An Internet Iron Curtain over the Persian-American Gulf………

     
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As Middle East regimes try to stifle dissent by censoring the Internet, the U.S. faces an uncomfortable reality: American companies provide much of the technology used to block websites. McAfee Inc., acquired last month by Intel Corp., has provided content-filtering software used by Internet-service providers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to interviews with buyers and a regional reseller. Blue Coat Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., has sold hardware and technology in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar that has been used in conjunction with McAfee’s Web-filtering software and sometimes to block websites on its own, according to interviews with people working at or with ISPs in the region. A regulator in Bahrain, which uses McAfee’s SmartFilter product, says the government is planning to switch soon to technology from U.S.-based Palo Alto Networks Inc. It promises to give Bahrain more blocking options and make it harder for people to circumvent censoring. Netsweeper Inc. of Canada has landed deals in the UAE, Qatar and Yemen, according to a company document. …….

Now U.S corporations are providing the technology for these unsavory regimes on the Persian-American Gulf to block and possibly identify dissidents and locate them. Ironically they are helping to weaken and kill the Internet, an American invention, one of America’s greatest modern gifts to humanity. Arab regimes have been trying to coordinate the suppression of the Internet for a few years now: they are good at cording suppression. The Saudi have “led” the way this past year with new rules to suppress the internet. The Saudi rules now require every blogger to obtain permission from the ministry of information, answer certain questions, and apply for a license. That and the usual “state security” background check are enough discourage many. But I imagine many bloggers can “base” their blogs overseas. The UAE had issues last year with the Blackberry manufacturer because the regime wanted to be able to spy on users. Eventually the company (Research in Motion) gave in and the users lost.
I wonder what technology the Iranian censors are using. Most likely the same.

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

A Suspicious Saudi Confederation on my Gulf…………

        
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The Saudis are beginning to push the idea of a “GCC confederation” again. This time the push is directly from Saudi media (which is all official and semi-official, unless the publisher is in exile). This writer in Saudi daily al-Riyadh is making it sound urgent to establish the al-Saud hegemony over the smaller states of my Gulf, in preparation to swallowing them into the Kingdom without Magic.

As I wrote last week, the idea has been floating around the Gulf states in recent months, and it is being revived these days. Pro-Saudi Salafis and a handful of pro-Saudi media writers (some of them most likely surrogates encouraged or funded from Riyadh) are calling for a ‘confederation’ of the GCC Gulf states. One irresponsible columnist even called for a “quick confederation”, and he was covered extensively and gleefully by Saudi media. None of these worthies advises seeking people’s consent through referendums, or a vote on the issue: such is the state of watermelon opinion-makers on my Gulf. The potentates are seen as owning the countries to do with whatever they wish. One or two have become obsessive compulsive about it, repeating this frequently. They use fear of Iran as a factor, as well as stoking suspicion and fear of local Shi’as (minorities in all the GCC except Bahrain). The pro-Saudi tweeters (or possibly Saudi agents) are also pushing this idea.

I opined last year that it will not get anywhere. The Gulf states range politically from an absolute monarchy system to a partial democracy (I am not including Bahrain among the latter). The Saudis may think that this will solve the problem of pressures for democracy and accountability. A solidly despotic regime on the Saudi mold would be a strong front against Western and Arab pressures for openness, they probably think. It would also bring all other GCC states down to the Saudi and Bahraini levels in the treatment of their minority Shi’a (Shi’ites). That last point is very important for the Wahhabi Kingdom without Magic. For the Salafis around the Gulf it would mean that all GCC states become socially Saudi-like: more power for the clergy, no social reforms, women safely kept at home. And no politics: absofuckinglutely no politics! Salafis would gain more ‘political’ power as their patron regime, the Saudis, would dominate the new confederation as a prelude to swallowing it.

One early serious problem with such a scheme is that the rulers of the smaller states are not as stupid as the Salafis and Saudi surrogates in their countries think. They are all protective of their own turf and would never accept such a plan, although one or two media outlets may pay lip service to it. The al-Nahayan of the UAE are almost as autocratic as the al-Saud and would never give up one iota of power to their own people or to foreigners. As for Oman, it has always had little real interest in any form of integration, always looking across the Persian-American Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Then there are the peoples of our region who value their independence and way of life, in spite of all the media noise that hint at the sun actually shining out of the ass of some Saudi prince or another. In other words, such a plan is not only impractical, but dangerous for the peoples of the Gulf states. It is DOA. Only the al-Khalifa of Bahrain may agree to such a hegemony, but then any regime that invites occupation and torments its own people would go far to cling to absolute power. br>
Therefore, I repeat my recent fatwa that this plan is a hair-brained scheme or, as we would say on the Gulf, “مشروع بطيخ” a watermelon scheme.

Cheers
mhg

Goebbels of Arabia: A Feudal Lesson in Democracy………..

     
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No doubt suppression will buy the regime, any regime, more time, but it will not lead to safety. The simplest examples are those of Saddam’s Iraq and Mu’ammar Qaddafi. They tried all methods of oppression, but the time for change came… Can Damascus continue to try a journalist for weakening national resolve or a teenage blogger for threatening national security? This cannot continue in view of recent changes in our region….. If Egypt becomes truly democratic it may limit presidential terms, and the same may happen in Tunisia and Libya. Can the Syrian regime then remain the only static case in the face of all this change?….. Developments from which Syria cannot be isolated say that Syria has no choice but to do more reforms, It is time for Damascus to start some real reforms in allowing political parties and term limits……There are no magical solutions but real reform…….

You might think this paragraph was written by someone who is a devout republican democrat, someone who believes in power to the people. It was not: on the contrary, it was written by a spokesman for the Saudi regime. It was written by Tareq al-Humaid, the chief editor of Saudi semi-official daily Asharq Alawsat, owned by Prince Salman. I would not call him Goebbels: that would be a flattery.
These people truly believe that everybody around them can reform and democratize (except Bahrain under its apartheid), but that they should maintain a feudal system in the Arabian Peninsula. An anomaly: a most backward system anywhere in the 21st century. To read him agonize about people power and democracy and term limits, you’d think their absolute king is about to announce a new republic, the princes to give up their power. These people truly believe they are entitled to maintain their own system of absolute one-family feudal rule even as they urge others to reform. They never asked Bin Ali or Mubarak or the al-Khalifa to reform, but they are eager for Assad to do so. It is true that Syria is a dictatorship that should open up and allow free elections of its leaders. But the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula and Bahrain and the UAE and Qatar also deserve the same freedoms (so do the Iranians).
Truly a case of a pot calling a kettle black.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Curious Council of Ministers of Bahrain……..

     

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Bahrain cabinet:

  • King HAMAD bin Isa al-Khalifa

  • Prime Min. KHALIFA bin Salman al-Khalifa

  • Dep. Prime Min. ALI bin Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa

  • Dep. Prime Min. KHALID bin Abdallah al-Khalifa

  • Dep. Prime Min. MUHAMMAD bin Mubarak al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Culture MAI bint Muhammad al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Finance AHMAD bin Muhammad bin Hamad bin Abdallah al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Foreign Affairs KHALID bin Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Housing IBRAHIM bin Khalifa bin Ali al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Justice & Islamic Affairs KHALID bin Ali al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Interior RASHID bin Abdallah bin Ahmad al-Khalifa

  • Min. of the Royal Court KHALID bin Ahmad bin Salman al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Royal Court Affairs ALI bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa

  • Min. of State for Defense Affairs MUHAMMAD bin Abdallah al-Khalifa

  • Min. of State for Cabinet Affairs AHMAD bin Atiyatallah al-Khalifa 
  • Chief of the Central Information Organization, AHMAD bin Atiyatallah  al-Khalifa

  • Chief of National Security, Abdulaziz Bin Atiyatullah al-Khalifa

  • Commander of the Army, Khalifa Bin Ahmad al-Khalifa

  • Commander of Rapid Deployment Force (Royal Guard), Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa

  • Chief of Royal Charity, Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa

  • Chief of the Olympic Committee, Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa

  • Chief of the Higher Council for youth and Sports, Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa

  • Chief of the Royal Team for Ability, Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa


(Get the picture? One of the above was changed recently).

Everybody else:
Dep. Prime Min. Jawad bin Salim al-ARAIDH Min. of Education Majid bin Ali Hasan al-NUAYMI Min. of Electricity & Water Fahmi bin Ali al-JAWDAR Min. of Health Faysal bin Yaqoub al-HAMMER Min. of Industry & Commerce HASAN bin Abdallah al-Fakhru Min. of Labor Majid bin Muhsin al-ALAWI Min. of Municipal Affairs & Urban Planning JUMA bin Ahmad al-Ka’abi Min. of Oil & Gas Affairs Abd al-Husayn MIRZA Min. of Social Development Fatima bint Ahmad al-BALUSHI Min. of Works ISSAM bin Abdallah Khalaf Min. of State for Follow-Up Affairs Muhammad bin Ibrahim al-MUTAWA Min. of State for Foreign Affairs Nizar al-BAHARNA Min. of State for Shura Council & Parliament Affairs Abd al-Aziz bin Muhammad al-FADHIL .
(One or two of these has resigned in protest)

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Arabian Peninsula: She Said Kings, When they Enter a Land…….

     
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“She said: Kings, when they enter a land, they ruin it, and make its noble people its meanest, thus do they behave…….”  Holy Quran (Saurat al-Naml)

The Arabian Peninsula is now the home of tribalism and sectarianism. One goes back to long before Islam, the other sprung from Islamic history and goes back to the early decades of Islam. Some things have not changed in 14 centuries. This has been a signature characteristic of the region from the Persian-American Gulf to the Red Sea, especially along the Gulf. While tribalism has always been part of life, Gulf sectarianism has in recent years, nay in recent weeks, acquired a venomous quality that is almost breath-taking:


Yemen. Abdullah Ali Saleh blamed his earlier troubles in 2009 on Iran and al-Qaeda (that was during the last Huthi War, maybe the fifth one). He has multiple foes. The Huthis are only in the far north. The people of the south, Aden and Hadramout and others, want to regain their independence that they gave up in 1990. Al-Qaeda wants to keep on using Yemen as a training ground as well as a safe haven and launching pad on the Arabia Peninsula. They are not welcome in Saudi Arabia anymore, although they apparently get all the money they want from “someone” in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Saleh has not resorted to the “drugs” charge because almost everybody in Yemen chews “qat” and effectively gets stoned at least once a day.

Bahrain. The oligarchy in Bahrain, always sectarian and tribal, has blamed its troubles with the people on Iran mostly. If there is Iranian interference, they certainly provided the climate for it. Only recently have its propagandists started to blame drugs as well. Bahrain officialdom has been rife with corruption and sectarianism since the early 1970s when the al-Khalifa suspended the constitution and ended politics. The period since then has been one of theft and robbery of public property and of enshrining the sectarian Apartheid system. The regime even resorted to importing mercenary thugs from Pakistan and Jordan and other places to fill the security ranks because it does not want to hire Shi’as. They have now resorted to inviting foreign forces (Saudis) to crush the people for demanding their rights. In recent days the regime has started, as Time Magazine reports, a reign of terror against the people. Bahrain is becoming a carbon copy of the absolute tribal family monarchy that is Saudi Arabia: they both follow a policy of Apartheid, except in Bahrain it applies against a majority of the people.
 
Saudi Arabia. The long alliance between the al-Saud princes and the fundamentalist Wahhabi clerics endures. Note how many ministers and clerics are named Al Al-Shaikh, descendants of Mohammed Bin Abdulwahhab (the Najdi shaikh and not Mohammed Abdelwahab the late great Egyptian musician and singer). Saudis pretend there are no such earthly problems in their Kingdom without Magic. Unemployment is in double digits (up to 40% among the young reported ), and the king recently announced opening tens of thousands of new jobs, all of them in the security services! They hint at some Iranian interference in the Eastern Province (largely Shi’a), but they have not blamed it on drugs yet. They certainly can’t blame it on Islamic fundamentalists, because the whole kingdom is one fundamentalist hotbed of a kingdom. Maybe the al-Saud will use the ‘drug’ card if (nay, when) the people rise in Najd or Hijaz to demand their God-given rights.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

North Africa: Some of the Usual Suspects…….

     
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North African leaders, like other Arab leaders, are not very creative. They also have mostly tended to blame the uprisings on the same unlikely factors. The culprits are always a combination of Islamists and drugs (one also added that old Arab stand-by Zionism and the new stand-by Iran):
 
Tunisia. Home of the first Arab revolution (still ongoing as the people want to make sure they get the democracy they fought for). Dictator Bin Ali, to his credit, did not blame the unrest on drugs or Iran or al-Qaeda or crusaders. Not that I know of. He was more dignified than all those who followed, especially in Libya or Bahrain: he left when the people made their wish known.
Egypt. For decades Mubarak convinced the West that he was the only thing between Egypt and al-Qaeda (well, al-Zawahiri). That he stood blocking another Arab-Israeli war. He tried again last January to play the al-Qaeda card, but it was wearing thin. Maybe the dictator believed it. He had help from his Saudi allies in that task: they and the Emirati and Bahraini rulers stuck by him to the end, urging him to defy his people. He did not listen to them and in the end proved more honorable than, say, the Bahraini monarchy that chose to kill its people with foreign help. People could see that the young rebels at Tahrir did not wear Taliban Turbans or Salafi ghutra & egal, so he switched to drugs. Some of his frustrated henchmen even claimed that drugs mingled with free sex at Tahrir Square.
Libya. Qaddafi has blamed his troubles on al-Qaeda and drugs and a Western crusade. He himself looks stoned out of his head whenever he appears publicly. on the upside: he made ‘zenga zenga‘ a household word around the world.
Algeria. The French have been gone for fifty years, so Bouteflika and his generals cannot blame them. The Islamists were once a serious danger in the 1990s: they had won one election and were poised to win a bigger one, before the ruling class decided to cancel all elections. That led to a long and gruesome civil war. It can happen again if the dictatorship refuses to open up and allow competition.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Problems with al-Qaeda, Drugs, Iran: Jordan and Syria…………

     
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A protester died after security forces broke up clashes on Friday between supporters of King Abdullah and protesters calling for reform, and the government warned it would not tolerate “chaos.” Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit blamed opposition Islamists for the clash in the pro-Western monarchy, which has seen weeks of protests calling for curbs on the king’s powers……..

Arab leaders are not very creative. From Libya to Bahrain they have all tended to blame the uprisings on the same unlikely factors. The culprits are always a combination of: Islamists, Iranians, and drugs (one or two also added those old Arab stand-bys; Zionism and Masonism and Feminism and Trotskyism). This is not to deny that the Islamists, or Iranians, or drugs have some role in these troubles. But they are tiny influences if at all. The main influence is the regimes and their corruption and oppression.
Jordan and Syria. Both countries are police states with an important difference: in Syria you can tell you are in a police state (at least I did some years ago). In Jordan you can’t tell right away that you are in a police state, but you will when necessary. Jordan exports more security agents and interrogators than Syria, mostly to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Both regimes have blamed Islamists for their troubles. King Abdul’s thugs are as efficient as al-Assad’s (or the other Arab despots).
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Time on a Reign of Terror in Bahrain…………..

     
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“I need to leave Bahrain,” he says, voice shaking. “What channels can I use?” By all accounts, Bahrain’s protests have had the wind knocked out of their sails the past two weeks, as the government systematically shut down the opposition’s operations. Leading activists were arrested en masse, many in pre-dawn raids. The headquarters of opposition group Waad was torched. As Manama was put under martial law, 100 Saudi Arabian tanks arrived on March 13 to help police the streets. Salmaniya Medical Center, a main gathering point for protesters and the country’s most sophisticated hospital, was essentially locked down. At checkpoints around the city, masked thugs pulled drivers out of cars at the slightest suspicion of anti-government activity, often beating them senseless. A kingdom had imposed a reign of terror — with anecdotes and examples of how vengeance is exacted. “The injuries, the bullet holes, are always in the back — as people are leaving,” one official said. ……….”

It is a reign of terror, largely sectarian, but not only that. It is also tribal. There are prominent Sunni opposition figures under detention, like Ibrahim Sharif al-Sayed who heads a secular democratic group. He may be the target of more of the wrath of the ruling despots and their Salafi allies because they have tried to make the Bahrain uprising a purely Shi’a-Sunni sectarian issue, and people like him disrupt their propaganda.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Prince Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah Goes Hollywood……..

        
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“Hair-dresser turned movie producer Jon Peters confirmed that he sold 5.2 acres of land in Benedict Canyon to a Saudi prince who now plans to construct an 85,000-square-foot compound on the site. Prince Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud, a son of Saudi King Abdullah, purchased three adjacent parcels in 2009, Peters said. Property records list the sale price at $12 million. The Times reported Tuesday that the proposal had stirred heated opposition among neighbors, who include Bruce Springsteen and Michael Ovitz. Project opponents say they have gathered the support of about 500 residents, who contend the project would harm the canyon’s environment. …….”

These snooty California neighbors don’t even want a royal prince in their neighborhood. No respect anymore. Imagine, a fuckingroyal prince and Bruce Springsteen is turning him down! What is “The Boss” compared to a prince or to a Hollywood agent like Ovitz?  Enough to make any prince lose faith in such silly ideas as democracy and equality. He may end up pleading that it is a Zionist plot, the scoundrel. Could be that their experience with the Qaddafi sons has made the stars wary of Arab potentates?
You’d never ever read this item in any Saudi newspaper or television network or website or even on Kilroy’s famous toilet wall. This is the first installment of the new money the Saudi government announced last week to provide housing for people. At least they are being uncharacteristically fast about it.
(FYI: Jon Peters started as Barbra Streisand’s hair-dresser. She dumped her first husband, married Peters and made him into a film producer, before dumping him too).

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Gulf: Buying Arms and Media and the Internet…………….

        
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The United Arab Emirates and Qatar don’t care about democracy either. The Qataris only want to be able to buy every huge building & store in Europe & Asia & America. They also want to keep Aljazeera as the most popular Arab news network. They have al-Qardhawi in Egypt who they think will be influential, but he is a television shaikh, and young people look at TV shaikhs as being a little clownish. I doubt that many Egyptian youth pay much attention to him. Hell, I wouldn’t, and I am not young or Egyptian.

The United Arab Emirates
are even less inclined toward democratic values than Qatar. The potentates of Abu Dhabi just want to be able to buy every modern warplane and missile systems and tank and warship in the world. I hear they are in the market for a satellite to buy, which may indicate that the shaikhs believe all the UFO and extraterrestrial stories. They have been the second biggest importers of arms in the world in the past five years according to SIPRI. This for a country that has less than one million citizens (the other four million of the population are temporary foreign laborers, housemaids, and gardeners, mostly from South Asia). The way they are buying weapons, you’d think they are trying to speculate by hoarding, or maybe plotting to take over Saudi Arabia. Their shaikhs also want to buy as many and British soccer clubs as they can. Oh, and they like to be able to buy the best race horses in Britain.

The Saudi princes are into media big time. Obviously they are into other things as well because their numbers keep increasing. They have been buying Arab media furiously in the past few years. They own such well known outlets as Asharq Alawsat, al-Hayat, al-Arabiya, LBC, MBC, ART, etc, etc. They want to buy every Arabic newspaper & magazine & television network around, and they can afford it. They even own the whole Arab Thought Society, such as it is. They have never forgotten that Nasser of Egypt almost overthrew their dynasty with his strong media message. In fact the Saudis would like to buy the whole Internet and shut it down.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Multidisciplinary: Middle East, North Africa, Gulf, GCC, World, Cosmos…..