making it sound urgent to establish the al-Saud hegemony over the smaller states of my Gulf, in preparation to swallowing them into the Kingdom without Magic.

As I wrote last week, the idea has been floating around the Gulf states in recent months, and it is being revived these days. Pro-Saudi Salafis and a handful of pro-Saudi media writers (some of them most likely surrogates encouraged or funded from Riyadh) are calling for a ‘confederation’ of the GCC Gulf states. One irresponsible columnist even called for a “quick confederation”, and he was covered extensively and gleefully by Saudi media. None of these worthies advises seeking people’s consent through referendums, or a vote on the issue: such is the state of watermelon opinion-makers on my Gulf. The potentates are seen as owning the countries to do with whatever they wish. One or two have become obsessive compulsive about it, repeating this frequently. They use fear of Iran as a factor, as well as stoking suspicion and fear of local Shi’as (minorities in all the GCC except Bahrain). The pro-Saudi tweeters (or possibly Saudi agents) are also pushing this idea.

I opined last year that it will not get anywhere. The Gulf states range politically from an absolute monarchy system to a partial democracy (I am not including Bahrain among the latter). The Saudis may think that this will solve the problem of pressures for democracy and accountability. A solidly despotic regime on the Saudi mold would be a strong front against Western and Arab pressures for openness, they probably think. It would also bring all other GCC states down to the Saudi and Bahraini levels in the treatment of their minority Shi’a (Shi’ites). That last point is very important for the Wahhabi Kingdom without Magic. For the Salafis around the Gulf it would mean that all GCC states become socially Saudi-like: more power for the clergy, no social reforms, women safely kept at home. And no politics: absofuckinglutely no politics! Salafis would gain more ‘political’ power as their patron regime, the Saudis, would dominate the new confederation as a prelude to swallowing it.

One early serious problem with such a scheme is that the rulers of the smaller states are not as stupid as the Salafis and Saudi surrogates in their countries think. They are all protective of their own turf and would never accept such a plan, although one or two media outlets may pay lip service to it. The al-Nahayan of the UAE are almost as autocratic as the al-Saud and would never give up one iota of power to their own people or to foreigners. As for Oman, it has always had little real interest in any form of integration, always looking across the Persian-American Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Then there are the peoples of our region who value their independence and way of life, in spite of all the media noise that hint at the sun actually shining out of the ass of some Saudi prince or another. In other words, such a plan is not only impractical, but dangerous for the peoples of the Gulf states. It is DOA. Only the al-Khalifa of Bahrain may agree to such a hegemony, but then any regime that invites occupation and torments its own people would go far to cling to absolute power. br>
Therefore, I repeat my recent fatwa that this plan is a hair-brained scheme or, as we would say on the Gulf, “مشروع بطيخ” a watermelon scheme.

Cheers
mhg

Prince Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah Goes Hollywood……..

        
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“Hair-dresser turned movie producer Jon Peters confirmed that he sold 5.2 acres of land in Benedict Canyon to a Saudi prince who now plans to construct an 85,000-square-foot compound on the site. Prince Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud, a son of Saudi King Abdullah, purchased three adjacent parcels in 2009, Peters said. Property records list the sale price at $12 million. The Times reported Tuesday that the proposal had stirred heated opposition among neighbors, who include Bruce Springsteen and Michael Ovitz. Project opponents say they have gathered the support of about 500 residents, who contend the project would harm the canyon’s environment. …….”

These snooty California neighbors don’t even want a royal prince in their neighborhood. No respect anymore. Imagine, a fuckingroyal prince and Bruce Springsteen is turning him down! What is “The Boss” compared to a prince or to a Hollywood agent like Ovitz?  Enough to make any prince lose faith in such silly ideas as democracy and equality. He may end up pleading that it is a Zionist plot, the scoundrel. Could be that their experience with the Qaddafi sons has made the stars wary of Arab potentates?
You’d never ever read this item in any Saudi newspaper or television network or website or even on Kilroy’s famous toilet wall. This is the first installment of the new money the Saudi government announced last week to provide housing for people. At least they are being uncharacteristically fast about it.
(FYI: Jon Peters started as Barbra Streisand’s hair-dresser. She dumped her first husband, married Peters and made him into a film producer, before dumping him too).

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Gulf: Buying Arms and Media and the Internet…………….

        
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The United Arab Emirates and Qatar don’t care about democracy either. The Qataris only want to be able to buy every huge building & store in Europe & Asia & America. They also want to keep Aljazeera as the most popular Arab news network. They have al-Qardhawi in Egypt who they think will be influential, but he is a television shaikh, and young people look at TV shaikhs as being a little clownish. I doubt that many Egyptian youth pay much attention to him. Hell, I wouldn’t, and I am not young or Egyptian.

The United Arab Emirates
are even less inclined toward democratic values than Qatar. The potentates of Abu Dhabi just want to be able to buy every modern warplane and missile systems and tank and warship in the world. I hear they are in the market for a satellite to buy, which may indicate that the shaikhs believe all the UFO and extraterrestrial stories. They have been the second biggest importers of arms in the world in the past five years according to SIPRI. This for a country that has less than one million citizens (the other four million of the population are temporary foreign laborers, housemaids, and gardeners, mostly from South Asia). The way they are buying weapons, you’d think they are trying to speculate by hoarding, or maybe plotting to take over Saudi Arabia. Their shaikhs also want to buy as many and British soccer clubs as they can. Oh, and they like to be able to buy the best race horses in Britain.

The Saudi princes are into media big time. Obviously they are into other things as well because their numbers keep increasing. They have been buying Arab media furiously in the past few years. They own such well known outlets as Asharq Alawsat, al-Hayat, al-Arabiya, LBC, MBC, ART, etc, etc. They want to buy every Arabic newspaper & magazine & television network around, and they can afford it. They even own the whole Arab Thought Society, such as it is. They have never forgotten that Nasser of Egypt almost overthrew their dynasty with his strong media message. In fact the Saudis would like to buy the whole Internet and shut it down.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

From Syria with Love: the Illusion of Saudi Exceptionalism…….

        
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This writer in the semi-official Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat starts by assaulting the Syrian regime, probably deservedly so. Then he plunges straight into his favorite topic: Saudi exceptionalism. He claims that Saudi Arabia has surpassed the current popular Arab storm with distinguished success; that Saudi days turned into a “national carnival” of renewed loyalty and trust of the princes (but nothing about Brazilian thongs here). He claims that the “storm” benefited Saudi Arabia, not only because it was not “harmed” by it, but because the fires have reached the Syrian province of Houran!

He claims that what happened in Saudi Arabia has shocked and awed the whole wide wonderful world, including international correspondents who hoped to see angry demonstrations. Instead of unrest they saw a love-fest with people and king and princes (including Bandar of BAE Systems and SFO and Tony Blair fame) all making out and singing kumbaya. Literally Frenching on the streets of Riyadh, once a no-no frowned upon by the Saudi Commissions for the Propagation of Vice. He claims that with one 15 minute the king did what no leader in history has done: he defused tensions by solving all the pending problems of the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula. The exact opposite of Marcus Antonius outside the Senate on the Ides of March! And he did not even have to mention anything about democracy, freedom, and corruption among the princes! He says nothing about the Eastern province (al-‘Hasa), and the hundreds of thousands of security agents that inundated the streets, and the protests in Qatif and the hundreds taken to prison. He did not nominate any prince for the Nobel Prize for graft. The competition would be tough.

Yet he may have a right to gloat (for now): if the Syrian regime falls, that would be a loss for the Iranian regime, and a gain for the Saudi regime in the short term. Provided that any new Syrian regime is not ‘too’ democratic. Syria can be a double-edged sword for the Saudis if it comes through, especially if it goes democratic. If the surrounding countries, Arabs and Iran, turn more democratic, this cannot be good for Saudi rule. The princes know this: just look at the agonies of occupied Bahrain.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com