Category Archives: U.S. Foreign Policy

Donald Trump and the Corsairs: Private Mercenaries for Muslim Wars?………

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Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Urges Trump to Privatize Afghan War and Install Viceroy to Run Nation…… The White House is considering an unprecedented plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan at the urging of Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct private mercenary firm Blackwater. Prince told USA Today the plan would include sending 5,500 private mercenaries to Afghanistan to advise the Afghan army. It would also include deploying a private air force — with at least 90 aircraft — to carry out the bombing campaign against Taliban insurgents. The plan’s consideration comes as a federal appeals court has overturned the prison sentences of former Blackwater contractors who were involved in a 2007 massacre in Nisoor Square in central Baghdad, killing 17 civilians when they opened fire……”

That would be real bad news for American policy. It would be good news for the Taliban and the ISIS terrorists. It would be reckless policy. If the U.S. military, the best trained and best armed and most dedicated fighting force in the world, nay in history, could not end this war, how could a bunch of profit-seeking mercenaries? If fighting for country can’t do it, how could fighting for profit do it? Fighting for profit in, say Helmand Province, is not the same as fighting for profit in the West Wing of the White House.

Something about wild reckless foreign (Western) mercenaries will help the Jihadis recruit and get cooperation from local villages and tribes.

Don’t do it, Donald Trump, even if you are at an impasse over there, even if it means your friends will make more “government” money. At least ask the advice of your “professional” generals, not the gaggle of civilian hustlers you have at the White House.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Tale of Two Hostile Cities: Trump’s Losing Game of Poker with Pyongyang and Tehran……….

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Kim Jong Un has launched another ballistic missile. He is completely ignoring the hand-wringing and the tepid warnings from Washington. North Korea, a small poor country ruled by one nasty family, has several nuclear warheads, and is probably on its way to develop a delivery system that can threaten the American West Coast. Yet North Korea does not seem impressed with Donald Trump’s vague entreaties. Nor do Trump’s threats seem designed to truly impress.


Switch to the Middle East, to my Persian Gulf clogged with American and other Western warships from faraway places. The Iranian regime has signed a deal with world powers (including UN, IAEA, EU) that curtails its nuclear program and restricts it to peaceful purposes. Even their leading theocrat, Ali Khamenei, has approved it while grumbling about the ‘evils of dealing with Washington’. Now the Iranians still develop missiles that are aimed at deterring any attack on their cities by Western powers or their expensively-armed tribal royal customers. Not a breach of the nuclear deal if they are not warhead-capable. An insurance against the vast foreign imported arsenals surrounding their country.

Yet the invective in Washington is focused on Iran while Pyongyang is almost beseeched to (please) behave. Daily threats hinting at, nay threatening of, another war in the Persian Gulf region are now almost part of the National Anthem in Washington. (The current Congress may add a new stanza to the StarSpangled Banner, it’s not that far-fetched). Administration officials, paid think tanks, and senators compete with each other in this ongoing warmongering. The major media are as cooperative in this new drumbeat of a new war of choice as they were for Iraq in 2002/2003. As if they can’t learn from the past, some arrogant fools in the USA are even talking, again, of regime change in Tehran as a gift from Washington.

There are several reasons for this dichotomy, what someone (not me) once called the Iran Derangement Syndrome in Washington. Two of the reasons are obvious: the omnipotent and generous Israeli right-wing lobby and the inflow of Gulf royal money for expensive weapons/toys. Plus the history since the end of the last world war.

But perhaps the most important and crucial reason is also well known to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un: he already has his defense in the form of nuclear weapons as well as deadly conventional artillery aimed at South Korea. As I explained recently here in this post on the Thinking of Kim Un.
So he just deals with Donald Trump as other world leaders should: he knows his background, and he ignores his warnings, his bluff, just as any mediocre Poker player would.

Recent reports in US media now indicate Trump may try to provoke the Iranians into abandoning the nuclear deal. Oddly he is supposed to do that by himself breaking the nuclear deal first thus pushing the Iranians into reacting, the new logic of the regime in Berlin Washington. The blustering New York Poker player trying to bluff masters of their own game of chess.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

The Lebanese Gorilla in the West Wing: Trump and Hariri and Hezbollah Meet in DC………

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Today President Donald Trump held a private meeting followed by a brief joint news conference with his visitor du jour Saad Hariri, the Prime Minister of Lebanon.

It is impossible to discuss anything about Lebanon (except maybe the cuisine and fashion) without talking Hezbollah. During the news conference, Trump mentioned Lebanon’s main military and political party Hezbollah several times. He ominously hinted at new measures he will inflict on the Lebanese party in the next 24 hours. Hopefully that is something he has discussed with officials outside his West Wing cabal of delusional uninformed crazies and culture warriors.

At the news conference, Saad Hariri never mentioned Hezbollah, his major partner in the Lebanese government, and the major political and military player in Lebanon. Mr. Hariri battled politically with Hezbollah for several years, when he was firmly a leader of the March 14 movement, strongly allied to Saudi Arabia and financed by it. Hezbollah is a strong ally of Iran, which finances it, and has led the March 8 movement.

The reactions of the two men to questions about internal Lebanese (and Syrian) matters were in stark contrast. Trump, as usual, was belligerent about what he will do with Hezbollah. His Lebanese guest did not deal with his major partner in the current Lebanese government, not publicly in a foreign capital. (But what the two leaders discussed privately about the famous Iran-allied and dominant militia is another matter).
Tells you something about the realities on the ground in Lebanon. Realities inside Lebanon, not as understood by some in Washington, nor as told by outside Arab potentates…….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Afghanistan After 14 Years: Short of a Hail Mary, Time to Pack It In…..

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“Last week, President Donald Trump’s senior Cabinet officials and top national security advisers met for a contentious meeting to finally agree on a new strategy for America’s longest war. After months of wrangling, they would ask Trump for a modest troop increase and a more intense commitment to the seemingly endless struggle in Afghanistan. But the session of the National Security Council Principals Committee, described by two sources briefed on it as a “s*** show” that featured what a third source, a senior White House official, confirmed was a heated debate where “words were exchanged,” proved no more successful than months’ worth of previous Afghan policy debates…….”

If you can’t win a foreign war in a faraway land against an under-armed unsophisticated enemy for 14 years, what does that mean?
It means either you had no original goal to start with, OR that you overlooked your original goal of that war, WTF it was. That it is time to pull out of an unwinnable war.

The Greeks spent less time than that trying to defeat the Trojans, and they gave up, except for one last Hail Mary, one last Parthian (or Persian) Shot. That Hail Mary with the wooden horse (it came long before Mary) worked! It almost certainly worked because the Trojans were stupid! Snatching defeat out of a wooden horse’s ass at your moment of victory is a certain sign of stupidity.


So, unless Trump and his advisers have an equivalent to that ancient Greek Hail Mary, and given that Al Qaeda are out of Afghanistan, it is time to get out.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Rex Tillerson Tackles the GCC War of Fake News on the Gulf….

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“Secretary Tillerson Participates in a Joint Press Conference in Qatar. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in a joint press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha, Qatar on July……….” US State Department

” KUWAIT CITY — The United States and Qatar signed a memo of understanding Tuesday on steps the tiny Persian Gulf nation will take to stop the funding of terrorism, U.S. officials said Tuesday. The agreement aims to encourage Qatar’s neighbors to abandon their embargo on the country. The memo was announced in the Qatar capital of Doha, where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spent the day working to resolve a regional feud that the United States fears could derail efforts to fight groups like the Islamic State and could embolden Iran…….” N Y Times

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson started this trip in Kuwait, the only Gulf GCC country that could mediate, given its long experience in trying, often hopelessly, to mediate Arab disputes. Oman is another possible sane GCC member, but the Omanis have kept their distance from clashes between the ruling families of the Gulf.
From Kuwait Tillerson went to Qatar, reportedly for a tri-partite American-Qatari-Kuwait meeting. From Qatar he will fly to Saudi Arabia. Tillerson’s statements seem to be quite critical of the Saudi-UAE claims and demands. Politely he seems to point out the absurdity of their demands.

But this whole project is almost like Fake News. The claims and 13 demands of Saudi Arabia and the UAE were based on a combination of elements of the real policies of Qatar and on the skillful use of Fake News by the Saudis and Emiratis. At some point all these states supported terrorist activities, especially in Iraq and Syria. The September 11 terrorist attacks of 2001 had no Qatari involvement. ISIS ranks have many Saudis and Bahrainis, but I have never seen a Qatari name.

The Saudi-UAE demands of Qatar were no doubt inspired by Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh in May and his later tweets. The heavy use of the term “terrorism” was a clever attempt to shift the topic away from the Saudi roots of Jihadism and to use two terms that resonate with American politicians. Qatar was charged with supporting “terrorism” and with moving close to “Iran“: nothing makes Americans politicians salivate more than these two terms, except maybe the term “campaign money“.

The Qataris and Iranians share one of the largest natural gas fields in the world, in the waters of the Persian Gulf, so they need to keep some cordial ties. Besides, Oman and Kuwait keep cordial relations with the mullahs in Iran, and nobody among the Saudi-UAE potentates has criticized them, not yet.

The whole “GCC crisis” is odd and relies heavily on Fake News. The demands presented to Qatar by the Saudi-UAE side are vague, and they are absurd to present to a sovereign country. Especially the deman of closing the AlJazeera News Network. Even though Qatar has dabbled in supporting Jihadis in Syria, so did Saudi Arabia (in Syria and Iraq), probably even more so.
And as if to add some weight to their demands, the Saudi-UAE side recruited Egypt’s hapless dictator Field Marshall Al Sisi, possibly as a military muscleman. Almost laughable, given the underachieving military history of modern Egypt.

Now it seems that, in spite of Donald Trump, Tillerson may have managed to convey the real American position on this issue. Trump was no doubt moved by the accolades and the flattery he received at the Riyadh Summit in May, (did I leave the promised billions of dollars?). Now it looks like there is consensus that the Saudi-UAE attempt has failed to destabilize Qatar. This is not the first Saudi failure in Qatar, there was an attempted coup in the late 1990s.

There is another Arab state where the Saudis under King Salman and his son are facing even worse failure: perhaps Rex Tillerson can help extricate the princes from the quagmire of the Yemen war they foolishly started two and a half years ago.

Cheers

Mpohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

The Logical Thinking of Kim Jong Un: Heeding the Lessons of Iraq, Libya, and Iran……..

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In the beginning…..
Donald Trump ignored North Korea and its petulant young dictator. Mr. Trump has been focusing on his “other” foreign policy issues. In fact up to recently he has been taking a long victory lap celebrating his own alleged self-styled loot of billions of Saudi oil money during his coronation by desperate Arab and Muslim princes and potentates in Riyadh last May. All he had to do was tell them that he does not care about human rights and that Iran exports terrorism (but apparently not the nice Wahhabi type of terrorism of ISIS and Al Qaeda and AQAP and Nusra).

Trump has also been focusing on the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA), since before the election. Trump of course does not know much about it, that it is a good deal for all sides according to international consensus (with the exception of the ruling princes of Saudi Arabia, the Empire of Bahrain, Israel, and the paid-for US Congress). Apparently the one draw-back of the Iran deal for Trump, the Republican Party, (and hawkish Democrats) is that it is a signature achievement of President Barack Obama. So Mr. Trump had promised to revisit the deal, perhaps to “withdraw” the USA from it. His first National Security Chief Mike Flynn, a Turkish agent and possibly a Russian agent as well, threatened more serious action against Iran. Before Trump was forced to fire him.

Among the Iranians themselves there are many who are also disappointed by how the nuclear deal has turned out. And by the ratcheted up threats from Washington and the nearly monthly new sanctions being voted by the US Knesset Congress and Senate. They also remember what happened in Iraq and Libya.

Back to Kim Jong Un: he could not be denied his share of American attention for long. He is that kind of dictator. Not long after Trump was inaugurated Kim started tossing around warhead-capable medium-range and long-range missiles. He or his henchmen also murdered a young American student-captive in Pyongyang.
And one more thing that can be unforgivable from my point of view: he gave Dennis Rodman another opportunity to be seen on network news.

Kim Jong Un also certainly well remembers what happened to Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.  Apparently Saddam had given up his WMD, but Iraq was invaded and he was overthrown anyway.

Libyan dictator Gaddafi gave up his WMD and paid billions in “compensation” to Western citizens and corporations. He was attacked and overthrown by NATO. He and one of his sons were allowed to be tortured and killed by some rebels. Now Libya is a failed and divided state.

Kim must have started thinking:

  • Gaddafi (of Libya) gave up WMD. He also gave up billions of dollars to Western countries and to victims of the Pan Am airliner bombing over Lockerbie in 1988. But what did he get? His new friends in NATO overthrew him then got him killed as soon as they got a chance. He and one of his sons were tortured and murdered by possibly the same people who later murdered four American diplomats in Benghazi. His country is now a failed state beset by Islamic Fundamentalists of the Wahhabi sect and by tribal infighting.
  • Iran heeded world power demands and reduced its nuclear program- and according to IAEA and world intelligence services it is abiding by the JCPOA Nuclear Deal. And Iran now is being seriously threatened by Donald Trump who is also hopelessly trying to form a futile alliance of hapless Arab and Muslim despots and potentates against it. These are mostly the countries whose citizens have actually committed terrorism in the Middle East and in the West. And both houses of the US Congress keep piling up sanctions against Iran, Kim knows….

If I were Kim, I would possibly perhaps per chance think that it is not just the WMD and nuclear stuff that the West, and the US government, has a beef with. Maybe it goes beyond that. If Iraq and Libya were attacked after they gave up their WMD, and if Iran is being threatened after it reduced its nuclear capability……
You get the drift: Kim will think that as soon as he gives up his nuclear and missile program, he might as well give up the ghost….

And it is hard to blame him for thinking along these lines, if you think about it (or you can start reading this post from the beginning)……..

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Western Hubris and Regime Change Obsession: From Iran to Latin America and back to the Middle East…….

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Regime change has been an American obsession in the post-war era.

In 1953, the CIA (and British MI6) did not like the elected government of Mossadegh in Iran. There were issues of Iran taking their oil industry back, and worries about the strong Tudeh (communist) Party being legal. So they staged a play where the petulant young shah left for Europe, mobs of paid agents provocateurs were brought into the streets, and the generals staged a coup d’etat (to bring order). That was the beginning of the torturous love affair between the Iranian people and the United States government (as represented by the CIA). It set the stage for the Revolution of 1979, the US Embassy affair in Tehran, and the continued rancor. It could lead to another endless American war in yet another Muslim land, if the warmongers in the Republican Party (and some Democrats) have their way with Donald Trump.


Easy early success in Iran encouraged the CIA, which quickly shifted to another elected “leftist” regime, in Guatemala. President Árbenz was overthrown, and the rest of Latin America knew who was boss, until Fidel Castro and Che Guevara broke the mold.
But there were other “incidents” in Latin America: the Dominican election of 1965 was followed by the usual military coup and Lyndon Johnson’s invasion; the Brazilian military coup; the bloody overthrow of the elected Allende regime in Chile and the mass murders that followed (Nixon, Kissinger).
Those were all successful coups and invasions with the goal of regime change. The attempts in Cuba failed.


But the Western attempt at regime change with the bloodiest long-term consequences for the West was in a Muslim country: Afghanistan. The mistake of intervention in Afghanistan would come to haunt the West, especially the USA, for decades later. It started the ball rolling on Islamic Jihad and terrorism:

After the Communists took over in Kabul in 1978, through a counter military coup, the USA and its Saudi allies started encouraging a tribal insurrection. In 1979 Moscow did its own version of regime change in Kabul, but eventually ended up paying a heavy price. Afghanistan became a battlefield for competing regime changes: the Soviet Russians supporting the ruling secular Communists, and the West and Wahhabi Arabs supporting the reactionary tribal Afghan Mujahideen (Islamist Fundamentalist) rebels. We all know how that story evolved: the Wahhabi Taliban Jihadists eventually took over in Kabul, Al Qaeda found a safe haven, 9/11 happened, then ISIS, and all that. And the longest endless futile war in American history that nobody has the courage to end, apparently not yet.

In the Arab World, Saddam Hussein opened the door to direct American military intervention and regime change. His failed attempted invasion of Iran bankrupted Iraq and led him to the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, perhaps to recoup his losses. That set the stage for George W Bush and the neocons to invade Iraq in 2003, after the September 11 attacks.

Then there was the NATO operation that culminated in regime change in Libya. The dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown, tortured, and murdered along with one of his sons. Libya is now a divided failed state, exporting more terrorism than it did even before 2011.
The Syrian war is another example. One can just imagine what will happen when tens of thousands of Jihadis from Arab lands (mostly from Saudi Arabia and North Africa) and from European cities go back home to roost.

But wait, it is not over yet. Some old unrepentant Republican Necons and paid Democrats and lobbyists of generous despotic un-elected Arab princes are again taking up the old call of regime change in Tehran. Using a former terrorist group that acts as a Saudi surrogate.  Some of these folks actually believe they will be received with flowers and cheers in Tehran and other places. Will they ever learn? Apparently not. I think they should leave any regime change to the Iranian people.

Most people in the Middle East consider these continuous Western (mainly American) interventions as a return of Western colonialism, probably correctly so. The more Islamist fundamentalist peoples in the Middle East, some among the Arab Salafis, consider these interventions a new Crusade.

Right now some American politicians might want to focus on regime change closer to home, if you get my meaning….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

From Paris: Regime Change Calls by Arab Princes and American Lobbyists and Paid US Politicians…….

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Mujahideen Khalq, MKO, MEK is an Iranian organization with a long history of switching sides and shifting alliances.
During the rule of the Shah of Iran, the MEK/MKO were a radical group that targeted Americans.
They were part of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and had a role in the storming of the American Embassy in November of that year and the taking of American hostages.


In the early 1980s they broke with the ruling theocratic clerics (under Khomeini) and their leadership left Iran, but some remained and waged a guerilla-style war against the mullahs. A large number of them moved to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq next door, where they switched sides and served him faithfully in the war against their own country, Iran, as well as against the Kurdish rebels. That was fine by the Arab oil kings and potentates: at that time they also financed Saddam’s wars.
As soon as Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, the MEK/MKO became pariahs along both sides of the Persian Gulf. During the Desert Storm and its aftermath, they were reportedly helpful in crushing rebellions against the Baath rule in southern Iraq.

After the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western powers, with strong Arab help, the MEK/MKO moved to a huge camp outside Baghdad. When the Iraqi elections brought a Shi’a-Kurdish-dominated government, the MEK/MKO found new sponsors and financiers: Arab kings and princes, mainly Saudis. They also were eventually, and painstakingly, forced to move out of Iraq.

Ever since, the organization has moved even closer to the Al Saud rulers, eventually they also got close to the Israeli Mossad. The Iranian regime often accuses MEK/MKO agents of committing violent acts overseas for which the regime gets blamed. Eventually Hillary Clinton and various Republican and Democrat politicians in the USA helped take the Mujahideen off the US government terrorist list a few years ago.

Since then, the organization has suddenly become rich and generous with money towards American politicians. It can afford lobbyists in Washington, and it can buy former and current American politicians. Its leaders for life, the Rajavi couple, live in the Paris area. They hold occasional huge conferences called “Iran Liberation” conference. The emphasis at these “conferences” is on photo-ops with famous American politicians, current and former. And they pay well for these photo-ops. The list of famous Americans who get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, allegedly for “speaking” but really for showing up includes: Newt Gingrich, his wife Callista (a new face at this year’s conference), Rudy Giuliani, General Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson, Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman, John Bolton…… Among many others (just wait until Trump leaves office).
They all probably know that this organization has little if any support or credibility inside Iran, that its siding with Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime was probably an unforgivable act. So, it is a waste of American time and money to emphasis it. But the money received is too good for them to resist.

Speaking of the money: a has-been Saudi prince (Turki Al Faisal Al Saud) now attends every conference of this organization, no doubt assuming that this bestows some Neocon-type “legitimacy” on it among American officials. Of course the reaction to the use of this un-elected absolute Saudi prince inside Iran is obvious. Even the lousy self-styled Palestinian leader, the Mayor of Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) attended the previous conference.

The self-delusion about Iran and the Middle East during and after these conferences is breath-taking. They actually seriously talk about “regime” change in Iran, meaning outside action to change the regime. It almost matches the self-delusion inside the US Congress (both houses, both parties) on the same topic.
They all must know it is pure nonsense, but the again money is too good for all participants, and the futile message sounds good to many extreme right-wing US media outlets. Besides, the Israeli Lobby and the newly influential Saudi lobby and the sources of oil money in Washington like it.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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