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……….
M Haider Ghuloum
There are more recent reports of something called an Arab Human Rights Court, what I (and anybody with sense) would call Mother of All Contradictions. Reports that the Arab League’s current owners have chosen Bahrain as headquarters of the so-called Arab Human Rights Court are apparently not a joke or a prank.
There is or will be an entity called the Arab Human Rights Court. I am guessing, an expensively educated guess, that its specialty will be to prosecute human rights advocates in the Arab countries. And to try and bully foreign and international NGO’s who support them.
The report of its location in Bahrain? Just adding a bit of insult to injury, telling the Arab peoples what their rulers think of them and of their level of intelligence. But then they don’t care what their peoples think anyway.
It is aimed at the outside world. An Arab court can and will always issue verdicts in support of these despotic regimes. Friendly Western media from the Washington Post to CNN, and friendly Western regimes like the one in Britain can point to these verdicts and repeat them like mindless zombies, as alibis.
Terrible. Yet when I first read about this project months ago I could not help laughing. Imagine four terms: Human Rights, Justice, Arab League, Bahrain. How can they all fit in one sentence, one paragraph, or even one page without provoking frustrated mirthless laughter?
Frustrated mirthless laughter is supposed to be more seemly, for men at least, than frustrated weeping which would be the more honest relieving reaction.
This is the equivalent of having a huge sign hanging over the whole bloody Arab World:
Arbeit Macht Frei……..
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
About Free Speech…
Can it be free at a price?………..
Tell our leaders…….
So what is this “free speech” that many constitutions claim to allow but few actually do? Especially in the Middle East:
- The Arab League considers free speech, to the extent that it considers anything seriously, as whatever each existing government in power wants it to be. Especially those regimes with deep pockets.
- In Egypt, free speech is whatever does not criticize the president and insult the armed forces (apparently there is some difference), or mentions Mohammed Morsi without adding the term “deposed” as a prefix. Or anything that does not point out that Egypt (or even Cairo) are not, as the natives and a few Arabs claim, Mother of the World.
- Al-Azhar sheikhs in Cairo define free speech as their interpretation of the Holy Quran, the Hadith, and more importantly whatever the current president of the country says.
- Less stable and more violent Arab countries have a more flexible definition of free speech. In Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, free speech is more nomadic: it depends on which part of the country you are in (and on who you are). Which might be considered by some as an improvement over what it is in other Middle East countries.
- In Somalia, Sudan, and Djibouti, also considered “Arab” countries, you ask anyone about free speech and he or she might respond: WTF is that?
- Free Speech in the whole “Persian-American” Gulf region will be covered in the next post, right after this one.
- Western powers consider free speech in the Middle East as whatever encourages the ruling avaricious oligarchs to spend more money on weapons of death and repression.
- Ist das klar?
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Sweden is one of a few ‘Western’ nations that has had good relations with almost all Muslim or Arab countries. They even recently recognized “a” palestinian state, whatever that may happen to be. That is not to say that I like all their successive governments. Sweden has even started dabbling in arms-for-money deals with despotic absolute Arab regime, including Saudi Arabia, in recent years.
The foreign minister of Sweden was invited to speak to a meeting of the Arab League (actually it is a Saudi-UAE League) a few days ago. The Saudis decided to prevent her from speaking, and they did. Shows you who “owns” the Arab League. The rest of the Arab delegates were as silent as chopped liver. They were afraid that, being a Suédoise, she would mention the unmentionable: “human rights”, “corruption”, and maybe even worse. The shaikhs may have fatwa-edd that uttering some of these words would send anyone straight to the fires of hell.
Now Sweden has decided to review its policy of supplying arms to the Saudi regime. Which pissed off the Saudi princes, who usually feel entitled because they believe their money makes them entitled to a lot of special European ‘consideration’. The princes have recalled their ambassador to Stockholm. Which has depressed the ambassador, since he will have to spend not only St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, but also the coming beautiful Swedish summer in the arguably the most boring capital in the whole wide world, Riyadh.
That is where things stand now…..
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Reference my last post on the American blame game for the Caliphate of ISIS (it almost does not sound so ridiculous saying it now: Caliphate of ISIS). Arabs diverge somewhat about the blame for Iraq and Syria. The blame for the Caliphate of ISIS is put squarely on everyone else:
- The Arabs outside Iraq, even those on the Gulf, still blame the American invasion of Iraq. Some of them even blame the Desert Storm campaign of 1990-91. Most of these same Arabs tend to forget that the invasion of 2003 and the earlier campaign were launched from their own territory, not from San Diego or Tehran. That they were all active participants, from Abu Dhabi to Cairo.
- The oil princes and potentates who meddle the most in Iraqi affairs quietly blame America. Loudly, from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi to Doha, they blame Iraqis and other outsiders like Iran. Cheekily, they also blame the sectarianism that they themselves have unleashed inside Iraq and across the region.
- Mr. Netanyahu has largely stayed out of this conflict in Iraq and Syria. Why muddy the waters when your enemies are at each other’s throats? Largely out, but not completely out, no doubt. But he probably blames Iran for it all, prescribing a permanent blockade of that country as the best way to solve all world problems, from Iraq and ISIS to Ebola to global warming.
- Many Arab princes and potentates agree with Netanyahu, but most other Arab who are not princes and potentates violently disagree with him.
- The Qataris still blame Hezbollah and Iran and maybe Russia, but they are also angry at fellow Arabs who side with opposing Islamist factions. They seem to have lost the overt battle over which Jihadist group will dominate the armed Syrian opposition.
- The Emiratis (of UAE) feel like they have spent tens of billions (possibly hundreds) on Western weapons, and that they should at least go on record as having used them. So, they sent one woman and probably a couple of mercenaries to bomb some silos in Syria. The woman pilot’s family and tribe typically disowned her once they got the glad news.
- The Saudis blame everybody else except their own policies, their ideology, and their money and Jihadi volunteers. They also sent a couple of pilot princes to bomb some silos in Syria as a well-publicized contribution to the war against their ISIS progeny. No report yet if any woman was involved for media PR coverage.
- One funny Manama source reported to me that Bahrain offered to volunteer to send its foreign minister. She believes he was so relieved that the offer was rejected.
- Stay tuned……….
Back to my last post about President Obama’s ISIS speech:
One or two of the experts, in their post-speech comments, lamely suggested the Arab League, a useless gathering of mostly dictators and absolute tribal kings with little moral standing. It is now dominated by the same princes and potentates who spawned and nurtured groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS and their ilk.
Among many ordinary Arabs, the only standing the Arab League bureaucracy has is as a standing joke. A place to bury aging senior Arab (especially Egyptian) bureaucrats before they die. Only Western, specifically American politicians and pundits would suggest the Arab League as a mover and shaker, and with a straight face. But that is probably only because it can be useful to them as a fig leaf.
Don’t get me wrong, the idea of an Arab League can eventually be a good one, nay a necessary one. But that can be only after all member states hold free and unfettered elections. You figure out the timetable.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum