Category Archives: U.S. Foreign Policy

Trump’s Coming Battle of Karbala? What He Should Read about Middle East Sectarian Tensions……..

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“For Iraq, guaranteeing the safety of millions of Shiite faithful on their annual ​pilgrimage to the shrine of a revered saint in Karbala has always been a monumental challenge. The march, the largest annual religious pilgrimage on earth, ​is in defiance of Iraq’s chronic insecurity and the frequent attempts by Sunni militants – including, recently, Islamic State (ISIS) fighters – to derail this event with violence. ​This year, the pilgrimage ​to the shrine of Imam Hussein ​held special resonance, as ISIS in Iraq has been all but defeated in recent months by Iraqi security forces – supported by Iran-backed Shiite militias and a US-led bombing campaign…… The risks of attack were high, but so, too, were the rewards for the millions of Shiite pilgrims whose faith overcomes fear…….“We don’t care about security – we just come,” says Fadl Abbas, a truck driver nursing blistered feet, swollen legs, and a new limp after his 50-mile march……..” Christian Science Monitor

This is one article Donald Trump should read this week, if he were a reading man. Or he can have his son-in-law, his Middle East Gauleiter Jared Kushner, read it. They should both know what they and their regional sidekicks will be facing in the coming months if Arab media reports are true. Reports about what dangerous concoction they are brewing for our native region from Lebanon to the Persian-American Gulf.

They are brewing something from Lebanon to the Gulf, and through Yemen. Even the Gulf Muslim Brotherhood, always opportunistic, are being cagey these days, which means they anticipate a new American-Israeli folly, and that they approve. They have suddenly softened on Israeli and Trump actions in the region. Even the Salafis, the more opportunistic soul mates of ISIS/DAESH and Al Qaeda. Especially the Salafist fifth columnists, are eerily silent, waiting for those they have always called the “crusaders” and the “descendants of monkeys and pigs” to start a bloody sectarian war on their behalf. Obama knew what they sought and he denied them. He would not bluster himself into a new war, as he elaborated in an interview that was dubbed the Obama Doctrine on the Gulf.

The vast controlled media of the absolute kings are also hinting at something coming soon. Salivating at the prospect of foreign bombs blasting yet more Arab and Muslim targets on their behalf. 

A new Battle of Karbaba waged by Trump and Netanyahu as the new Umayyads, on behalf of a couple of kings and their Salafist proxies. Its battlefield to be the whole Middle East region and part of North Africa.

Remember: for years the Salafist Wahhabis kept bombing in Iraq, killing civilians, almost every day since 2003. Fourteen years of insecurity and massacres against the Shi’a (Shiite) pilgrims and their annual march to Karbala. And against many Sunnis and all Christians. Yet the pilgrims keep coming by the millions: more than the numbers that do the annual Haj in Hijaz. They keep coming by the millions, risking death. No lethal stampedes there. The march/pilgrimage was banned by the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, but resumed after his defeat. Terrorism has only made it a bigger event than ever, it increased the defiance. A new foreign war of aggression will almost certainly make them even more defiant.

Just keep it in mind. Remember, it is not all about the money and the contracts and the bluster. You don’t want to be seen as the foreign interloper who replaces Saddam or the Umayyad Dynasty……

If he is not very careful here, he may end up famously complaining, again: “nobody knew that meddling in 15-century-old Muslim sectarian tensions could be so complicated…. even more complicated than trying to dismantle the health care system……
Stay tuned…..

Cheers anyway   

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Political Prisons: What the Bastille, Tzarist Siberia, Stalin’s Gulag, Tehran’s Evin, and Saudi Ritz-Carlton Have in Common…..

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The French monarchy had the (now) notorious Bastille.
The Russian tzars had the vast Siberian land mass.
The Soviets had the infamous Lybyanka prison. (Stalin was familiar with cold exile from his days plotting against the tzars, thus he preferred to exile opponents and suspects to faraway cold places).
The Iranians (under both the Shah and the now-ruling mullahs) had/have the Evin prison in Tehran for their troublesome political dissidents.
Even Alexandre Dumas and Edmond Dantès had Château d’If, like Elba conveniently located close to France, from which one could only escape inside a coffin.

Now the Saudis have gone more 7-star in their prisons for the rich and famous corrupt rivals of crown prince MBS. Don’t get me wrong, they still have dungeons (no dragons) and cellars for ordinary dissidents and opponents. But this new purge of the young and reckless Crown Prince includes too many of the elite, who are used to luxury living. Some of these princes, potentates, and oligarchs now under detention would not survive in an ordinary prison. They would not even survive in a 3-star or maybe even 4-star hotel. Hence, as widely reported, the Ritz-Carlton of Riyadh. That super-luxury hotel is now a sort of prison.

That very same hotel that Donald Trump and his family and entourage occupied during the wild hootennany in the desert last May, when he was almost anointed the Sixth Pillar of Islam. That was when Mr. Trump, the foreign interloper from far away, handed the keys of the Persian Gulf and the Arab World to the Saudi princes, or so he naively and foolishly thought.
The Ritz-Carlton was (and still is) also in some ways, a prison for Donald Trump. The luxury, the accolades, the over-the-top praises, and mainly the huge sums of money offered, locked him into the dangerous and futile agenda of the princes.


Which brings me to the mysterious fate of Lebanon‘s prime minister Saad Hariri. Can he also be incarcerated at the Ritz-Carlton now? Mr. Hariri, normally Saudi Arabia’s proxy man in Lebanon, has his own residence in Riyadh. But even his supporters in Lebanon now concede that he is not free to travel from Saudi Arabia, that he is not allowed to com home to Beirut. Not yet. In effect: a prisoner of his former allies and bosses. That he can’t speak for himself after his Saudi hosts forced him to resign and deliver a speech they wrote for him. Even the U.S. State Department has hinted that maybe he is being held involuntarily in the Kingdom Without Magic.

I know: Saddam Hussein is dead. But, just in case, long live the new Saddam Hussein, whoever he is or will be…….

More later……

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Confusing Rex Tillerson: Iraqi Militias Must Leave Iraq, Assad Must Leave Syria, No Pasaran in Arabic…….

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Almost everybody has been after Bashar Al Assad to leave Syria since well before 2011. But the open calls for his departure came soon after the early uprising of the spring of 2011. That Syrian uprising was quickly bought and hijacked by the Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood of the Arab World, mainly the Wahhabi money bags of a couple of the Persian Gulf states. Jihadis poured into Syria from Arab states and Europe, seeking plunder, free women, and Shi’as/Christians/Others to abuse and kill. Eventually the Jihadist international brigades of ISIS and Al Qaeda inherited most of what was left of the active Syrian opposition. Here are some of the calls:


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2009-2011): “Assad Must Go. His days are numbered“.
Secretary of State John Kerry (2012…): “Assad Must Go“.
Various Arab absolute Kings & their Ministers and their media: “Assad Must Go. Assad will go soon, Inshallah“.

Saudi Foreign Minister Al Jubeir, who made a career out of it, even regularly specified in an odd weekly rant: “Assad will go soon, if not peacefully then by force” (For a while I was almost convinced he knew something I did’t).
Barack Obama: “Look, fact is that: Assad Must Go“.
Francois Hollande: “Assad Doit Partir. He Must Go (2011-2016). 
David Cameron: “Assad Must Go
Turkey’s strongman Erdogan (once a major enabler of Jihadists in Syria until about 2016): “Assad Yok! Assad Must Go (2011-2015)

Many others, opinion-ators, pundits, journalists, American hawks, and European cafe men-about-town: “Assad has a few weeks left in Damascus. His top officers are defecting to the joys of Salafism and Wahhabism“.


Donald Trump: “Maybe Assad can Stay. Or maybe not. We must defeat ISIS“.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley: “Assad Must Go“.

Finally, this covering-all-bases doozy from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “Assad Must Go. Also as a bonus: Iraqi Militias that saved Baghdad from DAESH in 2014 and fought ISIS must leave Iraq. (But he didn’t specify go where? Definitely he doesn’t want them in Yemen)”

Assad must go” became the battle cry of the West and many Arab despots and leaders. Sort of like “No Pasaran” during the Spanish civil war. Except that it now looks like it was the Assad side that made sure the refrain of “No Pasaran” applied to the other side.

And the rest of the Middle East is all run by popular elected democratic men and clans and families and oligarchs and kleptocrats of the people.
And that is where it stands, but Assad is still with us, for now. Eventually he will go, but then so does everyone else, even Arab leaders, eventually……..

Inshallah….. God Willing…….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Donald Trump’s Obama Complex: Creating Fake News, Domestic and Global Chaos, New Muslim Wars……

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Media reports and official statements (General John Kelly) indicate that Kim Jong Un (Trump’s Rocket Man of North Korea) is close to developing a re-entry system for his long-range nuclear delivery missiles.

Donald Trump is studiously avoiding action on this serious potential threat to the West Coast of the United States. He will continue to fight Kim sporadically with words and tweets while he focuses on what he thinks is an easier target, the country that is not seeking nuclear weapons, more significantly the country that has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, renounced nuclear weapons and does not have them. Iran.

Trump is making daily noises about destroying the international JCPOA deal that keeps Iran from going nuclear. If later today, as widely expected, he declares Iran non-compliant, nobody anywhere in the world will believe him. Not even his own cabinet members and top Pentagon generals. Not even his reprehensible foreign cheerleaders: mainly his co-serial-liar Netanyahu and the usual couple of absolute Arab kings who are urging him to go to war (in exchange for billions of dollars). No doubt he himself does not believe what he says about it. It could be even worse if he actually believed his own ‘facts’. The Iranians are already milking Trump’s noise and threats for all their worth, and it is working in Europe and Asia and in Turkey and several Arab countries.

For Trump this is not so much about Iran or nuclear weapons, not even about Fox News warmongering. It is part of a pattern now: it is all about Barack Obama, about undoing everything that ‘uppity’ black president did while in the White Office.
It is about the birther Trump’s obsession with his Obama Complex.
It might eventually lead to the second time since 2003 that the USA goes to a messy war of choice in the Middle East, based on a self-created lie.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Policy as a Game of Egos: Trump Promises to Unleash a Storm Somewhere……..

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“While taking photos alongside military leaders and their spouses before a Thursday night dinner at the White House, President Donald Trump cryptically stated reporters were seeing “the calm before the storm.”

Who could president Trump mean by this threat? Who is he warning? And what calm is he talking about in this tumultuous year of 2017?
Could he mean the dictator he calls Little Rocket Man, the belligerent pudgy Cute Leader Kim Jong Un of North Korea?
Could he (egged on by the Israeli right-wing and well-paying Saudi princes) mean his main anti-ISIS allies the mullahs of Iran?

Could he be preparing America and the world for yet another endless Muslim war of choice, based on fake analysis and manufactured evidence?


Could he mean Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for allegedly calling him a F—ing Moron and then refusing to publicly deny saying it when given the chance?
Could he mean Secretary of Defense General Mad Dog Mattis for dismissing his threats to “pull out” of the international Iran Nuclear Deal?
Could he mean Carmen Yulin Cruz the mayor of San Juan (Puerto Rico)?

Could he mean the kneeling NFL players whom he called “sons of bitches” last week?
Could he mean the newest Caribbean storm Nate now moving toward the Gulf coast?


Or could this be just another transparent Art of the Deal bluff? Is he just bluffing in general, hoping one or two targets will bite? But this is not a game of egos. His credibility and that of the country are on the line: this big boy has cried wolf too many times this year……

Cheers

M. Haider Ghuloum

 

From the Age of Aquarius to the Stormy Age of Morons: Tillerson’s Parting Shot………

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The 1960’s were occasionally dubbed the Age of Aquarius, and not just by The 5th Dimension in 1969. It reflected the atmosphere, culture, and flavor of a particular era. The brief Age of Aquarius immediately followed the brief Age of Camelot in Washington.

Then immediately at the tail end of that started the Age of Nixon, a brooding era of expanding unwinnable wars in Southeast Asia. An era of political malfeasance, when first the Vice President, then the President were forced to resign from office, for unrelated reasons.

But the American center held throughout the following eras, through Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Obama. As the USA and the World moved away from the Age of Aquarius.

The 2016 US elections ushered in an unusual new era. I have been thinking of an appropriate name for it. The “Trump Era” seems too tame and banal for this wild ride of the past nine months.
Enter Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who took a parting shot at Donald Trump as he is preparing to depart this dysfunctional administration.

Moron, actually a “F—ig Moron” is what he reportedly called the president to a reporter. Trump has publicly denied that Tillerson called him a “F—ing Moron”.  Tillerson, when given a chance to deny, has publicly refused to deny that he called Trump a “F—ing Moron”.

So, that parting Parthian shot by Rex Tillerson will likely define this era. Rex succinctly but perhaps unintentionally, defined this Trump age as a “F—ing Moron” age. It may go down in history as such……

Cheers

M. Haider Ghuloum

 

 

Presidential Name-Calling: Sticks and Stones from Washington to Pyongyang…..

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“Sticks and Stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me…”
      Untrue children’s rhyme


Epithets and insults have been memorable these past two years. From the US presidential campaign to the post-election rallies to the UN General Assembly speeches. Almost all of them dished out by Donald Trump:

Look at That Face (Trump mocking Carly Fiorina)!

Little Rubio (Trumo mocking Marco, who famously   confided to the media that Trump has a small, er, hand)!

Lying Ted (Trump describing Sentor Ted Cruz)!

Low Energy (Trump about Jeb Bush? Ben Carson)!

Crooked Hillary (Trump for Clinton)!

Rocket Man (Trump about Kim Jong Un)!

Now the Iranians have picked up the term “rogue”, a favorite epithet used by US politicians against other nations. Trump and Rouhani traded “rogue” name-calling at the UN General Assembly this week.

But the top prize, the Oscar, the Nobel of epithets goes to an alleged North Korean Twitter source: “Impotent threats by international shouting magnate Donald Trump are dismissed, as the twitchings of a Dog licking its flea-riddled scrotum.”

That trumped Trump, and probably stumped him as well.

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

Epithets at the UN: Rogue Nations vs. Rogue Politicians…..

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President Trump called Iran a “rogue nation” in his speech to the UN General assembly on Tuesday. This is an American political staple, an epithet US politicians often use for nations that they have disputes with, especially Iran. It implies a high degree of outlaw behavior. Of course most regimes/government commit some outlaw behavior abroad, if they can get away with it. It is all in the eye of the beholder.
Today, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani returned the favor: he called Mr. Trump a “rogue newcomer to world politics“. He also called him ignorant and hateful, unfit to be at the United Nations. He also returned the favor to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by calling him the leader of a “rogue and racist regime”.


So, now we have a duel of rogue regimes, apparently. But if every government calls its opponents “rogue” regimes, then that means the whole world is composed of rogue regimes….. assuming all have the same degree of credibility….
Nicht war?

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

Gulf Godfathers Competing for Israeli Love, but Real Target is U.S. Congress…..

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Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him…” (Sal Tessio to Consigliere Tom Hagen: Godfather 1)

“Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a discreet visit to Israel despite the fact that the Jewish state and Saudi Arabia do not have official diplomatic ties, Israeli and Arab media speculated earlier in the week. Rumors about the momentous visit, which was not confirmed by Israel, started swirling when Israel Radio’s diplomatic correspondent covering Arab affairs, Simon Aran, took to Twitter to announce the visit……. Israel Radio’s Arabic-language broadcast reported that the the senior figure was a “Saudi prince” who met with senior Israelis to discuss regional peace. According to the report, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry refused to comment………”

Qatar is trying to arrange meetings between its senior leadership and the heads of major Jewish American organizations during next week’s UN General Assembly. The natural gas-rich country has reached out to the heads of a number of prominent Jewish groups and asked if they would meet with the emir and crown prince while they visit New York City……….”

You’ve come a long way baby (addressing the Arab World).
Gone were the days when Palestine was the main, nay allegedly the only, Arab (and Muslim) cause. The excuse for all military coups and for absolute dynastic rule. Now it is on the verge of being a non-cause.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (non-elected Mayor of Ramallah) flies to Paris to join generously-paid American politicians (of both parties) in extolling the virtues of the Iranian terrorist cult Mujahideen Khalq (MEK). MEK/MKO was formerly an ally of Saddam Hussein and on the US terrorist list, but is now reportedly a joint project of the Mossad and Saudi royal princes.

Unofficial and semi-official “rumors” spread this week that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the country’s effective king, has “secretly” visited Israel, and neither side denies it. But much of official (and unofficial) Arab media ignored the alleged visit: apparently one doesn’t mention such visits in mixed or polite company. And if you do, there is a stiff price to pay, especially in other Gulf states and in Egypt. Apparently to the Arab princes Israel is like a proverbial mistress: the relationship is there but nobody talks about it in public. Even the secretly ISIS-loving Gulf Salafis, perennial Saudi fifth columnists, have completely ignored the visit (and other visits before it).

Not to be outdone, the rival Qatar‘s princes now scramble to send signals to pro-Israeli Jewish groups in New York that the Emir and his deputy would love to meet with them. The Qatari rulers have been facing repeated coup attempts from their big Gulf “sister” for twenty years, and now they have to put up with Donald Trump, a businessman whose instinct is to go with the highest bidder.

Now it is cool, it is hip, among certain Arab classes, especially in the Persian Gulf, to blow kisses and whisper sweet nothings to Israel. Especially to its current right-wing government. This seems to be especially true in the case of the two feuding Wahhabi dynasties of the Gulf GCC. Gone are the days when official Wahhabi clerics (and some diehard official Muslim Brothers) habitually called the Jewish people “descendants of monkeys and pigs” in their sermons.

Still, this is not true love. It is all about business. As Sal Tessio famously told Tom Hagen: “Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him…” (Godfather 1)


But the true target of all this Arab royal serenading and wooing is not Israel, nor the Jewish people in general. The real target is the United States Congress (both houses and both parties). The current U.S Congress may be hopeless and useless in passing domestic policy, but it can do a lot of damage in the Middle East. As much as Donald Trump seems determined to cause. And the princes and potentates know it, hence the appearance of lust.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Trump Facing the Ghosts of Iraq and Colin Powell: Seeking Another Slam Dunk in the Persian Gulf from Pompeo…….

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“US intelligence officials are under pressure from the White House to produce a justification to declare Iran in violation of a 2015 nuclear agreement, in an echo of the politicisation of intelligence that led up to the Iraq invasion, according to former officials and analysts. The collapse of the 2015 deal between Tehran, the US and five other countries – by which Iran has significantly curbed its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief – would trigger a new crisis over nuclear proliferation at a time when the US is in a tense standoff with North Korea. Intelligence analysts, chastened by the experience of the 2003 Iraq war, launched by the Bush administration on the basis of phoney evidence of weapons of mass destruction, are said to be resisting the pressure to come up with evidence of Iranian violations……….”
The Guardian

I had thought nobody would want to be another Colin Powell, an honorable military general who was essentially tricked by the Neocons into lying to the United Nations Security Council about Iraq’s WMD before the 2003 war.

But I may have been wrong: UN Ambassador Nikki Haley seems willing to go to any length to make a phony point about Iran’s nuclear program, to satisfy the boss. But then she was a South Carolina politician until just six months ago, which means she is used to anything goes. But unfortunately for the stubborn Neocons and warmongers Haley does not have the trust and credibility of a Colin Powell, a respected general tested by the fires of war. She is becoming more and more a female Trump.

There is another missing tool for the Neocon warmongers who yearn for another military brawl in the Persian Gulf. Nobody is willing to provide the “Slam Dunk” seal of approval Donald Trump will need to create another North Korean-style problem on the Persian Gulf. CIA Director Mike Pompeo has been eerily and professional correctly silent on this issue. Unlike the CIA heads of the past 25 years who eagerly sought TV cameras and microphones.

My guess is that the US Intelligence professionals are not willing to be used as unprofessional tools of the politicians anymore. Not even as tools of of a loud-mouthed leader, not even the loudest American mouth of the past hundred plus years.


Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum