Tag Archives: MENA

America and the Saudis: Current ‘Operations’ in Yemen and Syria to Become the Next Endless War………

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“Yemen is a war inside a war inside another war, right next to & overlapping several other wars”  Me

“The Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda (AQ) is stronger than it has ever been. As the country’s civil war has escalated and become regionalised, its local franchise, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is thriving in an environment of state collapse, growing sectarianism, shifting alliances, security vacuums and a burgeoning war economy. Reversing this trend requires ending the conflict that set it in motion. This means securing an overarching political settlement that has buy-in from the country’s diverse constituencies, including Sunni Islamists. As this will take time, steps must be taken now to contain AQAP’s growth……..” Crisis Group

“The attack (in Aden) struck troops loyal to the airport’s chief of security, who had refused to accept a government order that he be replaced. The incident was yet another sign of the inability of Yemen’s internationally recognized government to enforce order. But it was the first time its allies, the coalition of mostly Gulf Arab states, had intervened militarily in power struggles within the Yemeni armed forces. The Saudi-led coalition has launched thousands of air strikes against the government’s foes, the Iran-allied Houthis, in a campaign to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. It helped wrest Aden from the Houthis, who control the capital, Sanaa, in the summer of 2015……….” Reuters

During his first week on the job White House spokesman Sean Spicer claimed that Iranian forces had fired missile at the US Navy from Yemen on the Red Sea. An un-truth, since there are no Iranian forces in Yemen: the only foreign forces in Yemen are with the Saudi coalition. Actually the Yemeni Houthis who control the capital and North Yemen had fired a missile (or was it a Yemeni drone that fired) at a Saudi warship that had been shelling their coastal towns. The Saudis claimed it was a suicide attack against one of their ‘peaceful warships’ (you don’t need to read Orwell to speak Orwellian).

This week, on Monday, President Trump had a lunch meeting with the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. He is the king’s son and widely expected future king, if his dad can swing it before he dies. He is also the minister of defense and architecture of the War on Yemen, a quagmire which just entered its third year. The Yemen war has enabled AQAP to expand in spite of American drone attacks. The war also introduced Islamic State (Daesh/ISIS) into Southern Arabia.

It is likely the Prince may have talked Trump into a more vigorous America role in the Saudi war on Yemen. Perhaps a more direct US role, this time not against the Jihadis, but against the coalition ruling most of Yemen. Which would be an act of desperation, since the Saudis have some of the best and most lethal American and British weapons and could not defeat the lightly armed Houthis and their allies ruling Sanaa. It would be just another never-ending Muslim war. Another twilight war.

The announcement indicated the Saudis will invest $ 200 billion in the United States (presumably new money). The prince also is quoted as having said that he supports the Muslim Travel Ban and that “Trump is a true friend of Muslims“. Such shameless groveling may indicate they got something from Trump: perhaps a promise to inch closer to the Mother of All Muslim Wars, a war of choice against Iran. That should be a doozy: it will certainly last through Trump’s tenure and will define his so-far unpromising legacy. The Prince may have gotten promises related to Syria, particularly Eastern Syria, or Iraq or Lebanon: risky promises the inexperienced Trump could have made in the absence of his secretaries of State and Defense.

As for Yemen, it is not “a” war, it  is a complex set of parallel and intersecting wars. I once called it “a war inside a war inside another war, right next to & overlapping several other wars”. Now even the Saudi proxies (mostly Islah Muslim Brotherhood and allies) and the UAE proxies are fighting each other. You get into Yemen, you get involved in all these wars and sub-wars. You can’t pick and choose in such a battlefield.

And you get stuck, losing soldiers and money, a lot of money, just like the Saudis have for more than two years, so far. Like Afghanistan all over again, only a fiercer war.

Back to the promise of $200 billion Saudi investments. I am not sure they can afford this when they are cutting back on their domestic spending. Maybe by moving funds from their sovereign fund that SAMA manages. And can you imagine Donald Trump touting it in, say Tennessee or Alabama, bragging to his Muslim-challenged ‘base’ they he’s gotten Muslims (and Wahhabis at that) to pay out hundreds of billions?

Interesting times coming soon to a war theater far away from you.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

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

 

Bibi and Donald and Adele and Forcible Dates: Is the Thrill Gone Already?…………..

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Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu is coming to Washington this week. Meetings of world leaders with Netanyahu remind me of younger days and dating days. Sometimes the thrill is gone from the get go, from the first time. Sometimes afterwards she (usually) or he realizes they would not want a repeat.
In world politics it is that way too, except that these diplomatic dates are almost like “forcible dates”. If one lasts eight years as a leader he/she would have to keep on dating him or her often.

George W Bush kept his meetings with Netanyahu to a minimum: he already knew exactly what his date would say. Which always takes the thrill out of any date. Clearly Obama did not want a repeat after his first date with Netanyahu, but he had no choice: eight years in office is a long time. I doubt any world leader ever looks forward to meeting him. (American Congressmen and Senators are not world leaders, they are more like star-struck Bibi-groupies. Or maybe they can’t get another date with so many resources).

In fairness, almost all other Middle East leaders are also like Bibi in that respect: they all think others are thrilled to hear them whine out their wisdom.

I suspect, as some comments in the media have noted this week, that Donald and Bibi will start taking many bathroom breaks during their very first date this week. A real date is not like a long-distance post-election telephone date, you don’t see and hear the warts (a rude person would add that you don’t use your olfactory faculties).

Mr. Netanyahu is at a bigger disadvantage here when he meets Trump this week. He really has no new case to make anymore. The US Congress, both houses and almost both parties, have been making the case for him for several years. The Senators and Congressmen have made his visit to Washington redundant, just a cosmetic thing. A photo-op. Sort of like watching Beyonce and Adele walk and pause on the Red Carpet: it has nothing to do with the prize…..

But eye candy is much more pleasing to look at than older men plotting to step into the next military quagmire……

Cheers

M H Ghuloum

Advice Netanyahu Can Give President Trump: on Healthcare, Funding Free Abortion, and War……

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Forget about waging new wars against more Muslim nations or sanctioning more Muslim countries. That will surely be on Mr. Benyamin Netanyahu’s agenda as well when he arrives in Washington  next month, part of the snake-oil he has been trying to sell for years. The Bushes and Obama thwarted him. They looked into his eyes and saw the weasel that members of Congress could not see. What else could they see?

But that was then.
The Republican Party, post-Bush, is now effectively a sub-branch of the Likud alliance in Israel. Netanyahu is the new prophet of the American right. But at home, in domestic Israeli policy, he is further to the left of many American Democrats. Especially in matters of public healthcare and funding abortion (almost certainly with some funds voted by the rabidly pro-life American Congress).

Mr. Netanyahu can do the American people and President Trump a great service in other ways, all based on the Israeli experience. Like explain the benefits of the “right” of every Israeli to public Healthcare. Like the public funding of abortion (free abortion partly funded by American money). Republicans and the likes of Joe Lieberman consider that public health policy socialistic even though all industrial countries in Europe have that as well. The much-cited European right would never dream of taking away the public healthcare option: in that it is to the left of many U.S Democrats.

Among other useful examples of how Netanyahu can be useful to a US president, for once in his life.

In addition to the expected inevitable attempt of pushing a new stupid war against a new Muslim country.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

Post-Mosul Future of MENA Wars: Our Week of Escalated Bombings in Islamistan….

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Recent events of this past week point to the possible future of political developments in the Middle East and North Africa:

  • In Turkey, we saw Yet another huge terrorist bombing in the largest historic city of the country. More fallout from Mr. Erdogan’s Syrian and Iraqi adventures. Another terrorist bombing in Istanbul: at least 39 dead, many more wounded.
  • In Egypt, the terror campaign has dramatically escalated, and well beyond the Sinai Peninsula. First a group of security officers were bombed yesterday. Then today, Sunday, a new first: the largest Church of the country, the Orthodox Coptic headquarters of their Pope was bombed, killing more than 25, wounding more. A serious and dangerous escalation in a country on the brink of confessional and sectarian breakdown. Just imagine a Syria or an Iraq with three times the population.
  • In Yemen, a terrorist bombing attack in Aden reportedly killed at least 50. Reportedly the “victims” mostly soldiers and security of the deposed Hadi regime.
  • In Syria and Iraq the killing just goes on. Daily bombings of civilian targets in Iraqi towns continue. Mostly Shi’a targets, but not exclusively so (twin bombings in mostly-Sunni Fallujah today). Thus feeding the Salafist Wahhabi goal of fanning sectarian flames.

Further away from the MENA region: More killings in Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, Pakistan.

This seems like a harbinger of an escalation of acts of terrorism well beyond Iraq and Syria and Sinai. Now almost any Muslim country is a target. Possibly an indication of a strategic shift among Jihadis from holding territory back to more spectacular violent acts of terrorism. A sign of a post-Mosul and post-Raqqa strategy of the Jihadis?
Very likly….
Cheers

M 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

 

The Real Enemy in Syria: Can Russia Preempt a Policy Shift by Clinton and the Democrat-Neocon Alliance?………..

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American involvement in Syria has been in a ‘trial-and-error’ mode since late spring of 2011.

Early on, the Obama administration took its cue from the Arab tribal kings and princes of the Persian Gulf, who also happen to be very close to the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (all heavy Clinton Foundation donors and all that).
The Wahhabi regimes of Qatar and Saudi Arabia saw an opportunity to spread their own intolerant version of Islamic rule and to deal a blow to a secular but repressive Syrian regime that is an ally of the Iranian mullahs. As they poured money and weapons into Syria, the early uprising shifted into a confessional and sectarian war rather than a fight for democracy as envisioned by some naive Western interventionists. This situation was made worse by the strong promotional campaign waged by the rich and powerful Salafi (and Muslim Brotherhood) movements on the Gulf.

Thus the Syrian uprising of 2011 was doomed from the start as money, weapons, and Salafi volunteers poured in through Turkey and Lebanon and Jordan. All of it from the Gulf region, although soon the Jihadis started flowing in from other Arab countries and then from Europe.


So, the early mantra quickly became: Bashar Al Assad Must Go!
Soon this shifted to a new hopeful mantra: Bashar Al Assad’s Days Are Numbered!
Or, later on: Bashar Al Assad’s Remaining in Damascus is Untenable!

Even the hapless Saudi foreign minister boldly declared (and mimicked by his Qatari counterpart) that: Assad Will Go Either by Diplomatic or Military Means! (Presumably they mean American military means since these two countries don’t have enough forces to occupy one city in Syria)


All this was bought by the U.S foreign policy establishment, especially Secretary Clinton, as inalienable gospel, part of the policy Sharia as preached and taught to the Americans by the meddling kings, princes, and potentates of the Persian Gulf region. Even as the same kings, princes, and potentates were eagerly oppressing and repressing and persecuting their own peoples. Even as they were pouring money into a military coup in Egypt which re-instated the Mubarak regime.


Pressure by some U.S. lawmakers like John McCain and Joe Lieberman (where the hell is he now, by the way) helped nudge the Clinton State Department toward the Gulf position, especially after every visit by these senators to Riyadh, Doha, and Abu Dhabi, none of them known as a bastion of democracy and freedom of expression.

Now Turkey has shifted its position. Initially it was an enabler and conduit of weapons and money and Jihadis into Syria (what I called the Erdogan Trail). But the complex Syrian war spread into Turkey itself. Even as post-coup Erdogan announced a shift in Syrian policy, Turkey has become more involved in Northern Syria. Mainly a result of gains by the Kurdish minority with American help.

Now we know that the Turks have their own Islamist/Jihadist proxies fighting in Northern Syria. All composed of Arab Jihadi fighters.

So:
Iran, Russia, Lebanon and others (including some Iraqis, some Afghanis, etc) are siding with Assad.

Part of the Obama administration is fighting against ISIS and the regime, or thinks it is. This fight is based on Arab Salafist Jihadis.

Part of the Obama administration is siding with the Kurds against ISIS and against other Jihadis. And presumably against the Assad regime.

So, at least two groups that are American supported are fighting each other in Syria.

Saudis and/or Qataris have apparently recently supplied their own favorite Salafi Jihadis with advanced American and other Western weapons. Some of these weapons, like anti-tank or ground-to-air missiles require prior approval by the exporters.

Even as the Assad regime gains ground on some fronts, like the Damascus area and Aleppo, the war becomes more complex and more intractable. Hence it is now almost impossible to structure a political solution that can stop it.

When and if Clinton becomes president, her instinct will be to expand the American military role in Syria (why else do you think all these hawks and Neocons are supporting her?). The media, what is called mainstream American media, are in their 2002 pre-Iraq War mode now. They are heavily “reporting” on regime atrocities, reviving the old WMD stories, talking about the old but now defunct “Red Lines”. The CNN network is now, as it did in 2002-2003, leading the military charge into the morass of Syria. It, and other media, are working to make a new more Americanized war in Syria as publicly acceptable as they did the war in Iraq in 2003. (FYI: the American people have not seen any uncovered Iraqi WMDs, yet).

The Russians probably know all this about the prospects for 2017. They are now solidifying and expanding their presence in Syria, possibly as a means of preempting this expected Clinton policy next year. The Russians and their allies seem to be making it impossible to establish the no-fly zones that are so dear to Democrat hawks, except maybe in the Kurdish regions which border Turkey.

A repetition of Iraq? Possibly a different version of another mistake. But who is the “real enemy” in Syria that seriously threatens the West in its own homeland: in Paris, London, and New York? That is the question that should decide expanded intervention.

Cheers

M.H.Ghuloum

 

Turkish Coup: of Erdogan the Enabler of Jihadis and his Arab Salafi Tribal Admirers……..

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So, what is happening in Turkey now?

  • Since 2011, President Erdogan of Turkey managed to gather the support of Salafi Wahhabi Jihadists across the Arab lands. He was the most popular Muslim leader among them, after the Caliph of Raqqa and the Saudi king.
  • He also managed to gather the support of self-styled liberals across the Arab world (what I would call Wahhabo-Liberals, unabashed fans of the absolute kings and princes). They supported him because of his involvement in Syria in support of the Saudi-inspired Salafi Jihadists. Some of the more diehard looked at him as a substitute to the long-awaited Caliph of Islam, perhaps doubting the the ISIS substitute in Raqqa can survive.
  • Arab Salafi, pro-Jihdist, pro-Daesh, pro-Saudi social media accounts were among the loudest supporters of Erdogan before the coup attempt in Turkey. They were praying all over the media during the coup attempt for Erdogan to prevail. Some of them even claimed that they were doing it for “a democracy they don’t believe in”, most did not even bother with that fig-leaf.
  • Most of these Arab Salafis, Muslim Brothers, and Persian Gulf Wahhabi-liberals, came up (only in Arabic-language posts) with convoluted theory about an American/Western-Zionist-Persian plot to subvert Turkey away from the true Islamic path toward the Caliphate (WTF that be). Many of them still carry the silly new flag that is supposed to represent some mythical moderate Syrian”rebels”, even as in their hearts they owe allegiance to the black ISIS version of the green Saudi flag.
  • They all know, of course, that without Erdogan’s support, the Jihadist terrorists of ISIS and Al Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham and Army of Islam and others would not have been able to receive their weapons and volunteers and Persian Gulf tribal money to enable the mass murders in Syria and Iraq and across the world.
  • The same tribal Salafis who openly called for donations to support Jihad in Syria and Iraq and across the world also yesterday slaughtered sheep across my Gulf in celebration of the failure of the military coup against their best enabler, Erdogan.
  • Turkish officials, their Arab Salafist supporters, started talking loudly of a plot hatched in America against Erdogan. Such loud charges and threats by Erdogan surrogates worked against European governments, especially Germany. It is unlikely they will work against Washington.
  • Interestingly, Erdogan had started before the coup attempt to bury the hatchet with Syria. His ministers had started to change tack and show less hostility to Assad. Just days before the coup attempt. That was a wise decision.
  • Other countries: Israel, Iran, Europe, whose governments and peoples have little liking or respect for Mr. Erdogan, made the correct noises after the coup failed. Washington, as usual, was caught in a bind: damned if it did, damned if it did not. That is the fate of the only superpower.
  • Mr. Erdogan now feels free to make a grab for absolute power, to make sure his regime, his Islamist party, remains in power. Thousands are already rounded up and in prison. That should sound familiar to Germans who survived from the 1930s, if there are any.
  • Expect more fireworks in Turkey soon…..

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

On the Gulf: Tribal Statecraft, an Embarrassment of Poor Alliances……..

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Statecraft is not an extended form of tribalism. Its goals are different, so should its tools  Me

Too many international and regional alliances, created at too frantic a pace, are a sure sign of weakness rather than strengthMe

Saudi Arabia has been keeping its military forces active: mostly in doing large military exercises and maneuvers with invited, convinced, and bribed ‘allies’. They have been almost monthly events, all these military exercises, with promising names like Thunder of the North. May as well; given that their real southern war, like the Storm of Determination (the massive war against poor, under-armed Yemen) has failed miserably.

None of the titles given these military exercises and wars are original: they are all plagiarized from the original Desert Storm, the American name for the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 from Iraqi Baathists. As I wrote once before, the Saudi leaders and their minions are rarely, if ever, original.
The Saudis have also been very busy announcing new ‘alliances and pacts’, also on an almost monthly basis. Sometimes even the Arab (and Muslim) countries listed as part of an ‘alliance’ are reported to be surprised. Clearly the Saudis don’t believe that their “allies” need to agree to an alliance, or that they may have legislatures that need to have a say. But they must know that not all Muslim (or Arab) countries are ruled by absolute tribal princes.

The Iranians apparently realize that “alliances” are complicated things, given that they have not had many in recent years. So they seem to take them more seriously. They do, however, try to match the Saudi military exercises with some of their own. They also apparently realize that too many international and regional alliances, created at too frantic a pace, are a sure sign of weakness rather than strength. This last fact is something the Saudi princes don’t seem to understand.

Statecraft is not an extended form of tribalism. Its goals are different, so should its tools.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum