Category Archives: US Foreign Policy

Iran at a Brezhnev Crossroad: an Aging Revolution, a Younger Unhappy Population…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

On the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted this:
” @khamenei_ir
Dear prideful nation of #Iran! The greatness of your gatherings today, which, according to precise calculations, was more populated and morepassionate than previous years, was a resolute response to the enemies and oath-breakers….”
“Relying on their distorted false perceptions of Iran and Iranians, the enemies had spent all their propaganda efforts on trying to turn this year’s revolution celebration frigid or probably anti-revolution. You’ve exhibited the livelihood & dynamism of the revolution in practice…..”
Feb 11, 2018

This year’s anniversary of the last of the great popular revolutions of the twentieth century has been surrounded with interesting domestic developments. We know what happened with the other two revolutions, in Russia and China. In Russia they gave up on the ideology; in China they still pretend that the Communist system of Chairman Mao exists, as a means to legitimize one-party rule of a new oligarchy. In Iran, Ali Khamenei is trying to keep the flames of the old aging revolution alive. Did I leave out Cuba?

In a nation that is younger and wants more freedoms, more accountability, in an age of spreading social media and access to opinion. What to do?
Violent repression, for example Egyptian style, will not work anymore in Iran. During the recent protests a few weeks ago, many of the security forces were noticeably sympathetic to the protests. More subtle forms of protest continue. There will be more periodic protests; for years now people have been testing the limits of freedoms allowed.

There has been gradual and incremental but unannounced openness by the regime as well, forced by the people. Giving in more publicly and at once will eventually open the floodgates to more encroachment of the feared global culture, and more demands for more openness and more freedoms.

What to do? Perhaps a Chinese solution? But the Chinese regime is now agnostic: politically Communist in the name of the one ruling party; economically and socially capitalistic and oligarchic to boot.

The Iranian ayatollahs pride themselves on some kind of “purity”, along the model of the old stubborn Soviet regime in the Brezhnev era, when all the revolutionary thrill was gone from the younger generation. But Iran is not a Soviet-style closed system: freedom of travel and emigration has never been curtailed. Social media thrive, as do international satellite television. The country also hosts about 2 million Afghan refugees, who can travel across the border. Expatriate non-political Iranian exiles are freely allowed back into the country. All that has allowed a sort of safety valve but also created demands for more.

Rouhani is trying some short-term solutions. But that would only underline the need for a longer-term deal between the people and their government. The weak point is the position of the Supreme Leader. Chairman Mao is dead in China, but Ayatollah Khamenei is an unelected veto-holder. He is in a way selected by an elected assembly created to gate-keep access to power. But even so, he shares power with various other centers of power: the elected president of the republic (Rouhani), the elected and contentious parliament that takes its powers very seriously, other various senior clerics (more senior than Khamenei).

Then there is the ultimate theological marja’iya (last recourse in Shi’a theological matters) located in Najaf (Iraq). Najaf, where Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani is located, is like the Rome for Shi’a Muslims.

Ali Sistani does not support the idea of rule by the clergy, nor do many others, possibly most Shi’as. It is unlikely that this political ideology chasm between Najaf and Tehran/Qom will ever be closed on Tahran’s terms. If there is a closing, it will be Tehran and Qom moving closer to the Najaf school of thought in governing. A largely Islamic but diverse state with elected civilian non-clerical rule. That was the case in Iran under Mossadegh until August 1953, when its overthrow was engineered by Western intelligence agencies (CIA, British intelligence).

Iran has had at least one case of a Gorbachev in the past four decades. Khatami was paralysed by a conservative parliament, and the Supreme Leader. Rouhani may manage things better, but he has only a couple of years left of his presidency.

Meanwhile, the people, especially in the cities, will continue to chip away at the restrictions imposed by the clerics. The trend towards more openness will continue and accelerate; unless Donald Trump is talked by the hawks in the US Senate/Congress and by the Israeli likud and a couple of despotic Arab kings to start a new war. That will immediately lead to consolidation in Tehran. It happened before when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq started the eight-year war. He lost, but so did the people of Iran.

Oh, and forget about the regime change nonsense being peddled by frustrated hawks and chickenhawks in the USA. Remember: the 1953 Western intervention led to the current situation…….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

New Western Dreamers of Syria: Build the Wall, Build the Assad Wall…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking text

State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) commented on USAID Mark Green’s visit to Syria with US Central Command Chief General Votel. She tweeted:
@USAIDMarkGreen’s visit to #Syria with General Votel of @CENTCOM….

I guess Syria now also needs a #BuildTheWall movement…….
After the first illegal cross border entry by a gaggle of US senators (McCain, Graham, et al), some Syrians could have been marching in the streets of Damascus, chanting: Build the Wall, BuildTheWall………
They did not at the time because the term Build The Wall was still unknown, the idea confined to Israel and the Palestinian and Occupied Territories. And some parts in the USA.

Yet no country has needed to build a wall as much as Syria in the past six years. Illegal infiltrators, without so much as a visa request, or a tour guide, have been sneaking in through Jordan, Iraq, Israel and especially Turkey. Arabs, Africans, Europeans, Chechens, and others along, with their concubines, converted on Syria, seeking to liberate it for the joys of pious Sunni fundamentalism.
They originally formed the backbone of Al Qaeda (or Nusra) and the ISIS (DAESH) cutthroat entities. Then we had a gaggle of US senators sneak in without an invite or a visa request, no doubt accompanied by Jihadi coyotes in civilian garb. The liberators all in ignorant bliss that they were fraternizing with Jihadis. The senators were hailed by US media of all stripes as they posed with Jihadi terrorists dedicated to the liberation of Syria from its secular (if repressive one party) path.

Now we have US forces and commanders sneaking into Syria, also without visa formalities. And these gentlemen apparently need no coyotes to guide them. They have drones and satellites. They were supposed to leave the premise within hours, before the Al Assad ICE agents descended on them and sent them back to some Turkish or Jordanian Tijuana or Ciudad Juarez.

But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asserts that many more, many American troops, perhaps thousands, will remain illegally in Syria for years. Perhaps as unofficial sitting ducks among various warring local and foreign factions bearing down on several sides. Perhaps with the eventual goal of becoming a sort of Syrian Dreamers, mostly dreaming of the day they could come back home to the USA.

Ditto for Iraq since 2003.

Then there is Israel, which sends warplanes and missiles and almost certainly infiltrators into Syria to blow up whatever the Likud does not like the look of. Even Donald Trump, the man who does nothing that does not pay off in cold cash, tossed a missile or two into an abandoned Syrian military base last year.

Saudi Arabia’s nearly-demented foreign minister Adle Al Jubeir every week insists that regime change is the path for Syria (but not for his own democratically elected Kingdom of Free Speech).

It is a wonder the Syrians did not start clamoring to “Build The Wall” all around their country. After all, Kim Jong Un of North Korea has built a stout wall, if only mainly to keep his people inside the nuclear paradise.

This story will continue…..

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

America in the Twilight Zone of Trump: Which Countries Qualify as Genuine Shitholes?………

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

In the Beginning:
There were the Axis of Evil countries none of whose citizens were involved in the September 2011 terrorist attacks on the USA (I thought that was a stupid term at the time)….
Then the Coalition of the Willing (the war on Iraq)…..
Then the Muslim Ban list against “potential” terrorists that included only countries whose citizens have never committed terrorism in America…
Then the Muslim-Arab-American Summit i Riyadh Against… everybody else….
Then….

Now America is in a twilight zone she had never been in before in the modern era. Nothing, no term, is taboo now. Now we have a new term, rather a new use of an old privately used American term:
People who immigrate from Haiti, Africa, other Central American and Latin and Arab countries came out of Sh*tholes….. and should not be allowed…

A country has the right to decide whom to allow in and whom to keep out. Other countries do it as a matter of routine, and America has been quite generous towards aspiring immigrants. But the leaders of these other countries, their heads of state, never ever use the term shithole for another country. No Arab or Muslim or African or Latin leader ever called another country a shithole. Not publicly and not in a quotable setting. The Saudi rulers, for example, never call their rivals in Qatar or Iran by such an epithet. The Arabs, even Hezbollah, never call Israel a shithole, and vice versa….

In the Middle East, leaders, dictators, kings, and potentates are now pouring over memos from their advisers. All trying to answer the newest most important Trumpian question of the week: Are We Among the Select Shithole Countries? (I expect Mr. Netanyahu will be the usual exception: he will probably tweet a line of strong support for Mr. Trump, as he has done with the Mexican Wall and other issues).

Remember, as someone on a big News Network said just an hour ago: talking of immigrants, with all respect, the homeland of the First lady Melania, Slovenia, is not exactly the “Jewel of Europe”…

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Age of Freedonia Shines over America: the Nikki Haley Hail Binomo Syndrome……

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“Haley was referring to the U.N. vote last week to condemn President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Poland was one of 35 countries who abstained from voting on the resolution.
The man posing as Morawiecki then asks Haley about the fictional island of Binomo in the South China Sea.
You know Binomo?” the man said, to which Haley replied “yes, yes.”
They had elections and we suppose Russians had its intervention,” the man said.
Yes, of course they did, absolutely,” Haley replies. “We’ve been watching that very closely, and I think we will continue to watch that as we deal with the issues that keep coming up about the South China Sea.”
The man posing as (Polish PM) Morawiecki asks Haley what the United States plans to do about the fictional island of Binomo………”

I know that Binomo exists, so does Donald Trump, so do the American people…
Nikki Haley confirmed it the other day, when some imposters they tried to prank her (another quote): “we are aware of development in Binomo, we have been following them keenly…...”….
Nikki Haley (same week): “We have proof that Iran fired a missile from Yemen into Saudi Arabia….” No this large rusty cylinder is not a garbage can.

I am guessing there is no exam to take in order to become governor of South Carolina. Nothing like Board Exams or GRE or Quals and Orals for doctoral candidates. Apparently there are no requirements to become a senator from the Palmetto State either: witness Lindsey Graham. Come to think of it, what are the ‘rigorous’ requirements to become president of the United States nowadays?

PS: Mr. Trump, when discovering he was pranked, would insist on one of two things: (1) “Bimono exists and the MSM media know nothing“, OR; (2) “I knew all along it was a prank, I just wanted to see how far they’d take it

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

A Dichotomy of Protests: Streets of Iran, NFL Fields……..

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

A Dichotomy of Protests:
Kaepernick, Kaepernick, Kaepernick……
NFL, NFL, NFL…..
Iran, Iran, Iran…….
Fire and Fury, Fire and Fury, Fire and Fury…..
Right of Protest and Freedom of Expression…..

(FYI: this political outrage in Washington, it is all about regional rivalry, stupid)

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

After JCPOA and UNESCO: Will the USA and Israel Join the Arab League?…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

President Donald Trump has taken the USA out of a whole bunch of international institutions, agreements, and deals. From the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the Paris Climate Accord, to the United Nation’s UNESCO organization (Mr. Trump and Israel both withdrew this week).

He is on the verge of breaking and violating the JCPOA (the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran). He is also threatening the NAFTA deal with Canada and Mexico. Early in his term he threatened US ties with NATO, the bedrock of the Western Alliance since after the last world war.

For most of the rest of the world Mr. Trump is not the usual credible American president. He has very little credibility. He is not liked (to put it politely) anywhere in the world, with the exception of Israel and some Arab royal palaces (and maybe in Manila). Predictably Netanyahu made a short speech welcoming Trump’s non-withdrawal from JCPOA, while the controlled Saudi media cheered on.

So here is a suggestion: why not declare the United States, and Israel, as members of the Arab League. They can start as observer-members. It is all an incredible fantastic circus anyway……….

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

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

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


“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

 

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

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking


“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

Which Saudi King will Visit Donald Trump? What about Sisi, the Big Magical Globe, and Male Exotic Dancers…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

“Saudi Arabia’s king will visit Washington in early 2018, according to a White House readout on the monarch’s latest call with Donald Trump.The three-sentence statement did not elaborate on the substance of the US president’s conversation with King Salman bin Abdulaziz, other than to note the two leaders discussed “ways to continue advancing shared priorities, including enhancing security and prosperity in the Middle East”. However, it did state that the Saudi monarch had agreed to visit the White House “in early 2018″…….”

My very own global correspondent has added: Saudi King Salman will visit Trump early next year, if he is still king of Saudi Arabia. Otherwise the new king, so far slated to be his favorite son Mohammed Bin Salman (affectionately called MBS in the palace), will do the visit. The timing of the Washington pilgrimage/Hajj in that case will depend on if and when the new king replaces his father on the throne.
It almost like a race: whether the royal visit precedes or follows the new king taking the throne. Some Saudi exiles who claim to know are betting that King Salman will not be king for long: some give him weeks, others give him only a few days from now.

My global correspondent also is not certain if the Saudi King will try to create a certain magic of the Riyadh Summit last May. That would require that he bring along a certain magical white ball (globe), and perhaps Generalissimo Sisi of Egypt as well, as per this following photo and my appropriate comments at the time—>

 

No, not this one below, this was just an irreverent Scandinavian mockery of some serious global Arabian/American magic of the May summit—>

It is also not clear whether the king will ask for a complete recreation of the magic of the Riyadh Summit in May. Complete with the Guru Stephen Bannon, Herr Doctor Sebastian Gorka (PhD), the all-male Arabian exotic sword dancers, and the other more fetching accoutrements.


Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

A Season of Hurricanes: Role of Western Duplicity in Unleashing the Kim Jong Un Crisis…….

Shuwaikh-school1 Me1 (2)Sharqeya-Baneen-15

KuwaitCox2 Hiking

What a  week it was…
First came Hurricane Harvey and its terrible human and economic effects…..
Then we were reminded of Hurricane Kim Jong Un and his missiles
Not to mention Hurricane Trump and his incomplete gaggle of cabinet members and assistants. The Trump Administration leaders have all apparently read The Art of the Deal“, and they seek to apply it to international relations. Adapting a New York real-estate businessman’s experiences as gospel for how to deal with Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Europe and others is an act of folly. And the most eager adopter of this hustler’s Art of the Deal is the UN ambassador, Nikki Haley.  A very dangerous development, which neither Defense Secretary Mattis (not necessarily a moderate) nor Secretary of State Tillerson may be able to offset. Haley seems to speak for Trump (probably also to Trump), in his language, when she tries to bluff the rest of the world. It will not work.

Which brings us back to North Korea. The Trump administration has been urging North Korea to “come to the table”, but the goal is obvious:  Give up your nuclear weapons and you will find us reasonable, if not downright friendly.
And don’t mind the wink, wink. Don’t mind what is happening to the Iranians now with tightened sanctions and daily threats of war….

Except that Kim Jong Un, detestable dangerous dictator that he may be, is not that stupid. He knows what happened to Saddam Hussein (Iraq) and Muammar Gaddafi (Libya) when they gave up their WMDs under Western urging. He sees and hears and reads the daily threats of war and new sanctions by Donald Trump and the spineless US Congress (both parties) against Iran AFTER she accepted a deal to reduce her nuclear program under JCPOA. Kim may be unpalatable, but he is not stupid. Here is what I posted here last July 6. Read it:

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