Breaking News: Prince Bandar Found Alive…………..

     
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Prince Bander Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud briefed the Prime Minister on the Saudi perception of the situation in the Gulf and Middle East and their stance on the current political developments in the region. The socio-economic difficulties in some areas of the Gulf and Middle East affected the political environment, he added. The process of dialogue started in some Gulf countries had helped to understanding the problems of the people, he said, adding dialogue and reconciliation is the only mean to move forward. He expressed confidence that the economic packages announced during the recent GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) meeting would help to bring about peace, prosperity and economic development of the entire region…….. Saudi Arabia, he reaffirmed, will always stand with Pakistan to confront any challenge and support any initiative to further expand the bilateral ties. Our thinking and approach on international issues have remained the same and would continue in future as well, he added……..

Breaking news!
Prince Bandar found alive! Alive but not sure how well.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Fifth Columns in the Gulf: Iranian Threat, Saudi Threat……….

     
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For some years now, it has been perceived by many that the only threat to the Gulf states, the GCC, came from Iran. Iran is a large strong country that is quite militarized and it has been expanding its sphere of influence well beyond the Gulf and the Shatt al-Arab in recent years. It also has an ancient history of domination of the region up to the Mediterranean Sea and into Egypt. Political changes in Iraq after the fall of the Ba’ath regime amplified the notion of a modern Iranian threat. The defeat of the Israeli invasions of Lebanon by Hezbollah in 2000 and 2006 also amplified this Iranian threat around the Gulf, given that Hezbollah depends on Iranian money and weapons.
The Saudi government has focused on the Iranian threat since at least 2005. By that time the Saudis had acquired and built the largest media empire anywhere in Europe and the Middle East: newspapers, satellite television channels, magazines, and general entertainment outlets, Only Aljazeera stood as the competition to Saudi domination of Arab media. Alarabiya, Asharq Alawsat, al-Hayat, ART, LBC, MBC, Rotana, etc, etc: these are all Saudi owned, either by princes or their relatives, and hence they are all official or semi-official media.

In the past few years the vast Saudi media started to amplify the “Iranian threat”. So far so good: that is fair enough among governments and nations. It also started to do some serious sectarian “Shi’a-baiting”, slowly at first but gathering speed after 2006. Soon they were all but accusing the local native Shi’as of their Eastern Province of being a fifth column (in their own native territory that preceded the arrival of the Saudi invaders from Najd). They were joined in that by allies from among the Arab despots such as Mubarak and King Abdul of Jordan. Mubarak’s state security started to uncover “Shi’a cells” dedicated to converting Egyptians. King Abdul of Jordan reportedly established a special branch of his security services dedicated to hunting down Shi’as bent on spreading their “faith”. I suspect all this was to keep the al-Saud and their Wahhabi clerics happy.
Not that the Iranians could not have been a threat. A huge militarized country like Iran can always pose a threat to its smaller “neighbors” under certain circumstances. If one chooses to disregard the huge American navy and other Western forces controlling the Gulf.

Then came the Arab revolutions which spread eastward and into Bahrain, an island that practices its own version of Apartheid. Before Bahrain, the al-Saud and their fundamentalist Salafi agents have been for some years trying to disrupt and sabotage the political process in another member country of the GCC. There is no political process in Saudi Arabia. The Bahrain uprising and the Saudi incursion divided the Gulf region deeper along sectarian lines, and much of the blame for that goes to the Saudi and official Bahraini media and their agents in another Gulf state. The goal has been to scare people and throw them into the lap of the Saudis: an old game often played by nations. And to kill the Arab Spring on the shores of the Gulf, in the bloodied streets of Manama and the villages of Bahrain.

Now a combination of seeing the tanks rolling easily into Bahrain and calls by Saudi Salafi surrogates for a Gulf “confederation” under Saudi control is giving some Gulf people second thoughts. Some people, hopefully enough people. The tanks rolled into Bahrain, and I don’t expect them to leave any time soon, if ever. These two factors have also reminded some people of just how the Arabian Peninsula came to be named after a family, Saudi Arabia. Old Ibn Saud started by re-entering Najd, in central Arabia, with money from a smaller Gulf state in the north, took Riyadh, then continued to conquer Hijaz and al-Hasa and Aseer, etc, etc. They even tried at one point to conquer the country that provided them with seed money to start with, using the Ikhan “militia”.

These recent events and the not too distant history have awakened some Gulf people to one important fact: it is much easier and faster for a land neighbor to send in the tanks than for a force to cross the Gulf. It has also made others aware of another likely fact: if there is a Gulf fifth column with divided loyalties, it is most likely not the Shi’as looking toward Iran, but the Salafis and their “allies” looking back toward Saudi Arabia. Maybe the al-Saud have overplayed their hand again.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

A Sorority of Arab Leaders: Tea & Scones & Suppression………….

     
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Egypt has today stressed Bahrain’s Arab identity and national unity, rejecting any blatant foreign interference in its internal affairs. Egypt’s head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi voiced the strong supportive stance during a phone conversation with His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa. Field Marshall Tantawi stressed his country’s firm support for all the measures taken by the Kingdom of Bahrain to protect its security and stability and safeguard national unity and the safety of all citizens and expatriates, wishing Bahrain continuous security and stability under HM King Hamad’s wise leadership. The two leaders also discussed strong brotherly relations……..

Thus claims the Bahrain News Agency. Arab despots, even temporary ones like Tantawi, always love to exchange “strong brotherly” feelings of appreciation of each other. The Saudis and Qataris no doubt did that just before the coup the Saudis attempted against the Qatari emir in the late 1990s. SaddamFuckingHussein probably did that before he invaded in 1990 (in fact I know he did just that weeks before at the last Baghdad Arab Summit). I swear; if they were chicks, they could all join the same sorority and exchange “sisterly” feelings of appreciation over tea and fattening scones. No, the Arab League is not there yet, although it could be converted to a sorority as easily as in Salafi club or wtf they call it.

The Bahrain Agency did not report that Tantawi asked king Hamad al-Saud for pointers on how to put down and reverse the revolution in Egypt. At which point Hamad would have been tempted to guffaw disdainfully and retort “Tanti, You are as old as my uncle the prime minister who still resents being born too late to be king”. But no, being the polite king that he is, although lately not very kingly, he replied “Pick up the phone, call King Abdullah. Use Skype or Magic Jack. Better yet, if you’ve got an iPhone…..
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Iran Noruz Summit Includes Qatar and Oman, No Assad or Abdullah……….

     
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Mehr News reports that Iran on Sunday hosted a Noruz (Persian New Year) summit attended by the presidents of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, and Iraq. The summit entitled the International Noruz Festival was attended by other foreign guests including Pakistan’s parliament speaker, Oman’s foreign minister, Lebanon’s foreign minister, Qatar’s crown prince, Kyrgyzstan’s culture and information minister, Azerbaijan’s deputy prime minister, India’s union health minister, Zanzibar’s vice president, and the ECO secretary general. The festival was held at Saadabad Palace where Persian artifacts and customs were on display. Four Arab states participated, but no mention of Saudi King Abdullah or Prince Saud al-Faisal attending. Nor did the king or prime minister of Bahrain. Come to think of it, neither did Bashar Assad attend; he must be at least as busy as the leaders of Bahrain. Too bad, Ahmadinejad could have benefited from some pointers on crowd-control by these tow worthies.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Secretary Clinton and Middle East Women and Costco……….

     
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US State Dept tweet:Secretary Clinton: women must participate in all aspects of political and institutional reforms….” I agree with her, although she did not specify if all the wives of the potentates are allowed to engage in such activity. I mean the king of Bahrain had three wives at last count. The potentates of Abu Dhabi keep it under wraps (one of them in Dubai is married to a Jordanian princess). As for the Saudi princes, oh boy, some of them probably don’t know the answer……. Can be costly, too bad Costco doesn’t carry wives……

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

United Arab Emirates: the Price of Silence…………

     
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In June 2008, Ms Gali had her drink spiked and was raped by three to four co-workers, while working as a beauty salon manager at the international resort. When she reported the assault to authorities she was jailed on an adultery charge and spent eight months in prison because it is illegal in the UAE to have sex outside marriage. Australian embassy staff advised her and her family not to go to the media, during her time in custody, where she was locked in a cell with 30 other women. She was pardoned and released in March 2009……. “The UAE is being promoted hugely here as a tourism destination – they sponsor things here. “They are not complying with human rights, women’s rights and migrant workers’ rights.”……..

It is a simple case. She was gang raped, she went to the police, she was jailed for ‘sex outside marriage’, she remained silent, she was pardoned a year later. I also suspect that Ms. Gali is not of “European” descent: UAE authorities have had other cases where they punished female victims of assault, victims who were of Asian or Arab descent. As for the Australian embassy….oy vey.
What I don’t understand” about this “sex outside marriage” charge: what about all them hookers (prostitutes) that the UAE is teeming with?
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Is it Syria in Exchange for Bahrain? the Arba’een………….

     
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The West, especially the United States government, have been quite silent over the oppression and the reign of terror going on in Bahrain. The reactions have been mild, calling for a end of violence by “both sides” and dialog. The US even accepted the Saudi invasion of Bahrain, which raises the question of what would the US say if Iranian troops had landed in Damascus at the invitation of Bashar al-Assad. Of course that will not happen.
On the other hand, the US has been almost muted about the protests in Syrian cities. Ironically, it is the Saudis, through their vast controlled media, who have been calling for reforms in Syria. The Saudis would not recognize reform if it kissed every prince on the nose (as we might say in the Gulf). They mean their kind of “reform” which means a regime that is as subservient to the al-Saud dynasty as Mubarak was, as subservient as Hariri in Lebanon or al-Khalifa in Bahrain have been (or even maybe as the al-Nahayan in Abu Dhabi seem to be nowadays).
In any case, shifts in Syria or the Gulf would be game changers in the region, and there seems to be an understanding that real change in these two regions is not acceptable, yet. Hence Syria will most likely suppress its uprising and institute some reforms with international blessing. Hence Bahrain has called in foreign invaders to suppress its uprising, with Western blessing.
I can be wrong about both: the Syrian uprising may gather steam, and the Bahrain uprising may regain its momentum as the forty-day (arba’een) anniversary of the first regime killings arrives.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

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

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