Category Archives: US Foreign Policy

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

 

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

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

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“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…….

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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

Donald Trump’s Mission Accomplished in Afghanistan: Defying History, Bluffing the Taliban……..

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President Trump was quoted after his Afghanistan speech as stressing that “in the end, we will win in Afghanistan“.
He is going for a victory in a region where no foreign power achieved lasting victory in some 200 years. He is imitating the famous George W. Bush claim of “Mission Accomplished (in Iraq)’. Only Trump is doing it backwards: he is already predicting that he will accomplish the mission, whatever the mission is. Most likely the best mission at this stage is to get out.

Mr. Trump left the details of his Afghan plan vague, meaning there is no real Afghan plan. He is trying to bluff the Taliban, just as he tried to bluff the North Korean regime and Iran and failed. War is not a real estate deal in Manhattan, war doesn’t lend itself to bluffing.

The real Trump plan is most likely based on a desire to avoid being called “the loser of Afghanistan” before the 2020 elections. So he will dabble in the Afghan war for a couple of years, bide his time, shoring up the hopelessly corrupt regime in Kabul. just as Nixon shored up a corrupt regime in Saigon for a few years and ended up losing all of Indo-China.

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

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

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

Fallout of Donald Trump’s Poisonous Middle East Visit to Saudi Arabia……..

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Donald Trump‘s Middle East visit was not only the most expensive ever for his Saudi hosts, reportedly to the tune of about $460 billion that they cannot afford. The princes may even be forced later to scale down and stagger payment of some of what many natives consider a “ransom” paid to Trump. If and when the dust from his unfortunate and disastrous visit to the Arabian Peninsula ever settles down. (Already some independent Arab media claim the Saudis are canceling big weapons deals with Turkey, presumably a result of the Trump holdup)

The visit is proving a most poisonous event, one that has raised passionate sectarian tensions to levels that even Al Qaeda and ISIS could not do. Having a world superpower take direct sides in a sectarian conflict largely created by Trump’s new regional allies and urging one side side to “go for it”. That will also prove disastrous for US foreign policy. If the princes are foolish enough to take Trump at his words, they would see his speech as an invitation for them to escalate, with a promise of American collusion and participation in the event of a new war.
(Of course, some of the princes may know, like we do, that Trump is prone to exaggeration, that his word can’t be taken seriously. Hopefully that is the case, but still, so much lethal hardware in the hands of a spoiled young prince….).


First came the accession of King Salman and his rash son. Almost a future reckless Saddam Hussein of the Arabian Peninsula, if the past two years are any indication.

Then enter Donald Trump, whose knowledge of the region is focused on how much money he can extort from the native princes and potentates. An incompetent and greedy Western leader who is after loot: that is how most Arabs and Muslims see him. Regardless of the propaganda headlines of the controlled and royally-owned media of some Gulf GCC states.


Trump‘s Saudi visit was the most poisonous event for the Middle East since the accession of Saudi King Salman and his son, in itself retroactively an event that started the slide towards deeper more open sectarian conflict in the Persian Gulf and the wider Arab World.

The American visitor and his clan were not even out of Riyadh before the fallout from his visit started to poison the air over the Persian Gulf to a degree unprecedented in modern times.

More on this later…..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum