Tag Archives: GCC

The GCC Game of Musical Alliances: from the Gulf through Africa and Beyond………

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Something strange has been going on recently among member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
They had their summit in Manama a couple of weeks ago, which ended with nothing spectacular to announce. The Salafis of the Persian-American Gulf and the usual Bahrain potentates (both fiercely Saudi proxies) have tried, again, to create some excitement about a possible “union” based on the European model. But it would be a union of ruling families, not based on the popular will, since Kuwait is the only GCC country that has free popular elections. But Kuwait has the misfortune of being stuck between three large and menacing neighboring countries: Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia (the country was invaded by both Iraq and Saudi Arabia in the last century).

The idea of a Gulf union was a no-go, and DOA at the summit: it was not even discussed publicly. Some others within the GCC saw it as a way to formalize a fearsome Saudi attempt at hegemony. They/we all know how the Saudi Kingdom was formed during the last century by swallowing smaller neighboring emirates in the Arabian Peninsula.

After the summit, Saudi King Salman visited every member country except for Oman. Certainly because Oman is the least likely member to follow Saudi policies and wishes. It is odd for the ruler of a member of GCC to start visiting other member states immediately after the summit ends. Why not meet them individually during the summit? They apparently want to send a message to other members and to some Arab counties.

Soon after all that, a Saudi delegation last week visited Ethiopia, a country with which Egypt has serious disputes over the Nile waters. The delegation also pointedly visited a new Ethiopian dam that Egypt claims seriously reduces its share of the Nile waters. That visit created an uproar within Arab media and social media.
But wait, that is not all, there is more (as the TV ads say)…..

Now there is an announcement that the foreign minister of Qatar is visiting, you guessed it, landlocked Ethiopia. Almost certainly just to bother the hell out of the Egyptians.

Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar (and Turkey as well) have just suffered an immense strategic defeat in Syria, when their Jihadist surrogates were forced out of the eastern part of Aleppo. Egypt has been moving towards siding with the Assad regime (and hence by association with Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Russia) in the Syrian war. This has clearly angered some of the Gulf allies who either support the Jihadis in Syria or need to show that they do so for domestic political reasons.

That leaves out the UAE, the third major partner in the Saudi regional alliance. The UAE shares one very important thing with the current government of Egypt: they both hate and fear the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile Qatar is practically a Muslim Brotherhood monarchy (and so close to the Turkish Islamist regime that they have agreed to have a Turkish military base in their country). The Saudis have warmed up to the Brotherhood recently because they are their allies in the Yemen War (through the corrupt Islah Party).
These are fascinating developments that are now unfolding in the Middle East.

As I said: wait, there will be more, and soon. The GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia, have been playing a game of “musical alliances’ in recent years. Since 2011 they have allied on and off with Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Eritrea, Djibouti, Mauritania, Sudan, and now Ethiopia, among others. A list of mainly countries with deep economic problems. And the game of Musical Alliances goes on.

As I said: but wait, there will be more, and soon………..
Cheers

M Haider Ghuloum

The Enemy Within? the Extremist Salafi Islamist Opposition Returns to Kuwait Politics……..

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Kuwait has the most free and open elections in all the Gulf GCC states. The others don’t really have any. She will have new parliamentary (National Assembly) elections in the last week of November. Much of the ultra-reactionary Islamic-Tribal alliance that boycotted the last election has given up and decided to run for office. That should be good news, but in this case it is truly bad news for the country, its social cohesion, and sectarian tranquility.

The Kuwaiti political opposition are a mix that is dominated by Salafis, Muslim Brothers, and reactionary tribal seekers of office. These have cleverly dominated the smaller Wahhabi-Liberal and pseudo-academic types who are nominally secular.

Last time the so-called Kuwaiti political opposition mustered a majority in parliament, their first act was to vote to convert the country into a Wahhabi-Salafi theocracy by instituting the Shari’a literally. Apparently their ideal of a democratic civil society. The proposal got a majority of votes: every member of that opposition group voted for it. Only the few urban members and the Shi’a members refused to support it. Luckily, the Emir thought correctly that it was a bad idea and refused to sign it. He vetoed it and saved the country from the ritual of beheading, crucifixion, public flogging, chopping hands, and other such Wahhabi-Salafi pleasures and pastimes that exist in a neighboring country.

Most of the opposition members had claimed they would not run again until the election laws were changed away from the new one-man-one-vote system, and until one of their leaders is released from prison. They made a lot of noise about ‘principles’ and about a ‘democracy’ that most of them never believed. Apparently four years on the outside have cured them. Basically they have surrendered and, in true Salafist fashion, betrayed their imprisoned ally Musallam Al Barrak.

The years of absence of any political influence and tribal pressures have caused most of them to announce they are running for the November 27 elections. That means that they will again apply pressures to move in the Wahhabi-Salafi direction. To interfere in the private social lives of people, and to start another book-burning episode. Some of them are already announcing their intention to try again to make the Shari’a the law of the land.

And to fan the flames of sectarian tensions that they introduced to the country. They will also start hounding the Shi’as and maybe the few Christians. Last time they were in parliament this Salafi-MB-Tribal alliance asked the government to start “monitoring” the Shi’a religious services. Meaning to spy and intimidate the minorities. Some, possibly many, of these members no doubt will get elected, and they will start making the country and society even duller that it is now.

We shall see soon enough how the post-Thanksgiving turkeys turn out. Certainly no better than the same turkeys looked last time around…..
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Middle East Sands Shift Again in the Mayhem of Post-Post-Arab-Uprisings……

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In the beginning there were the Arab uprisings……
The era of the Arab Uprisings is over. The era of Post Arab Uprisings is over. Now the Middle East is going through the era of Post-Post Arab Uprisings.

The Arab convulsions that started at the end of 2010 were initially expected to usher in a new era of revolution against the stagnant order. That hope quickly shifted as the newly-anointed Arab Center of Power, represented by Persian Gulf oil wealth and Gulf Wahhabi-Salafi ideology basically took over the Arab League and its institutions. Or so it seemed.


But a few unseemly things happened on the way to the royal takeover of the Arab World.

The initial Syrian uprising of 2011, which had been taken over by Gulf-backed Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood Jihadists, stalled. Having been hijacked by essentially agents of even more repressive Arab regimes, it veered into the darkest realm of sectarian and confessional divisiveness, a normal Wahhabi inclination. Foreign intervention has made a solution even more difficult. But the military situation has now decidedly shifted in favor of the Damascus regime and its allies.

In Bahrain, the regime cracked down hard on the uprising of 2011, ‘invited’ Saudi and UAE forces to help its repression, and turned to the old divide and rule policy by going sectarian. That country is still very unstable, heavily dependent on foreign Arab forces and foreign mercenaries to keep order.

In Yemen, the GCC and the UN arranged for dictator Colonel Ali Abdallah Saleh to leave office. But they chose his deputy, another general named Abd Rabuh Mansour Hadi to be “elected” with 99.8% of the vote. Even Kim Jong Un does not get that kind of victory. Hadi was quickly co-opted by corrupt military and tribal forces, along with a very corrupt local version of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Eventually Hadi was overthrown by a rebellion of the tough northern Houthis and elements of the old Yemeni army. He was basically allowed to escape (reportedly dressed as a woman in Burqa).
As the Houthi alliance expanded south into Aden, Hadi (who had resigned AND his term had expired) and his henchmen escaped to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis made the same mistake they had made before, they tried to invade Yemen with a force of hired African and Arab mercenaries. It is now a quagmire, helped by the Obama Administration which arms and refuels the Saudi bombers that commit what is essentially a murderous genocide.

In Libya, the dreams of American and European liberals and conservatives alike were shattered by the aftermath of the overthrow, torture, and murder of Gaddafi and his son. The Western powers had engineered a UN resolution past Russia and China that had wordings that created a loophole for NATO to bomb Gaddafi’s Libya. All based on false claims by opposition rebels. Russia and China have not forgotten that Western deception at the UN, and they are unlikely to vote along the same lines again. Libya itself is now a smaller version of Syria.


The biggest prize as usual was Egypt. After one year of elected Muslim Brotherhood rule, a couple of Gulf states ‘financed’ a series of huge opposition protests and eventually a military coup. Shades of the CIA Operation Ajax in Iran, circa 1953. Egypt was to become basically a satrapy of the Saudi and Emirati potentates, rich but uncultured tribal despots. An absurd notion to anybody who knows anything about ancient Middle East history.

Now Egypt is reported to have swung another way. A media war is raging between Egypt and her presumed Gulf sisterly (or brotherly) bosses, and regional policies are shifting. From Yemen to Syria to Iran, possibly even to the Gulf, Egypt is seeking new alliances and restoration of old ties in the face of a Wahhabi blackmail.
The Egyptian-Saudi dispute has gotten so serious that former Yemeni officials, all Saudi agents who urge the bombing of their country from their comfortable Saudi exile, now are accusing Egypt of supplying the Houthi rulers of Sanaa with missiles.

Other Gulf media mouthpieces have accused neutral Oman of expediting the transfer of Iranian weapons to the Houthis. These are certainly attempts to justify the miserable failure of the expensively-armed and Western-guided but incompetent Saudi and UAE forces to win the war in Yemen.
Another major twist, but it is not over. Stay tuned…..

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

In the Persian-American Gulf: a Tribal Sectarian Island of Mad Snakes……

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An island, or islands, in the sun.

The United States has its largest regional naval base on it.
Britain, its former colonial master and perennial enabler of its despots, is re-establishing a permanent military base on it.

Saudi Arabia has a military base since 2011 when it helped crush a democratic uprising.

Assorted imported foreign mercenaries, goon squads, are based on it: interrogators/torturers from the humorless Kingdom of Jordan, security forces recruited from Pakistan and Syria and other places.

An island of poverty and tear gas once one leaves the Potemkin facade glitter of the capital. A majority of its native people are being gradually ghettoized, terrorized, and disenfranchised by the ruling tribal oligarchy.
Pro-democracy advocates, original natives, and critics of the ruling family are rendered stateless and sent into exile. Often they are arrested on trumped up charges and imprisoned, tortured.
Western powers, especially the USA pay lip service to the need for freedom and equality. Others don’t even bother to pay lip service to the idea of freedom on the island.

The British establishment (government, royal family, and business) are part of the problem of the people of the island. They are the greatest enablers of repression on the island. The royal family of Britain goes out of its way to show its support of the despotic rulers of the island. Idle English princes and princesses of questionable character fly occasionally to show their support (and get Saudi contracts). The despots are often feted at Buckingham and other palaces.

You know which small captive island I am talking about. A small monarchy ruled by a nest of tribal sectarian snakes and thieves, it is very close to the southeastern shore of the Persian-American Gulf. Just across the waterway from the oil fields.

I have called it a Devil’s Island in the past, a slight exaggeration. I have also called it an Island of Tear Gas, a slight exaggeration.
Any exaggeration here about this island is bound to be “slight”.

I will not name names here, leaving it to your knowledge or imagination, although it is a very real island. In the Persian-American Gulf.
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Houses of Glass on the Gulf: the Fatimids, the Magi, and the Safawis Are Coming!……

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اذا كان بيتك من زجاج، فلا ترمي الحجارة على بيوت الاخرين

Let me get this straight:

Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon have been castigated for years by Gulf Arab regimes and their controlled media for allowing Iranian influence (and now allowing some Shi’a militia forces from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon). Some Wahhabis and Gulf tribal-quasi-liberal types call it Shi’a or Iranian occupation. Their favorite term is Majous (for Magi) or Safawi (for Safavid). I am sure they will revive the term Fatimi (Fatimid) soon in Egypt, with the blessing of the largely Wahhabi-ized Al Azhar clerics.

Yet those with houses of glass often cast the first stone. The Gulf states, where these same Islamists and quasi-liberals reign, are full of foreign forces and bases, none of them Iranian or Iraqi or Lebanese. For example:

Qatar has US bases, and now will soon host a new Turkish military base (I called it the Return of the Ottomans). Possibly others. But that is okay: a sovereign country has the right to allow foreign bases if it serves its national security interests.

UAE: at one time almost anybody could establish a base there, even the Canadians had one (I used to half-joke that even Monaco and Belize each may have one). France, Britain, and USA, and Blackwater mercenary veterans from Colombia, Australia and other places have bases. But that is okay: a sovereign country has the right to allow foreign bases if it serves its national security interests.

Bahrain: American Navy, Saudi forces, a new British (old colonial) base, and various imported mercenaries and cutthroats.

Other Gulf and Arab states allow foreign military bases. But that is okay: a sovereign country has the right to allow foreign bases if it serves its national security interests.

Even the terrorist Salafi Caliphate of ISIS is full of imported foreign cutthroats from Arab and European countries.

Nothing wrong with foreign forces and military bases, sometimes they provide security in a rough and dangerous neighborhood, especially in our region. Especially if they are welcome by the peoples of host countries.
But we must not forget that we all have houses of glass…….

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

NIMBY on My Gulf: of Muslim Brothers, Tribal Islamist Politics, Divisions over Yemen, and All That……

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Muslim Brotherhood “thinkers/propagandists” in the Gulf region have been recently blasting the UAE government about developments in the southern Yemeni city of Aden. Apparently the UAE is exerting some influence in that port city.

They are too fearful to criticize the Saudis (or their Bahraini appendix) openly, since local Saudi (and Bahrain) embassies in the GCC states have been actively pressing host governments to prosecute and persecute public critics. It it now considered a ‘crime’ to insult other GCC regimes, even on Twitter and Facebook. It is also a crime in the GCC to criticize Al Sisi of Egypt. (In a positive step, a Kuwaiti court last week rejected this argument, opening the door for more freedom of expression).

Many Gulf Islamists are strongly tribal, and some have tribal roots inside Saudi Arabia. That, as well as an enduring alliance with Salafists (also dominated by pro-Saudi tribal ties), keeps many Gulf Muslim Brotherhood (outside UAE & Qatar) from criticizing the Saudis openly. Most Gulf MB outside the UAE and Oman have roots from Saudi kin. Hence they go easy lest they upset tribal (as well as business) allegiances and balances.
In that sense, especially in Kuwait and Bahrain, the MB are essentially as Wahhabi as the local Salafis are. In Qatar, it is likely that any public strong criticism of Turkey’s strongman Erdogan is not tolerated.

Oddly, or maybe not, this is also true for many Persian Gulf academic and media types with tribal affiliations (even those who are classified as ‘liberals’ by twisted Gulf standards). Most proclaim support for freedom/democracy, but not in the Gulf region, especially not in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain. A unique Gulf version of the American term NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).

The MB in Kuwait, for example, these days seem to think that the Saudis are accommodating the Houthis of Yemen too much. Meaning they are still bombing their towns, but not as intensely as in the past fourteen months. It must be kept in mind that the powerless former Yemeni president Generalissimo Abd Rabuh Hadi was and is allied with the Islah, the notoriously corrupt local version of the MB. But they keep their “best” and most vocal criticism for the UAE, which is the most antagonistic Arab regime toward the MB (other than Egypt). But they criticize the UAE without mentioning it: a skill some Gulf Islamists have mastered in recent years.

(On the other hand, it is also unacceptable in Iran to openly and strongly criticize allies like the Syrian government or Hezbollah in the media. Even though there are no tribal ties involved. Just strategic and some sectarian ties).

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

New Old Saudi Vision of Total Conformism: from Riyadh to Pyongyang………

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“The Council of Ministers endorsed during its session on Monday under the chairmanship of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. The Cabinet session was devoted to discuss the vision, which was drafted by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs upon instructions of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Following is the text of Saudi Arabia’s vision 2030……..”

The new phrase Saudi Vision 2030 has been covered extensively in Saudi, Gulf, and some Arab media. There has been some good coverage in international media as well, until a heavy dose of realistic skepticism set in. I am in no position to openly express my own judgment yet, but I will soon. There is certainly a need to look beyond the years of oil boom, a need for some new (and serious) vision.

Yet I don’t like the quick and intimidating cheering in the Gulf GCC region, the exclusion and rejection of any doubt or questioning.  No debate of  such a vital issue. The distinctly Saudi conformism that is spreading to all GCC states.

As expected, Saudi and Gulf GCC media are not critical: not one iota of criticism or healthy (or unhealthy) doubt has been expressed. A lot of enthusiasm has been expressed, in blissful ignorance. Suddenly everybody on the Arab shores of the Gulf is as conformist as any good Saudi citizen in Riyadh or Qassim, anyone who is not in the safety of foreign exile or in a local prison. It is like the old days when Saddam was issuing his Baathist drivel across the Persian Gulf media and nobody was allowed to criticize him.

No doubt there are many ‘secret’ doubters, especially in the other Gulf GCC states if not in heavily brain-washed Saudi Arabia, but they dare not express their doubt. It is almost like having Kim Jong Un of North Korea (the Cute Leader) publish an economic “vision” for his country! Nobody would even think of criticize him in old Pyongyang.

Similarly, some Persian Gulf states are moving rapidly toward a new common repressive model. Even in places where the press “used to be” relatively free. Criticism of the plan by Prince Mohammed, the the favorite son and possible successor of King Salman, would be considered “insulting a sisterly or brotherly” state. That is a new category of crime that could land you in prison anywhere in the GCC (as in Pyongyang).

If the open doubter is a true Wahhabi terrorist-supporter he could go to prison and maybe get rehabilitated from his doubts. If he is a Shi’a agitator or doubter, he will likely be charged with “terrorism” and lose his head to a sword.

But is this emperor, in this case Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his vision, also naked (as in the famous parable or fable)? I am not certain yet. That will be covered in a new post coming soon to a theater right here. I have not read the detailed outlines of this economic vision in detail, yet. Who knows, I might become an enthusiastic supporter as well.
But the devil is in the details.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

King Solomon of Arabia Sweeps into Cairo: About the Wisdom and Ibrahim Pasha……..

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King Salman of Saudi Arabia has been on a long state visit to Egypt. The visit started with Egyptian authorities covering a public statue of Ibrahim Pasha, son of the creator of modern Egypt Mohammed Ali Pasha, during the Saudi King’s visit to Cairo. Ibrahim Pasha conquered Najd, birthplace of Wahhabism early in the 19th century. That was probably the last Egyptian military victory of modern times.

Saudi media and diplomats have hinted at a “pleasant” surprise gift from the Saudi King for the Egyptian people. That is rather doubtful: Arab leaders (or Middle East leaders in general) never have pleasant surprises for the people of another Arab state, nor for their own people. It is certain that the visit itself is no gift.

But we can speculate. President Al Sisi was recorded last year as suggesting to his advisers that Persian Gulf states have so much money, that it is like rice (unlimited numerous grains of rice). So, there might be ‘some’ more Saudi rice for the collapsing economy of Egypt. But the Saudis don’t have as much “rice” as they used to: their own reckless oil policies have contributed to the crash of crude prices in the past two years. The kings, potentates, and princes of the Gulf are cutting back on spending on their own people (but not on themselves or their merchant-class political and business allies). They are highly unlikely to be more generous with Egypt.

There is another option, but the Saudis have managed to make it a not-so-credible option, almost comic. After the Arab uprisings of 2011 started, then Saudi king Abdullah surprisingly invited far-away Morocco and humorless Jordan to join the GCC. Neither country is on the Gulf, and neither is as well financially as the GCC states. But both are monarchies, but much more democratic than the Gulf states. I commented at the time that it will never happen, and I was right.
Now, with the money limited, the Saudi King can invite Egypt to join the GCC: the first military-ruled republic to get this dubious honor. That may force the Egyptians to become more active in the Saudi military endeavors and adventures, in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. That may be the Saudi hope. But Egyptians are unlikely to accept the role of second-fiddle, or even deep involvement far from hom. A country with a civilization of 6 thousand years, albeit now poor and misruled, is unlikely yo take orders from some tribal backwater like Riyadh or Abu Dhabi.

Egypt can’t be Number Two in any Arab endeavor. We all know the Arab world is full of ruling Number Two’s already, if you get my meaning.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Control of Aden: Arab-African Royal Alliance Gives Jihadis a Head Start……

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Three sure signs that Saudis and Colombians and other assorted corsairs have liberated the largest Yemeni port city of Aden from the Houthis and Saleh and from law and order:

(1) Suicide bombings are escalating in the city. The latest today killed at least 22.

(2) There are no signs of escaped ex-president General Hadi Al Zombie and his PM Khalid Bahahahahah (except in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi 7-star hotels). This is is a blessing for all concerned.

(3) The city is largely lawless now, as is the surrounding country. Ripe for Al Qaeda and ISIS. AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), ISIS, and other local militias are now fighting for control of the city as well as the countryside.
Even the hired Sudanese forces have reportedly disappeared from the streets. Not that they matter much in a real fight. The Sudanese are probably some of the worst soldiers in the world, except against unarmed civilian women and children as in Darfur. The UAE pulled their own troops days (or maybe weeks) ago.

So Aden is now liberated from law and order as ell as from the Houthis and Colonel Saleh’s forces. Other parts of Southern Yemen as well are enjoying the same. All with extensive help from the weapons and intelligence provided by the USA and Britain. Yemen is now heading toward the same fate as Libya and Syria. In all three cases thanks to the sisterly and brotherly intervention by extremely democratic and extremely tribal Arab autocratic kings and princes and potentates.

I just hope these democracy-loving autocratic kings, princes, and potentates don’t get the notion of trying to liberate their own countries. That would be even more disastrous than liberating other countries.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Freedom of Speech on the Gulf, Salafi Style……..

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قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَابُ آمَنَّا قُل لَّمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَكِن قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْإِيمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ “
سورة الحجرات
(ديمقراطية)

Remember when I penned a post here in February on Internal Exile used by Arab regimes to punish those who displease them? I called it an Arabian Gulag here.
Yesterday I read a tweet from back home. Two Salafi leaders of the so-called political opposition were tweeting. They have been making noisy allegations for a couple of years about their “lack of freedom” of speech. Even as they insist that others should be denied the freedom of expression. Even as their goal is to establish a Wahhabi type of government: they almost did it in 2012 but it was vetoed by the Emir. Even as they praise serious violent repression in neighboring states.
What these two Salafist former parliamentarians were demanding in their tweets was that the government should ban another parliamentarian, one who is from another sect, from travel abroad. They said he might feel free to ‘speak freely’ outside the country, which they clearly think is a bad idea: he might criticize the dismal human rights situation in neighboring Gulf states.
@Altabtabie

What this Salafi former parliamentarian is saying in Arabic is that: “This D—- should be immediately banned from foreign travel so he will not use his being a member of the Assembly to besmirch the brothers in Saudi and Bahrain abroad….”
The other one, his comrade in Wahhabi Salafism, absolutely agrees with him. They are both asking the government (which they claim to oppose for allegedly restricting their freedom) to restrict someone else’s freedom of travel and speech. A kind of repression they always support when applied by regimes in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, but not at home.

Now I don’t know this man they are targeting, and I most likely disagree on at least some things he espouses (FYI: I disagree with almost everybody back home on the Gulf on most political, social and economic and any other subject or matter). But this falls within the usual pattern reflecting the fact that loud talk of freedom of speech by most Islamists, especially Salafis, is for media consumption, especially for foreign media. They do not believe in freedom of anything: speech, religion, expression, and even thought.

Long live freedom of speech, Wahhabi style, with a dash of Salafi hypocrisy.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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