Tag Archives: Arabs

IDEX and MAGA in MENA: How Arab Regimes Buy More Weapons to Kill Other Arabs……

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Arab kids in IDEX candy store…

“The world’s largest military fair is wrapping up in the United Arab Emirates. The IDEX exhibition attracts mainly African, Arab and Asian officials who are shopping for weapons. For defence companies at the fair, it’s a highly lucrative market. Never since the end of the Cold War have countries spent so much on defence, with deals worth a total of 100 billion dollars signed worldwide last year. Our correspondents report from Abu Dhabi…….”

They call it IDEX (the International Defense Exhibition), but much of it is not defensive. It is a new form of Newspeak. Most of those Arabs who buy the weapons have not been attacked by anyone in recent history, at least not in a quarter century. Those few who have been directly attacked were attacked by other Arab regimes (let’s leave Israel out of the equation here: these weapons are aimed at other Muslim/Arab states). Many of the rich Arab buyers are actively involved in wars in other poorer Arab countries. Some of these oligarchies are also stockpiling weapons to help repress their own people’s aspirations. Western weapons bought by Arabs from foreign “friends” to kill other Arabs.

Sometimes the local potentates get “commissions” from weapons deals (an important consideration). In some cases the weapons purchases are used to exert political influence on the exporting Western governments (British governments have been easy targets for such blackmail, and occasionally the French as well).

As Donald Trump would say or tweet (but he won’t in this case): Sad! So Sad! …….While he runs to the bank.

According to SIPRI data:
Saudi Arabia ‘s share was second largest world weapons importer: 7% of total international arms imports in 2011-2015 (compared to 2.1% in 2006-2010). The United Arab Emirates (UAE) share was fourth largest weapons importer: 4.6% in 2011-2015 (compared to 3.9% in 2006-2010). Each imported more than much bigger countries. But then one of these two Arab states (Saudi Arabia) has been engaged in indirect wars in Syria and Iraq and both are engaged directly in Yemen (active air and land war against local Yemeni forces). Saudis were the largest importers of total American arms exports (9.7% in 2011-2015), while the UAE were the second largest (9.1%).

Some of these Arab-bought weapons find their way into the killing fields of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Possibly other places as well. In an era when revenues are declining and poverty expands even in petroleum-producing countries. Helping Make Arabia Great Again.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

 

Arab Leaders Blowing in the Wind: Torn Between Many Lovers…….

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The Arab regimes that care, mainly in the Gulf region, have failed to devise and implement a strategy against the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East. Military attempts in Iraq and Syria (via insurgent Jihadi proxies) have failed. An extended and ferocious destructive bombing campaign with Western help seems to have failed against the fierce Yemenis. Attempts at forging various reliable foreign alliances, from Turkey to Africa, have failed. Now they think they have a chance at a reset with the Trump administration, but that is probably just another illusion.

A leading Saudi newspaper editor, Mr. Turki Al Dakhil who is close to some potentates, has asked Saudis to launch a campaign on Twitter and other social media praising Donald Trump’s criticism of Iran. In the process also exaggerating it. Many, including the huge official Saudi Electronic Army have been tweeting hashtags (most common hashtag has been #TrumpWarnsIranianTerrorism or something like it) supposedly egging Mr. Trump on, pushing him toward a confrontation with the Iranian regime.

Wahhabi extremists, Salafis, ISIS fans, Al Qaeda fans and other assorted fans of Jihadi cutthroats are all suddenly tweeting in praise of the new President of the United States.

Remember when President Obama complained to the Atlantic Magazine last year that some Arab oligarchs in the Persian Gulf were trying to get the USA to join their regional sectarian conflicts? They are now trying to egg Trump on to fight their sectarian war in the Gulf region and possibly beyond. Only a few weeks ago they were blasting Trump as an Islamophobic racist, now they are clinging to him as a potential war ally. The last great (very) white hope.

Of course this is not new. After the fall of Baghdad in 2003 some Arab autocrats tried with George W Bush to provoke yet a new Gulf war. But he turned out smarter than that, less cooperative. Obama was even more skeptical of the Arab oligarchs, especially after the uprisings of 2010/2011 started. So, the oligarchs soured on Obama and hitched their wagons to Benyamin Netanyahu of Israel. As they waited for their old Clintonista friends to retake the White House.

Netanyahu talked tough against the mullahs, but he would not go to a risky war for the sake of Wahhabi kings and princes who don’t even recognize his country. You see, I suspect that much of Netanyahu’s bluster about the Iranian regime was to divert attention from the settlements in the West Bank (he has been warning since 1995 that Iran will have a nuclear weapon within six months). Some Iranian leaders helped him along with their absurd and bigoted comments about the Holocaust and their silly “Death To” slogans. The Iranian hardliners are good at milking these hostile slogans to their advantage in the Middle East, even if they harm their country’s interests in the halls of power in the West.

Enter Donald Trump and his frustrated hawkish former generals and cultural religious racial warriors.

So that is where it stands now. The Arab oligarchs are suddenly admirers of the American leader they called a clown only a few weeks ago. They think they have a chance against Iranian expansion with Trump, given that the president is surrounded by hawks and by cabinet members and advisers who have been close to the Iranian Mujahideen-Khalq opposition group.

Trump promised to avoid foreign wars and focus on America, but he is now making ominous noises. Will he go to war for his new autocratic admirers? Hopefully not: the Middle East has had enough of foreign meddling and Western wars.
Just help defeat ISIS and Al Qaeda, Mr. Trump, then get the hell out. You don’t belong in the Middle East permanently. The Iranians and the Arabs (and Kurds and Jews and others) belong there, and they have for thousands of years.

Cheers

M. H. Ghuloum

Cameron Steps Down: Inspires Several Arab Kings to Hara-Kiri……

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Hara -Kiri: “suicide by disembowelment,” 1856, from Japanese, literally “belly-cutting,” the colloquial word for what is formally called seppuku “cut open the stomach;” from hara “belly” + kiri “to cut.” Dictionary.com

“Britain’s David Cameron said he would resign as prime minister on Wednesday, paving the way for interior minister Theresa May to take over the job the same day. Cameron said he expected to chair his last cabinet meeting on Tuesday and then take questions in parliament on Wednesday………..”

Rulers in the Middle East, Arab and Muslim, are probably amused. That someone they think has power would give it up. Especially someone who has been their ally, their helper and supplier of weapons of war and repression.
In the Middle East, almost nobody ever resigns or steps down voluntarily. Not only leaders, even top bureaucrats, even lower bureaucrats hang on for decades. As for rulers, be they kings or dictators or other Muslim theocrats, blood can flow first: and I don’t mean Hara-kiri although it would be something to avoid beholding…..

Wouldn’t it be nice to read, for example, that a couple Arab kings of the kleptocratic sectarian despotic school of thought have decided to quit? Without giving the throne to their sons (well, maybe to a daughter for a change). They can take their loot and their brood, their leeches, with them to Europe, given safe passage from wherever they have been looting in a kingly fashion.
One can dream, even an impossible dream……

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Do They Really Hate “US”? Rudyard Kipling and Misplaced American Phobia……..

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Go send your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need

To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild—

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child

Take up the White Man’s burden
In patience to abide
To veil the threat of terror      Rudyard Kipling (on America)

CNN network has been pushing a documentary show with a totally silly but sensational attention-grabbing title Why Do They Hate Us. Complete with a couple of the usual well-worn “Islamic” or “terror” experts from the Indian Sub-Continent.

I saw only parts of the show (or program). It gives the impression that Americans are agonizing over Islamic terrorism, which is real, and over why they are not loved over there. I got some news for all Americans: it is true that many of the Salafi Wahhabi Muslims hate Americans (and Europeans as well); but not nearly as much as they hate other Muslims of different sects.

Almost on any single day, the Muslim victims (Shi’a and Sunni) of terror bombings in Baghdad exceed the total the number of Americans killed by “terrorism” since after September 11; that is fifteen years of American agony and Islamic phobia. The same goes for most European countries. Last June, a Saudi ISIS agent blew himself up inside a crowded Muslim Shi’a mosque in Kuwait City. The total dead were 27, plus hundreds wounded and crippled. That is probably more than the number of Americans killed by Muslim terrorists in the USA since September 11, 2001.

If you could read Arabic, a beautiful one of the most expressive of languages, you’d know that most of the vitriol and hatred is usually directed at Shi’a Muslims, and maybe Alawites and other Muslim minorities. Not at Americans. Most of the exhortation in Arabic Wahhabi social media is to kill Shi’as or the Magi (Persians). Or Arabs of another faith. Most of the complaints about America are mainly that this country is helping “the enemy” or the “other” with bombing terrorist hideouts.

It is true that many in “allied” countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and surprisingly many in Egypt, either hate or dislike some vague identity called “America”. But that is the product of Wahhabi ideology, a once-small Islamic sect that has spread from Central Saudi Arabia and across Asia, Africa, and Europe. Fed with oil money and Salafi clerics from the Arab world and South Asia.

Across the Arab and Muslim worlds there is a kind of love-hate attitude toward America. A large part of the people wish to evolve civil societies where institutions rule rather than entitled dictators or clerics or a handful of tribal families. That is an American ideal, at least that was the American trajectory for a long time, although this has become debatable now.

And the fact is, many Arabs also seek (some even yearn) to be recognized by the West (America) as moving toward some local version of that ideal, be it real or illusory. I know, I know, some Arabs would complain that this is pandering to the “white man”.

But facts are what they are: facts.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Inshallah: a United States of Political Paranoia on Social Media?……..

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“An Iraqi student at UC Berkeley was removed from his Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Oakland earlier this month when a woman overheard him speaking in Arabic and reported him to a Southwest employee…..

UPDATED: Adds new @SouthwestAir claim eavesdropping passenger said she spoke Arabic – not yet clear that’s true.
The Intercept @theintercept
Iraqi refugee kicked off plane for speaking Arabic says Islamophobia boosts ISIS http://interc.pt/1SgOIQB by @RobertMackey

Wajahat Ali Verified account ‏@WajahatAli Apr 17
I explain “inshallah”after this #SouthwestAirlines fiasco where a Muslim kid was kicked off for speaking Arabic……….”

And so it went. But the fact can’t be denied: a young man, apparently an Arab, was kicked off a flight because a fellow passenger heard him speak what she thought was Arabic and “reported him” to the crew. The kind of stuff you’d read in old thrillers of Nazi Germany (no exaggeration here).

Inshallah: God Willing……… Every Muslim and Arab  says this when asked to do something or when asked if he/she will pass her exam or succeed or….. I suspect even some Arab Christians say it, since it means God Willing.

All this precedes the current poisonous Republican election campaign of 2016. Many times people, families, Arab and/or Muslim, some of them possibly Christian, have been reported removed from flights across the USA for suspicion of speaking Arabic (it could be Hindu for all the other passengers know). Since when is the suspicion of a language grounds for serious discrimination?

And does that make everyone who speaks Spanish an illegal? Or anyone who speaks Chinese (Mandarin…..) a spy? Or any unarmed black teenager who speaks and dresses a certain style a life-threatening thug that should be shot immediately?

This is not about one airline. I must add that I and my family here in the USA have had dealings with Southwest Airlines in the past three years with no problem. No signs of prejudice whatsoever. Nor have I experienced any form of prejudice in other venues or with other institutions and businesses. Even with my first name which is the most Muslim of names.

No, I am not blaming the social media for rapidly spreading, embellishing, or  magnifying the news. Not yet.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Obama’s Middle East Doctrine: How Familiarity Bred Contempt……..

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Familiarity breeds contempt……….

The American and Middle East media have made a lot of President Obama’s recent long interview with columnist Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic magazine.

The result has been called the Obama Doctrine. In the series of interviews he complained, correctly, that much of the problems of the Arab states, especially those on the Persian Gulf, are the creation of their ruling elites. He also complained how the princes and potentates (he named Saudi Arabia) have tried to drag the United States into their sectarian campaign, and to drag him into another Gulf war against Iran. The coup de grace for the princes and potentates was his suggestion that they have to ‘share’ the region with Iran. This only further enraged the American neoconservatives, the hawks of both parties who have not heard of a new Muslim war that they did not like or encourage.

Back to Barack Obama. For years Mr. Obama has been facing a three-front war of warmongers: Gulf allies, Israel’s dominant right wingers, and American hawks in the Senate and in some think-tanks. And the lobbyists funding most elected officials. All pressing him to launch a couple of new wars of choice in the Middle East: a big one against Iran and a smaller one in Syria.

I believe that his other problem with some of the above has been partly racial. Not only with some Republican-Tea Party types at home, but also with some Arab leaders and with Netanyahu of Israel. The fact is that these Arab leaders, most of them, are used to dealing with white American leaders. Most of them have deep prejudices, even as they themselves are quite swarthy. A form of nuanced racism that lingers across the Arab world toward foreigners other than Westerners.  These potentates grew up seeing men like Eisenhower, JFK, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, even John Wayne bring order (or mayhem, depending) to countries or to towns like Abilene or Dodge City on the screen. Then suddenly John Wayne of Rio Bravo is replaced with Cleavon Little of Blazing Saddles.

It is partly psychological and partly racial. Suddenly and unexpectedly the leader of the Free World is a guy who looks to them like a neighbor or a cousin, albeit a lot smarter, more cultured, and better looking. How can you expect a Saudi king or prince or a UAE potentate to defer to someone who looks like one of his nephews, or even one of his many black servants who are barely this side of slavery? Well, much better looking and much smarter, but…….

Mr. Obama, on his part, got to know the princes and potentates well over the past years, too well for their good. Inevitably he developed a deep and healthy degree of contempt for them. And who wouldn’t? In that case familiarity was bound to work as the famous saying goes.

To add insult to injury, the failed Arab uprisings of 2011 uncovered how naked the  Arab emperors, the ruling elites, were. From the giant emperors in Cairo and Tripoli and Damascus to the little wee emperors in Sanaa and Manama. For a few glorious weeks the Arab masses pulled off the sheets to show how naked their leaders were underneath.
It was a brief spring that was followed by an even colder winter than ever. That was when the worst of them, the oligarchs, the moneyed kings and princes took over after the protesters were killed, imprisoned, exiled, cowed, or bought. They bought the Arab uprisings, from Egypt to Syria to Yemen. In fact they have bought the whole Arab League, which they now mostly own. With a couple of exceptions plus Tunisia, and Algeria.

Now, like some here in the USA, they can’t wait to go back to dealing with a “real American” leader. One who looks like the previous ones. It would be a great divine justice if they get Bernie Sanders, whom they will dislike for more than one reason and these reasons are all obvious.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Middle East Democracy: Between Bibi and Sisi and the King of Kleptocracia………..

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  • Al Sisi (Egypt): Al won almost 98% of the vote in a very weak turnout. He had a weak opponent who should have boycotted the “election”. Not that he needed it: the generalissimo was already in power before the vote. He even promoted himself to Field Marshal before the election.
  • Bibi Netanyahu: he is struggling now to keep his job. In spite of the stunt he arranged with the U.S. Congress and the circus in Washington. He is behind by 2-4 seats. Might manage to hang on if he can kiss enough extremist little party arses (even more extreme than he is). Somebody did that in Germany decades ago and became chancellor.
  • Bashar Al Assad: he got 88% of the vote in a very imperfect not-exactly-free election (I am being polite here) at wartime. Oddly, he very likely even won a majority of the Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. Which makes me wonder: who were they escaping when they crossed the border?
  • AbdRabuh Hadi (Bin Zombie of Yemen): a favorite of the GCC potentates, the general won an “amazing” 99.8% of the vote and he had no opponent (so who did the 0.2% vote for?).
  • Hassan Rouhani (Iran): won barely above 50% of the vote.
  • Generic King WhatIsHisFace (of Kleptocracia): 100+%, always.
  • Shaikh Khalifa Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain: he has been 43 years in office, beats the late Gadhafi and closing in on Queen Victoria. 100+%.
  • Mahmoud Abbas (PLO): Lingering in office until death do them part.
  • Actually Iraq may shape up as a good experiment in parliamentary democracy. If they can shake off sectarian and ethnic conflicts. The prime minister has changed twice in peaceful elections, even though the Jihadi terrorists are waging war. Most Arabs don’t like to admit this, but it is the case.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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Will the Next Knesset be Arabfrei?……..

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Have Yourself a Merry Little——-> Kenny G. Holiday 

Judenfrei: “free of Jews” (German term used by Nazis)

“The fate of Israel’s embattled Arab parties is in the balance as Israel’s next parliamentary elections approach. The election season officially started last week when Knesset formally dissolved itself, setting an unconfirmed date at the polls of March 17, 2015. Yet as campaigns take off, the question of Israel’s smaller parties and the survival of Arab political groups in particular is in the background. Presently there are 12 Arab members of Knesset (one from the far right group Yisrael Beiteinu, four from mixed Arab-Jewish parties, and seven far Arab-identified parties), yet next year’s early elections will be the first since Israel raised the voter threshold to require 3.25-percent of the popular vote in order for a party to secure a seat in Knesset, which will impact the number of representatives from smaller factions. None of the Arab parties has reached this threshold on its own…………”

I was shocked to read that there is an Arab member of the Knesset from Yisrael Beiteinu, the strongly anti-Arab party of foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. I mean the guy is reputed to prefer to send all Israeli Arabs to humorless Jordan or to somewhere farther but as humorless like Abu Dhabi.

The Haneen Zoabi affair and its noisy aftermath must have rattled the right-wing Israeli establishment. Another defected former Arab Knesset member has been ensconced in Qatar for a few years, from which he hits the Aljazeera TV circuit, also owned by the rulers of Qatar.

Will the next Knesset be Arabfrei? I doubt it: the Israelis are quite aware of the importance of having Arab members. Even the most right-wing rabidly anti-Arab among them.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

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So, Who Won the Gaza War? Bil Mishmish to Jerusalem………

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“After a 50-day conflict in Gaza that ended with inconclusive results, leaders of Israel and Hamas are struggling to convince their war-weary constituents that the costly campaign has brought them real achievements. But analysts say that the ultimate outcome of the fighting is yet to be determined, with talks on substantial points of contention deferred for up to a month as an indefinite cease-fire takes hold. At a news conference on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel had emerged from the campaign with “a great military achievement and a great diplomatic achievement.”………..”

“Poll: Israel didn’t win Gaza war, Netanyahu still best choice for PM” Haaretz Headline (8/27/14)

Palestinians did not hesitate to call the Battle of Gaza a victory. One militia leader was even talking about reconquering Jerusalem yesterday. Israelis, if they could respond in Arabic, would have been excused for saying in Arabic Bil Mishmish (بالمشمش = in the apricot (lol) = ForgetAboutIt). Many Arab potentates from the Nile to the Persian Gulf would love to agree with that Israeli assessment. Not because they are patriotic Zionists or Likudniks, but because they want Hamas of the Muslim Brotherhood dislodged from Gaza at any price. Just as they dreamed wildly a few years ago of Israeli help in dislodging Hezbollah from Lebanon, an even more unrealistic goal.
Arab leaders seem like an overly optimistic lot. They have rarely hesitated to call a battle a victory, no matter what the actual outcome. Saddam Hussein famously claimed victories after his wars with Iran (1980-88) and with the international community (1990-91). At the beginning of the 1967 War, Arab governments were famously proclaiming that their forces were approaching Tel Aviv even as the IDF were smashing their armies on all fronts. And let’s not revisit the 1973 War.

But then again, this was not a conventional battle in Gaza. In such a murky semi-urban warfare, if a regular better-armed force does not achieve its goals, then it can be seen as the loser. If the Israelis are seen as having “not won” and Hamas is seen as having “not lost”, then the balance tips to Hamas. It is probably too early to make that judgment, assuming we know what the initial goals were. But it is telling that some Israeli politicians are already criticizing Netanyahu for conceding too much in Cairo.

The next few weeks will tell.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Cinematic Political History of the Middle East………


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Some film titles and what they might mean in the Middle East:

American Dream: peace in the Middle East

The King and I: Al Sisi after his visit to the  Saudi king on his plane.

The Hustler: Netanyahu visits with Obama.

The Count of Monte Cristo: Morsi dreaming of escape from his military prison at Chateau d’If.

Slumdog Millionaire: the nightly dream of every South Asian laborer working on Qatar’s World Cup projects.

Dangerous Liaisons: arming the Syrian opposition militias.

Return of the Mummy: Hosni Mubarak visits Al Sisi at Qubba Palace.

The 300: Iranian embassy in Baghdad.

The 3000: Iranian embassy in Damascus.

The 30,000: political prisoners in Egypt.

Lonely are the Brave: Iranian embassy in Riyadh

Lonely are the Brave: Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Ali Baba and the Forty-plus Thieves: a history of Bahrain (or some other Gulf country).

King Lear: Prince Bandar wandering between projects destabilizing Syria and Iraq and Lebanon.

The Sheik: anyone who has any influence in the UAE.

The Wild Bunch: ISIS, ISIL, Al Nusra,  Al WTF

All That Money Can Buy: Saudi foreign policy

The Prince and the Paupers: Saudi Prince (any prince) walking down certain Riyadh streets he usually avoids, runs into people he usually does not see.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: take your pick……..

The Idiot: no comment.


Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com