My take on Trump and MAGA:
Winter is Coming…
And this Emperor has no clothes…..
Nay, Winter is Here, it will last years…
But this Emperor has no clothes…
More on this later, stay tuned.
M. Haider Ghuloum
“Yemen is a war inside a war inside another war, right next to & overlapping several other wars” Me
“The Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda (AQ) is stronger than it has ever been. As the country’s civil war has escalated and become regionalised, its local franchise, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is thriving in an environment of state collapse, growing sectarianism, shifting alliances, security vacuums and a burgeoning war economy. Reversing this trend requires ending the conflict that set it in motion. This means securing an overarching political settlement that has buy-in from the country’s diverse constituencies, including Sunni Islamists. As this will take time, steps must be taken now to contain AQAP’s growth……..” Crisis Group
“The attack (in Aden) struck troops loyal to the airport’s chief of security, who had refused to accept a government order that he be replaced. The incident was yet another sign of the inability of Yemen’s internationally recognized government to enforce order. But it was the first time its allies, the coalition of mostly Gulf Arab states, had intervened militarily in power struggles within the Yemeni armed forces. The Saudi-led coalition has launched thousands of air strikes against the government’s foes, the Iran-allied Houthis, in a campaign to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. It helped wrest Aden from the Houthis, who control the capital, Sanaa, in the summer of 2015……….” Reuters
During his first week on the job White House spokesman Sean Spicer claimed that Iranian forces had fired missile at the US Navy from Yemen on the Red Sea. An un-truth, since there are no Iranian forces in Yemen: the only foreign forces in Yemen are with the Saudi coalition. Actually the Yemeni Houthis who control the capital and North Yemen had fired a missile (or was it a Yemeni drone that fired) at a Saudi warship that had been shelling their coastal towns. The Saudis claimed it was a suicide attack against one of their ‘peaceful warships’ (you don’t need to read Orwell to speak Orwellian).
This week, on Monday, President Trump had a lunch meeting with the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. He is the king’s son and widely expected future king, if his dad can swing it before he dies. He is also the minister of defense and architecture of the War on Yemen, a quagmire which just entered its third year. The Yemen war has enabled AQAP to expand in spite of American drone attacks. The war also introduced Islamic State (Daesh/ISIS) into Southern Arabia.
It is likely the Prince may have talked Trump into a more vigorous America role in the Saudi war on Yemen. Perhaps a more direct US role, this time not against the Jihadis, but against the coalition ruling most of Yemen. Which would be an act of desperation, since the Saudis have some of the best and most lethal American and British weapons and could not defeat the lightly armed Houthis and their allies ruling Sanaa. It would be just another never-ending Muslim war. Another twilight war.
The announcement indicated the Saudis will invest $ 200 billion in the United States (presumably new money). The prince also is quoted as having said that he supports the Muslim Travel Ban and that “Trump is a true friend of Muslims“. Such shameless groveling may indicate they got something from Trump: perhaps a promise to inch closer to the Mother of All Muslim Wars, a war of choice against Iran. That should be a doozy: it will certainly last through Trump’s tenure and will define his so-far unpromising legacy. The Prince may have gotten promises related to Syria, particularly Eastern Syria, or Iraq or Lebanon: risky promises the inexperienced Trump could have made in the absence of his secretaries of State and Defense.
As for Yemen, it is not “a” war, it is a complex set of parallel and intersecting wars. I once called it “a war inside a war inside another war, right next to & overlapping several other wars”. Now even the Saudi proxies (mostly Islah Muslim Brotherhood and allies) and the UAE proxies are fighting each other. You get into Yemen, you get involved in all these wars and sub-wars. You can’t pick and choose in such a battlefield.
And you get stuck, losing soldiers and money, a lot of money, just like the Saudis have for more than two years, so far. Like Afghanistan all over again, only a fiercer war.
Back to the promise of $200 billion Saudi investments. I am not sure they can afford this when they are cutting back on their domestic spending. Maybe by moving funds from their sovereign fund that SAMA manages. And can you imagine Donald Trump touting it in, say Tennessee or Alabama, bragging to his Muslim-challenged ‘base’ they he’s gotten Muslims (and Wahhabis at that) to pay out hundreds of billions?
Interesting times coming soon to a war theater far away from you.
M. Haider Ghuloum
There has been some recent speculation, mostly by me, about the whereabouts of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. I noted weeks ago that he has vanished after his swearing-in. I tweeted that he seems to have gone AWOL, joined Waldo in his undisclosed location.
Then there have been media reports that Donald Trump is gutting the State Department’s budget, shifting the savings to other departments, mainly Defense (prices of military-grade toilets must have skyrocketed since his election) and Homeland Security. It looks like Mr. Trump is getting ready to “go to the mattress”, in old Mafia parlance. Waging internal, external, as well as border wars.
