Category Archives: U.S. Foreign Policy

Mother of All Persian Gulf Miscalculations: Petulant Princes and the Ultimatum that Failed……..

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” Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that have cut ties to Qatar issued a steep list of demands Thursday to end the crisis, insisting that their Persian Gulf neighbor shutter Al-Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran and sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries also demand an end to Turkey’s military presence in Qatar. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute…….— Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence currently in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside of Qatar…… If Qatar agrees to comply, the list asserts that it will be audited once a month for the first year, and then once per quarter in the second year after it takes effect. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance……” AP

The princes and potentates along the Persian Gulf region are rarely original. But it seems that on the occasions when they do show some originality, they can be breathtakingly so.

All these countries have foreign military bases on their territories, which is fine. The UAE has several bases on its land: American, British, French, and allegedly imported mercenary forces organized by Blackwater (later renamed Xe then Academi). Bahrain has American, British, and Saudi bases, plus thousands of Jordanian and former Arab Baathist and Asian mercenaries, so far. The Saudis have American ‘bases’ coordinating the war on Yemen, possibly British as well, as well as reportedly humorless Jordanians and other foreign military personnel. Yet they demand that Qatar end the small Turkish military presence of Caliph Erdogan. No mention of the huge US Central Command base at Al Eidid.

The brotherly, or is it sisterly, princes also want Qatar to reduce ties with Iran, yet the UAE is reportedly the main regional trading partner of Iran. Dubai’s ties with Iran precede the rule of the mullahs in Tehran and precedes the creation of the UAE. And Oman has historical and growing trade ties with Iran. Kuwait is normally neutral in disputes among Gulf GCC potentates, and it has normal ties with Iran. Yet the focus is on Qatar, or perhaps Qatar is the first target, with others to follow.

Yet Qatar is also almost umbilically tied to Iran: it shares a huge offshore natural gas field with Iran in the Persian Gulf, and that is something that cannot be broken. Besides, Iran has been on the Persian Gulf since the early Aryan invasions/migrations from the north many thousands of years ago. Long before Bush, Obama, and Trump showed up. Long before Percy Cox and Gertrude Bell and T.E Lawrence showed up. Ironically, the Emirates Airlines (UAE) flights from the United States cross the whole of Iran, over Tehran, to land in Dubai. Yet these petulant potentates have a blockade against the Qatar Airlines, banning it from their airspace.

The oddest demand is supposed to be an imitation of the IAEA nuclear task as part of the Iran Nuclear Deal with the world powers (JCPOA): they want Qatar periodically monitored for compliance with the demands of these silly princes and potentates. Can’t Arab leaders ever be original? Apparently only when they go beyond reason and into the realm of absurdity.


My conclusion? the Saudi-UAE siege of Qatar seems to have failed. Another failure to be added to their adventures in Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. Only their huge investment in General Al Sisi seems to have paid off for now, but Egypt is now a monumentally unstable war-torn mess. In Egypt it is like this: they broke it, and now they own it.

They probably thought surprise tough measures combined with hints of military action and attempted internal coup would bring the troublesome Qatari rulers down. That combined with some vague supportive comments from the new Muslim Caliph Donald Trump, a hardly reliable advocate of complex policies. They did not. The ruling princes and potentates of the Gulf have miscalculated, again.

Let us hope these petulant princes don’t keep misreading Donald Trump or James Mattis and make the Mother of All Miscalculations, plunging the region into another war, this time the Mother of All Persian Gulf Wars.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Long Live! Arab Rules of Succession from Saddam in Iraq to Jordan, Syria, and now Saudi Arabia……

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“King Salman of Saudi Arabia promoted his 31-year-old King Salman of Saudi Arabia promoted his 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, to be next in line to the throne on Wednesday……As defense minister, he also had primary responsibility for the kingdom’s military intervention in Yemen, where it is leading a coalition of Arab allies in a bombing campaign aimed at pushing Houthi rebels from the capital and at restoring the government. That campaign has made limited progress in more than two years, and human rights groups have accused the Saudis of bombing civilians, destroying the economy of what was already the Arab world’s poorest country, and exacerbating a humanitarian crisis by imposing air and sea blockades.Prince Mohammed has taken a hard line on Iran……….”  N Y Times

Arab kings, potentates, oligarchs, and assorted dictators have often preferred their sons (or other kin) to succeed them.

King Hussein of Jordan had his brother Prince Hassan as his crown prince for many decades. That was how the ruling Hashemite family had decided when young Hussein took the throne. But when Hussein felt his mortality approaching in the 1990s, he dumped his brother in favor of his eldest son Abdullah (from his British wife).
But there was a catch: King Hussein stipulated that his other son Hamza, from his American wife Lisa Halaby, become crown prince. This did not last long after Abdullah took the throne: he soon sidelined his half brother Hamza and appointed one of his sons as crown prince.

Hafez Al Assad (the not-king) of Syria had allegedly set his eldest flamboyant son Basil to succeed him. Basil died in a car accident, and Bashar, being trained as an eye doctor in London, was brought home to learn the ropes. The rest is history.

The most relevant to the events of today in Riyadh occurred in Baghdad in 1979. Perhaps a few years before. Vice President Saddam Hussein became the real power behind the Baath rule of his cousin Al Bakr from the early 1970s.. In 1979 he staged his own palace coup, forcing Al Bakr into retirement. Al Bakr and many of his close associates died soon after, in the usual Iraqi Baathist fashion.

Even more relevant to the recent Saudi events, Saddam was facing rebellion and discontent from minorities inside Iraq. Similarly, he was contemplating what to do about his revolutionary neighbors next door in Iran. Saddam also had the support of most Western powers and most Arab oligarchs (with the exception of Syria, some Palestinian factions, Libya, and Algeria).

About one year  after taking power, Saddam saw messy revolutionary factional Iran as an easy target to help him consolidate his power over the region. He invaded Iran without having first read the history of the German Operation Barbarossa that started in 1941. He got bogged down in Iran for eight years, lost some territory, was forced by a stalemate to sue for peace. His country ended the war bankrupt and deeply in debt to the tune of almost $200 billion (I had estimated in a paper that Iraq enjoyed tens of billions of foreign reserves before that war).

That was the beginning of the end for Saddam and the old order in Iraq. He invaded Kuwait to regain his financial losses, and thus eventually finished his bloody career hiding inside a hole near Baghdad. Before he was tried for three years and hanged.

Now we have a young man rise to power in Saudi Arabia. He has managed to push every rival aside, just like Saddam Hussein did in Iraq in the 1970s. He has also started a messy unending war in Yemen. Two and a half years of bombings by Saudi warplanes, with American and British help, have killed many thousands of civilians in Yemen and destroyed its infrastructure. Genocide with lipstick is still genocide.

With failures in Yemen and Syria under his belt, the new Saudi prince in power is looking across the Persian Gulf for a new adventure. Apparently being egged on by the greed and reckless rhetoric of Donald Trump and some paid American journalists and think tanks, he is talking of taking a war into Iran. Even as his own country, the most-expensively armed in the region, is bleeding in Yemen against lightly-armed Houthis and Saleh allies. He is also targeting his former ally Qatar with an economic blockade. He might even threaten other GCC members in due time.

Can this prince see the light and avoid another war he expects the Americans to help him wage?

Saddam Hussein is dead, but modern day Arabs often tend to repeat the worst of past mistakes. Already some approved writers in Saudi media are shouting: Saddam is dead, long live Saddam.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Strategic OCD? America’s Obsessive, Compulsive, Endless Muslim Wars on Cruise Control…..

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“Veteran Given Hero’s Welcome Back To Afghanistan….. KABUL, AFGHANISTAN—Waving flags and breaking into cheers the moment they spotted the veteran, dozens of joyous citizens gave Marine Pfc. Victor Rosas, 23, a hero’s welcome back to Afghanistan, sources reported Tuesday. “I’ve been counting down the hours until Victor came back, and here he is at last!” said local food vendor Anwar Ahmadzai, one of the many familiar faces the young soldier had not seen for the 14 months he was overseas in the U.S………”

This piece by the Onion is almost funny, until you look at a map of the Old World. From Asia through the Middle East to Africa.
American wars, weird wars, endless wars, stupid wars, absurd wars, almost-automatic wars on cruise control. Easy to trigger, easy to slide into. And what you can’t trigger, you can provoke, or the willful regional allies can provoke. Almost impossible to get out of (Iraq, Syria, Yemen, North Africa, Sahel, East Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc etc)……

With more very likely to come, possibly deliberately provoked by the Trump Administration or by local Trump-allied Arab princes and potentates, in the Persian Gulf, possibly Lebanon, and in other Muslim places….

