Tag Archives: Iraq

Exchange of Qatari Royals in Iraq for Syrian Captives of Jihadis Ends in Bloody Massacre…….

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“The fates of 26 members of a Qatari royal hunting party held hostage for more than a year in Iraq were used to help negotiate a population swap in Syria, where residents on Friday started leaving two Shia villages and two Sunni towns in a synchronised easing of a four-year siege brokered by regional powers. Residents of the Shia areas of Fua and Kefraya, in northern Syria, were transported to nearby east Aleppo as the first buses began leaving Zabadani and Madaya, Sunni strongholds between Damascus and the Lebanese border, for a final destination somewhere in the rebel-held areas of Idlib province. The deal was finalised in recent days after nearly two years of negotiations between one of Syria’s main opposition groups, Ahrar al-Sham, and Iran. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Qatar have also been central ……..”

Reports from all sides in the Middle East indicate that there may be several thousand Saudis held captive in Iraq. Most of them apparently went north to join the Jihadi campaign of terrorism against Iraqi civilians, a sectarian campaign mainly targeting Shi’as. Many joined Al Qaeda in Iraq in the days of Jordanian terrorist Al Zarqawi, and later joined ISIS (DAESH). They represent a huge headache for the Saudi government, and it probably has influenced the recent Saudi warming up to the new political order in Iraq. Families and especially tribes as well as clerics form an important lobby in Saudi Arabia, as the authorities try to get these prisoners released. Some have reportedly been sentenced to death for terrorist acts and some already executed.

An unfortunate development. Today, Saturday, reports came that Jihadi rebels bombed some of the same Syrian refugee buses, killing at least twenty, wounding many others. Not clear yet how this will affect the release of Qatari potentates held in Iraq.

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

Republican Debate: Going Silly over Syria and the New Communist Crescent………

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So, Republican candidates met two nights ago for a debate. It was completely focused on foreign policy, and almost all of it on ISIS (DAESH), Syria, Iraq, and Muslim refugees. Oddly they ignored the huge gorilla that has been roaming within the American room for many years:

  • In 1993, Wahhabi terrorists tried to blow up one of the World Trade Center Towers in New York.
  • Then they blew up the U.S. embassy in Tanzania, killing and wounding .
  • In the fall of 2000 the Wahhabi terrorists attacked the USS Cole in a Yemeni port, killing and wounding .
  • In Sept. 2001, the Wahhabi Mother of All Terror Attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon killed almost three thousand Americans.
  • Then came the attacks in Madrid, London, Bali, and Paris. Then the attacks in Kenya.
  • Then they attacked in West Africa, Libya, and Egypt (The Russian Airliner), and inside Russian cities.
  • Then the Wahhabi attacks on Shi’a mosques in Kuwait in 2015.
    And the suicide attacks across Iraq since 2003. And the sectarian attacks on non-Wahhabi worshipers in Pakistan.
  • And the beheadings and burnings and mass killings of people of other faith in Syria and Iraq, those who are Shi’as, Alawites, Yazidis, Christians, etc.
  • And the attacks in Boston and San Bernardino (2015).
  • All driven by Wahhabi ideology and by Wahhabi volunteers and Gulf Salafi money.

So the Republicans met in Las Vegas and talked about what?
How better to ally the USA with the repressive tribal Wahhabi powers that theorized for and (still) finance and arm and man the terrorist groups. And the Turkish Caliph Erdogan who opened his borders to allow the Jihadists and their weapons to get into Syria.  A couple of them bandied about something called “a Shi’a Crescent” that the silly humorless King of Jordan and the Wahhabi media have publicized, just to divert attention. You’d think Joe Stalin was back and eyeing the Middle East. The famously one-dimensional Senator Graham tried to out-Wahhabi the real true-blue Saudi and Qatari Wahhabis by demanding a re-invasion of Iraq.

Oh, and several of the Republican military service-evaders also promised to shoot down Russian planes over Syria, whether the Syrian people want them to shoot Russian planes over ‘their’ country or not. Whether the UN sanctions it or not.

A couple of them were more sensible, but the trend was toward showing ersatz muscularity and toughness overseas. At least over a Las Vegas microphone.

One saving grace: unlike the GOP debates of 2012, they did not all publicly and verbally kiss the posterior of Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu. In fact none of them did, except in denouncing the ‘international’ nuclear deal.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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The Empire of Qatar to Invade Syria and Iraq: O’ Gulliver, O’ Lilliput……..

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“Qatar, a major supporter of rebels in Syria’s civil war, suggested it could intervene militarily following Russia’s intervention in support of President Bashar al-Assad but said it still preferred a political solution to the crisis. The comments by Qatar’s foreign minister, made in a CNN interview on Wednesday, drew a swift reply from Assad’s government with a senior official warning that Damascus would respond harshly to such “direct aggression”……….”

Last month, as the Russian air campaign over the terrorist Islamic State of ISIS escalated the Qatari government threatened to intervene militarily. Yes, militarily. Now Qatar has a population of about 2 million, 90% of whom are temporary foreign laborers, mostly from from south Asian countries. Which means its citizens are about, what, a quarter of a million?
A few years ago, when the father of the current Emir ruled Qatar, some Qatari officials threatened military intervention in Iraq, if the domestic political power was not altered. At that time the citizen population of Qatar was almost certainly less than 200 thousand people.
It is true, Qatar has huge monetary reserves, and its ruling family and their tribal allies can and do buy the best Western weapons. But a statelet of a quarter of a million people intervening in Syria or Iraq? They’d need a nuclear arsenal, which their money can’t buy. It is best to stick to buying exclusive French and British hotels and real estate, and a few soccer clubs. And bribing international football/soccer FIFA officials.

An absolute tribal Wahhabi regime claiming to seek freedom for the Syrian people? Just leave Syria and Iraq to the grown-ups, will you?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Iraq’s Ahmed Chalabi: Death of a Convenient Western Alibi……..

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Ahmed Chalabi died this week. His death has allowed the Western media to re-iterate, and almost certainly exaggerate again, his singular role in pushing the American-British, Bush-Blair, 2003 invasion of Iraq.

We are to believe that one man, an Iraqi exile with possible unsavory connections, fooled the huge American intelligence community (remember when CIA chief George Tenet said finding WMD in Iraq was a Slam Dunk). He also supposedly fooled the less-massive British intelligence machine: MI6 and James Bond and George Smiley and the rest of the possible characters.
Gone are Donald Rumsfeld’s snarky comments about Old and New Europe. Gone are Dick Cheney’s claim of fictional meetings between Saddam Hussein agents with Al-Qaeda operatives in Czecho-Slovakia. Gone are the silly allegations of “mushroom cloud” and “smoking gun”. Gone are the allegations of Yellow Cake from Niger and the outing of uncooperative CIA agents.

Gone are the huge no-bid contracts for well-connected U.S companies and Persian Gulf contractors. Gone is any talk about millionaire American private military and building contractors who made their fortunes in the Iraq war, on the backs of dead and crippled American boys and girls and Iraqi victims. Gone is the talk about a billion-dollar Baghdad embassy that was used as a cash cow for corrupt Americans and their Gulf partners.

Chalabi was one exaggerator, perhaps one liar among many in the early years of this century. Not all of them were Arabs. Chalabi’s death seems convenient for many in the West.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Caliph in the Wind: Norma Jeane Baker Al Baghdadi………….

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I noticed the birthday of Caliph Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is approaching in early August. The Salafis pretend they don’t cotton up much to birthdays for ordinary mortals. But the Caliph is not deemed a mortal. He is more like a celebrity, a hairy Norma Jeane Baker. A real inner and outer beast compared to a real inner and outer beauty. Not exactly a candle in the wind, but one air raid away from wherever it is he will go for good. He won’t expect a tribute by Elton John, but here goes anyway:——>  Candle in the Wind………..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Iraqi Federalist Papers? It’s the Economy, Publius………

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“Their lingering hostility reflects a widespread mistrust of military leadership among Iraqi troops, one of a host of problems hampering U.S.-backed efforts by Iraq’s central government to revive the security forces after a meltdown last year as Islamic State advanced. “It’s a common thing for us to see our commanders abandoning us,” said Sgt. Adwani. He recounted an experience last year in Ramadi—the provincial capital of Anbar, which Islamic State seized in May—where his captain retreated during a close firefight. Ammar Mohamad, an explosives specialist receiving new training from Spanish, Portuguese, and American soldiers at this Iraqi base some 50 miles south of Baghdad, remembered getting orders to withdraw from Mosul as Islamic State assaulted the city in early June last year…………”


Years ago, during the sectarian mini civil war in Iraq, the issue of the division of Iraq was widely discussed inside and outside that country. The issues of federalism and confederation was also discussed by Iraqi factions and famously suggested by then Senator Joe Biden and Leslie Gelb. That was when the Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus’ab Al Zarqawi and other foreign uninvited Wahhabi ‘guests’ set to provoke Iraqi Shi’as against Iraqi Sunnis and vice versa. At some point the issue faded as Iraq became engulfed in a complex multi-faction conflict that went beyond sect and geography.

Now, as Al Qaeda in Iraq ( AQI ) has morphed into the Caliphate of ISIS (DAESH) that threatens Iraqis across their publicized “identities” you would think the issue of some form of political division would be on the back burner. Apparently it is not: it is being fed by sectarian violence among the various “good Iraqis”. It is also being fed by some Westerners, including many in the U.S. House and Senate who apparently think they have no urgent domestic American issues to deal with. But ISIS have already created their own division, their own Caliphate, and unless Iraqis can solve their sectarian issues, DAESH will not go anywhere.
Often economic forces usually trump political ambitions and passions, in the end. Economic forces draw the boundaries and limits of political action. In Iraq, that is the case in the end, if there is to be a viable situation. The distribution of economic resources in Iraq, either oil or agriculture, are tilted toward the southern regions, the mainly Shi’a lands and to a lesser extent the northern mainly Kurdish lands. The Kurds now have Kirkuk, courtesy of the blitzkrieg of ISIS into Mosul in 2014. They probably believe their borders are mostly set, subject to developments in Baghdad and the vagaries of the ruling Turkish Islamists under their neighbor Caliph Erdogan. That leaves much of the Euphrates basin and the vast desert of southwestern Iraq. That is where “it is the economy, stupid” comes in.


Al Anbar province and the rest of what the media and pundits call the “Sunni” areas are economically handicapped. Some agriculture and ranching, with little oil, do not create a viable political entity, especially for a landlocked region. Al Anbar is not Switzerland or Austria: it has even less natural resources than landlocked Afghanistan. If the western regions of Iraq can’t depend on Baghdad, they will have to rely on the “outside”.

An independent western Iraq will have to rely mainly on Saudi Arabia and maybe Qatar or UAE to support its economy. It is unlikely that these countries want to carry the burden of these millions, no matter how much sympathy they have and how tempting politically. Besides, just think of the disputes over the borders, with Baghdad and with the Kurds. That would set Iraq up for continued internal conflict, then as now financed and fueled by outside money and volunteers. It would be outside Salafi influence trying to sway Iraqi Sunnis who are mostly moderates and are averse to Wahhabism.


Federalism with an American-style system (or even a German system) that protects the rights of the regions and their peoples seems the best solution. But not a feasible solution now. Alas, Iraq is not like America or Germany. Nobody there that remotely seems as capable of the task as a Hamilton or a Madison. No Iraqi Publius……….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Death of Tariq Aziz: Last Evocation of a Bygone Potemkin Arab Order…….

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Tariq Aziz died in prison in his homeland, Iraq.

The significance of remembering the old Iraqi Baathist is not related to Tariq himself and his achievements. It is that he reminds us, me and most others, of a bygone era in Arab politics and history. Aziz was one of the last survivors of the old Arab post World War II order that almost lasted fifty years. An order that saw the rise of militarized secular Pan-Arabism through the messages of Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, the Baathists of Syria and Iraq, and the leftist young revolutionary rulers of Libya and Algeria. There was a period of hope in the fifties and sixties, but it did not last. That movement also gradually degenerated into tribal and family dynasties. A stagnant Arab order followed that was seen as stability.

That old Arab order unravelled with the Iraqi Baathist invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. The 1990-91 invasion of Kuwait and the consequent war was a direct consequence of the financial bankruptcy of the Baathist regime after the invasion of Iran in 1980 and the war that lasted eight years. The Arab order had begun to crack with the war of 1980, as Syria and other Arab states, including Libya and Algeria and some Palestinian factions, refused to support Saddam Hussein.

The Salafi terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and their consequences formalized the collapse of the old Arab regime. The West is now back in the region in force. Even the old British colonials are establishing a military base in little Bahrain (now if they can only take it over again and rebuild its political system back to 1971).

The Arab uprisings of 2011 have mostly failed, but they showed a positive development: it underlined a new disrespect to their ruling oligarchs and dictators and a willingness by Arabs to express it. Then along came AQI, ISIS, Al Nusra, Army of Islamic Conquest, Al Tibin, Al Zift and other Salafi groups. They make even the old Al Qaeda look tame. The horrendous mass atrocities by various armed factions in Syria and Iraq and Libya and Egypt are clear signals that the old Arab order is effectively buried. What we have now is a Potemkin Order: all front but no substance behind it.