Now my private barely credible source reports of rumors that the Trump Administration plans to keep Secretary of State Rex Tillerson out of sight. Making him an ‘offshore’ foreign-based cabinet member, perpetually traveling outside the country. Some mythical character like Ulysses or a ghost aboard the Flying Dutchman. He will discharge his shrinking duties from the various US embassies around the world.
Eventually, the whole State Department will be privatized, its policy functions taken over by the White House staff, its field duties contracted out to the private sector. Ambassadorial appointments and posts will no longer be based on experience or merit, not even on Party loyalty and donations to political campaigns. These desirable posts will go to the highest bidder.
When I expressed some doubts about the veracity of his report, my source pointed out to General Flynn. He noted that Flynn was reported to have been already a lobbyist for Erdogan, the strongman of Turkey, before Trump picked him to lead his National Security Council. He claimed that was a form of privatizing the National Security Council. A hint of what is to come when you run a country as a business: something that makes conservatives go orgasmic but does a lot of harm to the country.
“It s all about privatization and the money. What W Bush privatized was peanuts compared to the new land grab that is unfolding under Trump“. My source said. He added “However, trump insists that all posts will go to American citizens. and all privatized departments will be run by Americans. The president said that ‘it would be unseemly to be seen to let Russians or Chinese or foreign potentates run US foreign policy. Bigly unseemly, or maybe just unseemly in a bigly way’.”
More on this later, stay tuned.
M. Haider Ghuloum
Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu is coming to Washington this week. Meetings of world leaders with Netanyahu remind me of younger days and dating days. Sometimes the thrill is gone from the get go, from the first time. Sometimes afterwards she (usually) or he realizes they would not want a repeat.
In world politics it is that way too, except that these diplomatic dates are almost like “forcible dates”. If one lasts eight years as a leader he/she would have to keep on dating him or her often.
George W Bush kept his meetings with Netanyahu to a minimum: he already knew exactly what his date would say. Which always takes the thrill out of any date. Clearly Obama did not want a repeat after his first date with Netanyahu, but he had no choice: eight years in office is a long time. I doubt any world leader ever looks forward to meeting him. (American Congressmen and Senators are not world leaders, they are more like star-struck Bibi-groupies. Or maybe they can’t get another date with so many resources).
In fairness, almost all other Middle East leaders are also like Bibi in that respect: they all think others are thrilled to hear them whine out their wisdom.
I suspect, as some comments in the media have noted this week, that Donald and Bibi will start taking many bathroom breaks during their very first date this week. A real date is not like a long-distance post-election telephone date, you don’t see and hear the warts (a rude person would add that you don’t use your olfactory faculties).
Mr. Netanyahu is at a bigger disadvantage here when he meets Trump this week. He really has no new case to make anymore. The US Congress, both houses and almost both parties, have been making the case for him for several years. The Senators and Congressmen have made his visit to Washington redundant, just a cosmetic thing. A photo-op. Sort of like watching Beyonce and Adele walk and pause on the Red Carpet: it has nothing to do with the prize…..
But eye candy is much more pleasing to look at than older men plotting to step into the next military quagmire……
M H Ghuloum
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.
M. H. Ghuloum
“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.
M. Haider Ghuloum
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.
M. Haider Ghuloum
Forget about waging new wars against more Muslim nations or sanctioning more Muslim countries. That will surely be on Mr. Benyamin Netanyahu’s agenda as well when he arrives in Washington next month, part of the snake-oil he has been trying to sell for years. The Bushes and Obama thwarted him. They looked into his eyes and saw the weasel that members of Congress could not see. What else could they see?
But that was then.
The Republican Party, post-Bush, is now effectively a sub-branch of the Likud alliance in Israel. Netanyahu is the new prophet of the American right. But at home, in domestic Israeli policy, he is further to the left of many American Democrats. Especially in matters of public healthcare and funding abortion (almost certainly with some funds voted by the rabidly pro-life American Congress).
Mr. Netanyahu can do the American people and President Trump a great service in other ways, all based on the Israeli experience. Like explain the benefits of the “right” of every Israeli to public Healthcare. Like the public funding of abortion (free abortion partly funded by American money). Republicans and the likes of Joe Lieberman consider that public health policy socialistic even though all industrial countries in Europe have that as well. The much-cited European right would never dream of taking away the public healthcare option: in that it is to the left of many U.S Democrats.
Among other useful examples of how Netanyahu can be useful to a US president, for once in his life.
In addition to the expected inevitable attempt of pushing a new stupid war against a new Muslim country.
M. Haider Ghuloum