“ABU DHABI // The Gulf states last night threw their weight behind the idea of a no-fly zone over Libya, as they took a tougher line against what they termed human rights violations by Col Muammar Qaddafi’s regime. “The ministerial council demands that the Security Council take the steps necessary to protect civilians, including a no-fly zone in Libya,” the Gulf’s foreign ministers said in a joint statement late last night after a meeting at the Emirates Palace hotel. Calls for the imposition of a no-fly zone to protect rebels from bombing raids by Col Qaddafi’s military have been gathering pace in recent days. Gulf officials expressed growing frustration with Col Qaddafi’s violent repression of rebels calling for an end to his four decades of rule, saying Libyan authorities have rejected humanitarian aid from the Gulf and refused to distribute it to its citizens…….”
That is a good precedent. A no-fly zone may be just what the doctor ordered for Eastern Libya. But what about a similar zone for our Gulf? Like a zone of exclusion where no military forces can cross, like across the bridge-to-Bahrain zone? That would keep certain foreign troops from entering Bahrain to help shoot down its people, if it comes to that again. There have been some reliable reports that Saudi forces helped the al-Khalifa put down the protests of the 1990s. There have also been some reports that Saudi ‘assets’ tried to help during the current uprising. Hopefully it won’t come to that. But would the potentates of the Gulf agree to that kind of ‘zone of exclusion’? Would Western powers agree to it?
“The other reason is the length of the individual rule. While the Saudi regime renewed its popularity through new leaders taking turning ruling, the regimes in Egypt or Tunisia were not renewed, nor was the regime in Libya or Yemen. All these years that Qaddafi ruled all by himself, Saudi Arabia saw several kings: King Faisal, then King Khalid, then King Fahd, then King Abdullah….. Four kings changed while Qaddafi remained in power…….”
This regular columnist for the Saudi semi-official daily Asharq Alawsat (owned by Prince Salman) is obviously saying that individual Saudi kings did not rule for that long, and that this is a good thing. He says that Mubarak (who he used to praise before last February, and they all wanted his son to inherit the throne) and Qaddafi lasted too long, did not allow others to take their turn.
This writer has one or two problems, or maybe both: (1) either he does not realize that Saudi kings give up power not willingly but because they die! The only Saudi king to give up power before he died was Saud who was overthrown by his brother Faisal and some of his other brothers in a palace coup. (2) He is just being cute here with us readers, thinking us too stupid to get point (1). That is: he is trying to pull a fast one.
The point he is making is that leaders, including kings, should not last long (although Saudi King Fahd ruled for about a quarter of a century). Now this is something the Saudi princes may not look kindly on. I mean King Hussein of Jordan ruled for over forty years, and his son may rule for forty more. King Faisal may have ruled for almost that long had he not been shot by a nephew. If the al-Saud dynasty lasts, some young king will come to power who may rule for forty years. Is he saying they should be overthrown after, say, ten years? Interesting concept.
“Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived Friday on an unannounced visit to offer American support to the royal family and prod the king and the crown prince toward talks with protesters ……. Here in this tiny Persian Gulf kingdom, security forces firing what protesters said were rubber bullets and pro-government Sunni vigilantes wielding sticks and swords beat back a rump group of several hundred protesters who were among the tens of thousands of Shiite demonstrators who were planning to march toward a particularly sensitive area: the Royal Court in Riffa, the preferred residential neighborhood for the ruling family and the Sunni Muslim elite. Its manicured lawns and wide streets contrast sharply with the narrow alleyways and raw cinder-block houses where many of the majority Shiite Muslims live…….In his Friday sermon, Sheik Isa Qassim, the most senior Shiite cleric, said the king was falsely depicting the demand for basic rights as a rift between sects. “Our demands are political ones, and have nothing to do with demands for a sect or segment of society,” he said at Friday Prayer, “We are demanding democracy.” ……..”
“One protester, a teacher who identified himself only as Nabil, says he is not interested in any dialogue with the royal family. “Our grandfathers tried them in [the] 20s and 50s and 60s and 70s, we had a problem with them. And in 80s, 90s and now as well. They say, ‘OK, let’s sit at a table and see what you want.’ And we believe them every time. And every time they lie. So no trust for this family now,” said Nabil…….”
“And we believe them every time. And every time they lie….” This is about right. This succinctly (succinctly: I have loved this term since graduate school days) tells the story of the people of Bahrain with their rulers. It is a tough problem for Mr. Gates to solve, which means it is an even tougher problem for Jeffrey Feltman to solve. Besides, Mr. Feltman is busy elsewhere: most Lebanese believe that he is already the shadow prime minister of Lebanon, no matter which side is ‘officially’ in power. Most Arabs believe that as well. Actually the daily al-Akhbar (Beirut), admittedly no friend of Mr. Feltman, claims that he is running the Hariri (the right-wing March 14) political operation.
“The prosecutor in the assassination case of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri said he filed an expanded indictment on Friday. The indictment remains secret and the names of the suspects under investigation have not been released. The prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, said the amendment “expands the scope” of the initial indictment he filed in January. A spokesman for the special tribunal in Leidschendam, the Netherlands, said it could take months for judges to review thousands of supporting documents…….”
I am beginning to feel that the indictment changes, expands, and shrinks with the political variables in our region. Nay, it is not just a ‘feeling’, it is a fact. Maybe they, the West, have decided to add Ahmadinejad to the list (the fact that he was elected after the Hariri assassination is probably immaterial to this tribunal). They may decide to put back Bashar Assad, or they may decide to add Hosni Mubarak, now that he is out of office. I have even toyed, just now, with the idea that they may add one or two Mossad operatives: but I think that was Hasan Nasrallah’s idea. Besides, Mossad usually needs about 38 people to assassinate one man nowadays. I just hope they don’t decide to add to the indictment list the Dubai Chief of Police or Qaddafi. I know: how about Muqtada al-Sadr? He would be a convenient suspect.
This Gulf columnist is fast becoming one of the most boring newspaper writers on my Persian-American Gulf. Only one of them: there are many others. Perhaps one of the most boring in the whole Arab world (although that would be a tough prize to win: too much competition). A few of his colleagues may give him a run for the money. He now writes regularly for the Saudi semi-official Asharq Alawsat (owned by Prince Salman). Here he is, again, insinuating that the movement by the people of Bahrain for equality, freedom, and democracy is ‘foreign instigated’. He means Iran, of course. By doing so he is insulting the majority of the people of Bahrain, while pleasing the autocrats and their patrons on the mainland. This is part of the ‘narrative’ being pushed by the Saudi, Abu Dhabi, and the Bahrain rulers to discredit the protesters, the people.
So, by the logic of this media gunslinger and others of his ilk, if you oppose the apartheid regime in Bahrain you are a foreign agent. If you call for true elections you are a foreign agent. If you call for an end to forty years of corrupt government headed by the same man you are a foreign agent. But wait: most of the people of Bahrain oppose the apartheid regime and want true democracy and want a new government. Does that make them all “foreign” agents? And do they need advice from a “foreign” writer for a ‘foreign” newspaper on how to run their own country? And who is now meddling in the internal affairs of another country?
(Speaking of ‘foreign’ influnces: Secretary Gates flew into Bahrain this weak, right after Mr. Feltman spent three days sunning there).
Iranian mullahs go bi-polar and worry about the British. They did not say why the British, they never say, but I suspect it is because it is easier to sell “hate the British” than “hate America” to their people. Many Iranians have American relatives now. Maybe some mullahs don’t realize that Churchill is not only out of power, but has been quite dead for almost half a century.
The ruler of Qatar continues to play his cards close to his chest (no problem there, a lot of space), realizing after watching hours of Qaddafi tapes that silence is more than golden. The Emir does get a petition for ‘reform’: I hope he didn’t write it himself, just to make things interesting for his surely bored people (they must feel that the world is passing them by).
Saudi princes had thought they owned the status quo: they had thought their people were winners of the Gold Medal for Conformity. Mufti Shaikh Al Al-Shaikh is so upset he may decide to take another wife (as will his cousin and head of the appointed Shura Council, one of the other Shaikhs Al Al-Shaikh). Friday’s Day of Rage may have fizzled in Saudi, only worked in the Eastern Province (al-A’hsaa, al-‘Hasa: you name it). The sectarian angle plus the loyalist Salafi shaikhs on the payroll plus flooding the streets with security men, carried the day again for the regime. For now.
I am beginning to suspect something about the Saudi people: the princes may be right, and many of them may prefer to see the world pass them by. That is a boring thing these days. I am not sure if it is the case for most of them, yet. Which means that perhaps the Saudi princes deliberately keep their people bored either by doing nothing or by making periodic public statements or by just doing things, anything. Some people are like that: they have a talent for boring their people no matter what they do or don’t do (Iran’s Ahmadinejad has that same talent for boring, but he is not quite as good at it as the Saudi princes, nobody is except for the Abu Dhabi and Bahrain potentates). I recall once watching a news tape of Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, and I had a hard time staying awake, and afterwards I did not remember any important points that he had made, if any. This talent for boring has so far served the al-Saud well, and it may safely get them through this year of revolutions, that and their guns.
The ruling family of Abu Dhabi decide to upgrade: from the world’s second biggest importer of weapons to the world’s first biggest importer of weapons in the world (as their foreign minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Bin Sultan al-Nehyan may have said, or maybe not). They may also decide to import a couple of million more Asians, just in case. They are still up there on the boring scale, at least the top few of them.
The King of Morocco, and whoever/whatever of Mauretania, figure that the wind is blowing to the east and they have ample time to get ready. These last two have forgotten about the ripe rotten Algerian fruit that could fall at any time and sweep away Bou-whatishisface and screw up their plans big time.
The Saudi daily al-hayat reports that some Saudi clergy, who are “experts” in electronically stalking extremists have come up with a new idea. They are now focusing their efforts on trying to get those who provoke “disturbances” and instability in Islamic and Arab countries to accept their advice and what is essentially “re-education”.
The Shaikhs who have inspired this are all senior Saudi royalist clergy, including the Minister of Islamic Affairs Shaikh Saleh Al Al-Shaikh (damn, they have so many of these Al Al-Shaikhs in ministerial positions) and Shaikh Saleh Al-Lehaidan and Shaikh Saleh Al-Fawzan and Shaikh Saleh al-Sadlan. Notice how all four dudes are named Shaikh Saleh? Do you still think this is a coincidence if I tell you that Saleh is the Arabic for ‘pious’? No they are not some kind of a ‘barbershop quartet’; none of them has even been a barber either (they have been to barbers but not for their beards). They have all, the four Shaikhs Saleh, stressed that protests and demonstrations and sit-ins against the regime, even if they do not involve toking, are haram (taboo, not kosher) according to their version of the Islamic Shari’a.
The group treat these four Shaikhs Saleh, who are just doing the bidding of their royal paymasters, as if they are the three Magi coming out of the east to see baby Jesus.
Now I have my own fatwa on this issue, which I shall repeat here: these four Shaikhs Saleh, and the clergy stalkers who follow them, and the potentates who finance them, are all considered haram, tabu, not kosher, etc.
Arab and Western media had thought 2011 looked like a boring year, just a break between American elections while the world waits for the next episode in the Israeli-Iranian or Israeli-Palestinian novellas.
Until a desperate Tunisian youth (Bouazizi) burned himself alive in December, and most Egyptians suddenly remembered a skinny young blogger (Khalid Said) who was beaten to death last summer by Mubarak’s police thugs. The revolution started.
Now Arab and Western media are excited now, as never before since the 1979, or maybe since 1917, or maybe 1789.
- Democratic Israel is upset, subtly blaming Obama and asking for more money and weapons to confront the threat of this new democratic Arab wave.
- American officials are uncertain whether to be upset or not. They have shown bi-polar symptoms, a k a some hypocritical tendencies. They worried about the revolt against Mubarak and Ben Ali, welcomed the revolt against Qaddafi and heartily cheered the protests in Tehran. They ignored the lingering revolt against the dictator of Sana’a (Yemen). They seriously frowned upon the revolt by the people of Bahrain (I suspect they more than frowned upon it privately: they tried to play a game of chess whereby someone else suggests their moves). I knew that the Bahraini revolt would get no traction in the officialdom of the United States as soon as Mr. Feltman flew into Manama last week and spent several days. No statement yet from Senators McCain and Lieberman yet that, yes, “Today we are all Bahrainis”, and not necessarily “Today we are all al-Khalifas”. That is natural: a Western, or any foreign, power looks after its own national interests before it looks after the interests of the people, any people.
Tony Blair puts his middle finger to the wind, maybe to a British public that he thinks has under-appreciated him. Or maybe to the traditional mores of the Labor Party, whom he sold to BAE Systems and Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. He has an epiphany, and says the ‘uprising’ in Egypt has to be ‘managed’. Presumably by himself.
Silvio Berlusconi thinks it is all amusing and tries again to call Hosni Mubarak’s dancing ‘niece’.
Sarkozy gets chronic ED, so he calls for air strikes on Qaddafi in Libya (expletive self-censored).
More reactions later. Cheers