The death of Tariq Hanna Aziz, one survivor of the older order, came as a symbolic event at a convenient moment, with ISIS expanding in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and possibly the Arabian Peninsula. His death is a reminder of how much has changed and the uncertainty of the future.
That is why it is a sad occasion. Not because the old Baathist died, but because of what it reminds us of.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

U.S. Congress Playing Sykes-Picot: Meddling in Iraq, Neglecting America………

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“An influential Shiite cleric threatened Wednesday to attack U.S. interests in Iraq and abroad over a congressional provision to send arms directly to Sunni and Kurdish fighters. The proposed measure in the House Republicans’ defense authorization bill for next year would distribute a quarter of the $715 million authorized to train and equip the Iraqi army outside the government’s control. It’s unclear if the provision will survive the months-long legislative process. “In the event of approving this bill by the U.S. Congress, we will find ourselves obliged to unfreeze the military wing and start targeting the American interests in Iraq — even abroad, which is doable,” said the statement on Muqtada al-Sadr’s website. In a rare turn of events, both al-Sadr and President Barack Obama signaled their opposition to the provision by House Republicans………….”

Iraqis are rightly pissed at the U.S. Congress for meddling in their internal politics. Come to think of it many Iraqis have been pisssed at the U.S. Congress for meddling in their affairs for years. Come to think of it, the American people should be pissed at the U.S. Congress for not achieving much domestically, but they are not: they keep re-electing the same putzes.

Now the Republican Congress is discussing supplying weapons directly to some regional parts of Iraq without consent of the central government in Baghdad. Or the elected Iraqi parliament. Sort of like Russia or China offering to sell weapons to Texas or Vermont directly. Or like Iran offering to sell weapons to Qatif in Saudi Arabia without the consent of Riyadh. Or like the Mexican Cartels selling weapons back to Arizona without the consent of Senator John McCain.

In recent months, nay in recent years, the U.S. Congress has shown that it can act decisively only in matters related to meddling in the Middle East (and especially on issues of concern to Israel’s Likud). Maybe it is time for them to keep their grubby hands off the internal affairs of other countries and focus on matters at home. Rather than try to re-enact the era of Sykes-Picot without the deep knowledge and experience of that era…..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Persian Gulf: Local Powder Keg, Western Market Opportunity……..

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“In Yemen, “Saudi Arabia is using F-15 fighter jets bought from Boeing. Pilots from the United Arab Emirates are flying Lockheed Martin’s F-16″ in sorties in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, wrote the Times. U.S. arms manufacturers have opened up offices in several Arab capitals, and reportedly expect additional orders from regional countries for “thousands of American-made missiles, bombs and other weapons” to replenish “an arsenal that has been depleted over the past year,” according to The New York Times. In an earnings call leaked to The Intercept last month, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson stressed the company’s goals to increase international sales, particularly in the Middle East. “A lot of volatility, a lot of instability, a lot of things that are happening” in the Middle East are potential “growth areas”………….”

In 1979, after the mullahs and their temporary secular allies overthrew the Shah of Iran, they made a nearly-fateful decision. They canceled all pending weapons contracts with the United States (that was before the Hostage Crisis). The decision was partly driven by ‘revolutionary’ zeal, and based on the naive assumption that they were safe from external attack and that they could influence the region with their revolutionary message and rhetoric.
Next year Saddam Hussein did something that quickly disabused them of that rosy view. Saddam saw an opportunity in the turmoil within Iran and made his own fateful decision by invading southwestern Iran. That war disappointed all expert predictions as it lasted eight years and bankrupted Iraq to the extent that Saddam invaded Kuwait to loot its wealth. We all know that story is still unfolding in Iraq and across the region (and to some extent within Iranian political circles).
Suddenly our once peaceful Gulf looked quite menacing. Meanwhile, with the two Persian Gulf superpowers, Iran and Iraq, otherwise occupied, the smaller countries started building up their own arsenals, to supplement the American Umbrella. Now Saudi Arabia, UAE and other GCC states are major weapons markets for the West (and the East). The Iranian mullahs probably salivate at the quality and quantity of state-of-the-art Western weapons that their smaller neighbors to the south can get. Only the Israelis get better weapons than the GCC states, and that is certainly deliberate American policy.

The mullahs will probably have to keep on salivating: Western weapons are unlikely to be available to Iran any time soon. That is not all bad. They have managed to develop their own vast weapons industry, as well as a credible space program. Which means they have locally mastered the sciences and technology needed. For a country the size of Iran, it makes sense to focus on domestic production. Besides, they have not done so bad in terms of regional influence, even without F-15 and F-16 warplanes and shared Western intelligence.

I am tempted to assert that it would be better for the other Gulf states to develop their own weapons industries. But there may be a small problem with that. Where would the princes and potentates, and their families, get the huge amounts of money that the weapons bribes commissions provide?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com