It is almost as if the country has an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) related to Muslim lands and Muslim wars…

As I have suggested more than once: why not bomb some other part of the world for a change?  Become an equal opportunity bomber…..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

A Tale of Two Miserable Arab Summers: June 1967, June 2017….

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On June 4 1967, most Arab peoples were expecting a victory over Israel. Or so they were told by their regimes, all of their regimes. Given the size of Israel at the time, an Arab victory and an Israeli defeat would have meant a reversal of 1948, when Israel replaced Palestine. Not completely: Arabs still controlled Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, all of them parts of Mandate Palestine. But the Jordanians who held onto the West Bank and East Jerusalem were not eager to develop a Palestinian entity, and Gaza remained neglected under Egyptian control.
So, on the morning of June 5, 1967, the Israeli Air Force struck, and quickly destroyed Arab air forces. Arab regimes continued to claim their forces were on the outskirts of Tel Aviv even as Israelis were sweeping though Sinai. By afternoon the war was effectively over. Mop up operations secured the Sinai for the second time in eleven years. The Jordanians basically put up a half hearted fight for the West Bank and East Jerusalem (King Hussin must have thought the Egyptian army will hand him the rest of Jerusalem).
The biggest loss of Arab land in modern history took barely more than one day. So much for the vaunted Arab Army of Jordan.

But what is shocking now, looking back, is that even after that huge defeat the Arab world was better of than it is now, June 2017. Fifty years later.

Before June 1967 the Arabs had already lost one war, the war for Palestine. Now we know that the loss of Palestine was the beginning: the Arab states have continued to lose every single war against outsiders. With the exception of Lebanon in 2000 and 2006.
Before 1967 there was hope, pride, exuberance. The Arab world was young, most of it recently independent, some of it getting there. There was hope that it can progress, perhaps unite and improve its lot. Young people were sure, they were certain that they were facing a bright future. Most of the students who came to the West, especially to the United States, looked forward towards to returning home and helping build or rebuild. Most did not think of immigration.

After 1967, with pan-Arab secularism defeated, Wahhabism ran unchecked. Fueled with oil money, it busted out of its Saudi desert homeland and spread its poison through mosques and schools that spread in poorer Muslim lands. This was the ideological and financial basis of Al Qaeda and ISIS/DAESH. It still is.

Fast forward to June 2017. Half a century of defeats, dictatorship, absolute tribal rule, and internal Arab wars. Crowned with the tragedy that Westerners, and some Arabs, thought was an Arab Spring. It turned out to be anything but a spring. All rebellions against exiting order failed, from Bahrain to Yemen to Syria, to Egypt, and North Africa.Those states that succeeded in overthrowing their rulers ended with civil wars.

Now the fate of the Arabs is almost totally in foreign hands. The interactions among the West, Iran, Turkey, Israel, and Russia determine the future. A couple of absolute repressive tribal ruling families dominate domestic Arab politics. Not what the Arabs need just now. They have managed to buy many of the other Arab regimes, and they have possibly bought off the current President of the United States. Ignorant of history, Trump and his British counterpart have given the oligarchs a carte blanche to do what they want, what they can do, in the Gulf and in the rest of the region. They are also giving them all the weapons they need to start new wars and suffer more defeats.

So, here the region stands. Sophisticated expensive American and British weapons in the hands of repressive regimes will not create stability, not for long. Some foolish young prince is bound to start a fire that would engulf the region, just like Saddam Hussein brought on thirty years of warfare.

The hope has faded, and there is hardly any light at the end of the tunnel, regardless of what some well-meaning Western analysts and academics opine.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Arabian Wars, American Folly: Summer 1990, Summer 2017……

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This Saudi, UAE, and now Trump frenzy and ratcheting up attacks on Qatar reminds me of Saddam Hussein and Kuwait in the summer of 1990. How he escalated his threats against his little neighbor, miscalculated the American reaction, and started an invasion and another foolish war.

Donald Trump is now openly giving the Saudi/UAE potentates the green light in the Persian Gulf. But suppose Trump’s new Arab allies (the ones he hated and despised before last January) screw up as I expect? As they have done in Yemen? I mean they could not even subdue a few tribes in Yemen. Suppose they get stuck in another classic quagmire?

Trump has been tweeting today in support of the Saudi-Emirati position. All based on what two princes in Saudi Aabia and the UAE had told him last month (according to him)!
No doubt Qatar has supported some Syrian Jihadis with money, but so have the Saudis and others in the Persian Gulf states. So has Turkey. So why focus on Qatar now? Is it pressure from Saudi-UAE funded lobbyists and Think Tanks in Washington? It can well be.
Will Donald Trump then send American fighting boys and girls to pull their royal nuts out of the fire?

In the end the United States is thousands of miles away, it is an interloper. The countries on the Gulf belong there, it is their native region. The USA can defend its allies and whatever interests it has in the region, but it cannot establish its own hegemony on the Persian Gulf. That would be a pipe dream. The era of old gunboat imperialism is (probably) over.

(Interestingly Kuwait, the old victim of Saddam Hussein’s media attack and brutal invasion, is trying to mediate this new crisis between Qatar and her larger neighbors).

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Men Playing with Balls in Riyadh and Scandinavia: an Arab Ball? an American Ball? a Nordic Ball……

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During the Saudi-American Summit in Riyadh, President Trump, King Salman, and Generalissimo Sisi had some fun playing with their ball, or rather with one of their balls. Okay, playing with someone’s mysterious ball.

It was an eerie fluorescent white ball, made eerier by the three grown men fondling it for benefit of the cameras. I assume it was a Saudi ball, some Saudi’s ball, since it as hosted in Riyadh. Unless it was Trump’s, that he had donated one of his balls for that occasion of sorcery and witchcraft and magic.

Sorcery, witchcraft, and magic are activities that are punishable with death by beheading in Saudi Arabia. But anyone can play with their own ball as much as they want, apparently they can also play with someone else’s ball, provided it is done with consent.

          

That photo elicited reactions from all over the world. But some European reaction was the most succinct. The leaders of the five Nordic countries, decided to do their own show of sorcery, magic, and witchcraft. The leaders of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland chose a better and more open setting, near some body of water, rather than in a dark room full of Wahhabi zealots. And they chose a colorful ball. Not sure whose ball it was, but could be any among the five leaders. Any four among the participating leaders.

And the Scandinavians looked more cheerful about it: the ball looks, shall we say, livelier. The Trump-Salman-Sisi ball-fondling looked like a grim affair, as expected. In spite of the dimmed lights.

In case you were interested…..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Trump as the Sixth Pillar of Wahhabi Islam? Sisters of the Faithful……..

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At the Riyadh Wahhabi-American Summit, it looked like the princes and potentates were ready to change the basic tenets of Islam to appease the man who has made Islamophobia more acceptable in America. Their new American Idol, Donald J Trump.


Islam has five pillars that define a Muslim (all Muslims be they Sunni, Shi’a, or Wahhabi):

  • Shahada, Assertion, that Allah is the One God and that Mohammed is his Prophet.
  • Donating the Zakat (Alms) for the poor and needy. (I can almost hear American Republicans groaning).
  • Fasting the Holy Month of Ramadan (no food, drink, lies, and sex: from dawn to dusk).
  • Five daily prayers facing Mecca (originally Muslims prayed while facing Jerusalem, until they conquered the Prophet’s hometown and disposed of the idols).
  • Making the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca/Madinah. But this last one is not completely mandatory: it is only for “those who are able and can afford it”.

Now there may have been a subtle change, given the Wahhabi festival last week celebrating Donald Trump and his clan at the Summit in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

Trump was treated like more than a new Caliph, more like a combination Caliph and Angel. The Saudi princes’ generosity with their people’s money and their controlled media saw to that. Trump’s wife and daughter, the only women at the various meetings and parties, were almost elevated by the Wahhabis to the rank of “Sisters of the Faithful” (in Arabic: اخوات المؤمنين ).

Not necessarily bad in itself, if Donald himself wasn’t around to bask in the glory and to believe what they said about him. Melania and Ivanka: as Catholic and Jewish ‘Sisters of the Faithful’. It is not the first time in the history of Islam. But Donald Trump is the first of his kind in the history of the American Republic.

In Riyadh, his eyes were so focused on the money, hundreds of billions of petro-money, that he may have unwittingly handed America’s foreign policy, and her future wars in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf to a bunch of incompetent, corrupt, and greedy princes.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

The Fake Facade of Trump’s Saudi Summit Collapses, GCC at War Within Itself………

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Did Donald Trump stir up a hornets nest during his Saudi visit? Apparently he did: for now we know that all did not go as smoothly as we were told and shown on television.

Strange events erupted as soon as Trump left Riyadh. Reportedly some discord existed from the beginning of the Summit, but they tried to sweep it under the red carpets. All the media propaganda about policy coordination vanished after Trump left with his Saudi money prize. And Iran had nothing to do with it this time! Only the diehards of the discredited ruling family in Bahrain would blame any outsider this time.
Two days after the departure of the Trump Circus from the so-called Arab-Islamic-American Summit all hell broke loose. The carefully presented facade collapsed:
Some countries complained that they were promised by the Saudi foreign minister Adle Al Jubeir that there will be no resolution condemning Iran. There are many Muslim and Arab countries present that have good relations with both sides. Some of them had left Riyadh before the communique/resolution was crafted and issued by allegedly American-Saudi-GCC staff. The Lebanese Foreign Minister openly hinted that Al Jubeir lied to him about that. Countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, the Central Asian Republics, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, a couple of Gulf GCC members, among many others, have close or cordial relations with Iran.

Independent Arab media also report continued disputes during and after the Summit involving other countries. Including Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Erdogan of Turkey and Oman downgraded the meeting by sending ministers instead of heads of state. Lebanon’s president and Iraqi Prime Minister did not attend.

American media got the fake news that the Saudis and the Trump team wanted them to hear. That is the fake facade that we saw on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, ABC, etc. A lot of cleverly orchestrated Fake News.

It all collapsed as soon as Air Force One left Riyadh.

Other developments occurred within the GCC itself:
The Bahrain regime decided to storm a Shi’a town, the home of the most senior Shi’a cleric who is currently under arrest and incommunicado. Battles ensued between regime forces/mercenaries and supporters of the opposition. Five young men were shot dead, some wounded, almost three hundred arrested.
Almost simultaneously, a strong war of words and media broke out between Qatar on one side, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia on the other (I consider the Bahrain regime an appendix of the Saudi regime).

The Qatari Emir was quoted saying that some Gulf states practice an extremist form of Islam that encourages terrorism. Guess who he meant by that? Saudi and UAE media blasted the Qataris and blocked Qatari media broadcasts (AlJazeera, etc). The Qatari Emir was also quoted that Iran is not a threat, that it has been reasonable, that there are other more serious threats. Some interpreted this to mean Saudi Arabia.
There has been speculation initially, and some claims, that the Qatari Emir was misquoted, that someone hacked into the media outlets. But that now seems unlikely, for the media attacks continue. This was has been confirmed, as the Saudi-UAE war of words and threats against Qatar continues. Qatar is, of course, an independent country that can craft its own foreign policy without kowtowing to the Saudi princes and their march towards another losing war in the Persian Gulf.

There have been suggestions that the US Central Command should move its regional headquarters from Qatar. Mostly by old American Neocons and those with close Saudi ties.

Stay tuned for more….
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Old Slogan, New Slogan: Assad Hasn’t Gone Yet, but Erdogan Must Go…….

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Remember when the common slogan in Turkey (and in Washington and among Wahhabi potentates) was: Assad must go?

It has been revived with a lot of Saudi money given to Donald Trump. A few weeks ago Trump discarded the old Assad slogan, but that was before he discovered the joys of Saudi money.


Maybe Assad will go, eventually. Everybody does, something which gives the American people some hope.

But there is a new maniac roaming the Middle East now, repressing his own people, stifling freedom in Turkey. A better slogan now would be: Erdogan Must Go.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Ugly Travelers: Wilbur Ross and His Boss Do Riyadh with No Protests, Is America Doomed?………

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“Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday he was heartened by the absence of even a single protester during President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia over the weekend…… ‘I think the other thing that was fascinating to me, there was not a single hint of a protestor anywhere there during the whole time we were there, not one guy with a bad placard….…”


Wilbur, if you had asked, perhaps even the orange Mr. ED could tell you what is going on.

Why no protests in Riyadh? There are no rights of speech or expression or religion in the Kingdom. But there are many more protesters than you can imagine, but it is all in the heart. Those who did actually protest or would protest or are suspected of possibly thinking of protesting are in prison, in dungeons, being flogged, dead, or in exile.

Oh, and welcome home soon to the land of protests and placards and the First Amendment….. Remember, Mr. Wilbur Al Wahhabi, there are many people who move to the USA because they can protest publicly without being severely punished…..

No, America is not doomed, this is just a nightmare, shameless panderers like Wilbur and his boss are part of a nightmare from which all will wake up soon………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum