Tag Archives: Middle East

Kissing It in Arabia: Saudis Discern a Trump ‘Axis of Adults’, or is it an ‘Axis of Kissers of Trump’s Rump’?………

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“Trump’s ‘Axis of Adults’ sends powerful messages to Iran. In Washington, they call them the “Axis of Adults” — Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the UN. These are the pillars of the Trump-Pence administration, if not the pillars of the state. Other influential stakeholders exist. There is the wing led by Jared Kushner, son-in-law of the president, which includes his Wall Street friends Gary Cohen and Dina Habib Powell, who is deputy national security adviser. There is also a rival wing led by Donald Trump’s top adviser, the hawkish Steve Bannon. The so-called Axis of Adults has taken advantage of the tension between the two in the White House to make inroads into Trump’s heart and mind………” Arab News (Saudi)

First time I read, or hear, about “Trump’s Heart and Mind”. Didn’t know he had either. Now that is ‘kissing it’ creatively, Saudi style…..
“How do I dish thee out, oh journalistic rubbish?…..
Let me count the ways……..”

When it comes to hypocrisy towards potentates or towards a new US president, nobody can do it like Saudi semi-official media. Networks (Alarabiya), Newspapers (Asharq Alawsat, Al-Hayat), English Dailies like Arab News. All owned by princes and potentates. They hire the best, most sycophant media writers, mainly Lebanese but also other Arabs.
A few months ago Donald Trump was a pariah in Arab media. They thought their old pal Hillary Clinton will win and Trump was royally trashed in their controlled media. It is quite a different story now. Trump has been transformed into a genius. He hasn’t been elevated to the ranks of the Early Muslim Pioneers, the Sahaba, yet. But watch out!

How does an Axis of Kissers of Trump’s Rump sounds? That is what it is, but British prime minister Theresa May actually beat them to it last January. In front of a hundred cameras at the White House.


Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Imagine If You Can: a Bloody Middle East Science Day…….

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Today is Science March Day. All over the world people are meeting in solidarity with science. You’d think there is no need for a “day of solidarity” with science now. But we’ve come a long way backward, back to Ante Ante-Bellum, Ante-Galileo, Ante-Newton’s Laws, Ante Kennedy’s pledge to go to the Moon.

Science is being celebrated everywhere in the world, almost. Except for the Middle East. In some Arab capitals, and possibly in Turkey, imagine if you can that a bunch of enthusiastic young men and women gathered in city squares. They gathered for Science Day, not to push for the Sharia implementation, and not to denounce Wahhabism, and not to call for elections and free speech and an end to corruption. That would have been too much. They gathered just to celebrate Science Day, just imagine that if you can.

That is what could have happened from Riyadh to Cairo to Istanbul. That is what may have happened, had the young people decided to follow the example of their colleagues in Europe, Asia, and America. Imagine that if you can.

The dictators and the absolute tribal kings and the robber princes did not understand. To them a crowd is a crowd: a threat to their golden goose. The soldiers and the security goons and the foreign mercenaries, the men who usually crash down doors at dawn, acted on orders. In broad daylight. On this Science Day, Science watered the city squares with blood. Imagine that if you can, because you should.

Why is it that only Arabs, and some Muslims, risk shedding their blood if they publicly gather to celebrate Science?

Allies, indeed……

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Middle East Humor: Looking for Smiles in all the Wrong Places………

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“Here’s something that has always puzzled me, growing up in the U.S. as a child of Russian parents. Whenever I or my friends were having our photos taken, we were told to say “cheese” and smile. But if my parents also happened to be in the photo, they were stone-faced………… He found that in countries like Germany, Switzerland, China, and Malaysia, smiling faces were rated as significantly more intelligent than non-smiling people. But in Japan, India, Iran, South Korea, and—you guessed it—Russia, the smiling faces were considered significantly less intelligent…………..”

I have occasionally commented in my posts here on the humor or lack of it in the Middle East. Anyone who reads my posts on humor would know that the region between Waziristan through the Persian Gulf and all the way to Algiers suffers from an acute lack of humor. With a few possible pockets of ‘some’ limited humor in the region.

I have often comment about humorless Jordan. But the rest of the region is not far behind. Syria was never known for her humor, and no doubt it is much worse now. The same applies for the Lebanese who are great cooks but suck at telling jokes. Iranians and Israelis are no better. Even American Jews who move to settle in Israel manage to lose any sense of humor that they might have had. As for the Turks, they take the second prize (after Jordan): ask any Turk, male or female or transgender, about humor and they will most likely respond “what is that?

Which brings me to Egypt, the once jewel of Middle Eastern and African humor. It used to be the most, possibly the only, Arab country with a sense of humor. Not anymore. Egyptian humor was famous under Gamal Abdel Nasser, and it survived Anwar Sadat. Under Mubarak it weakened, perhaps a by-product of increased Wahhabi influence. Now under General Field Marshal Sisi humor seems to have vanished from Cairo, even as Wahhabism is going mainstream. Thousands of political prisoners, many disappearances and a rising campaign of terrorism can do that to a society.

As for my native region on the (Persian) Gulf. I recall when I first graduated from college in America and went home. I was used to people smiling at me or smiling back at me in public places in the USA. Even the dogs in the parks would try to lick my hand or hug my leg tightly and in a suspicious way, if you get what I mean.

Back home, whenever I stopped at a red light and looked at the car next to me all I saw was a frown, mostly a scowl and a silent growl. Whether I looked to my right or my left, I was always rewarded with a scowl. Later on I realized that it was just a result of insecurity and some suspicion, not hostility. Many people on my Gulf often feel that they would not be taken seriously or respected unless they scowled at others.
Nowadays it has gotten even more complicated. Other factors have entered the equation: by the time they figure out which tribe or religious sect you belong to, it is too late to smile.

Still, I never respected someone who answered my smile with a scowl anyway. But the scowls worked: I stopped smiling at strangers back home.


Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

 

Humor and Aguafiesta Violence from Early Islam to……

Al Azhar and the Academic Laws of Physics: Sharia Rules on Human Gases

Arab Media…..

WTF: Railway Link to Yemen, from Funny GCC to Asinine GCC…..

 

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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Hungry Militias: Who is Backing Whom in the Middle East and Across the World………

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“The letter accused rebels and forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh of “targeting anything that moves in the city of Aden, preventing medical teams and volunteers from reaching the injured and killing humanitarian agents.” Forces supporting President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, backed by airstrikes, battled Houthi fighters, who took control of the port, Yemeni officials said. The clashes are the latest in Yemen’s months of violence, which exploded before Hadi’s ouster from Yemen by the Iranian-backed Houthis………..”

(FYI: there are no forces supporting Hadi. Not even the Saudis. Only Hadi supports Hadi. Those fighting around Aden against Houthis-Saleh are fighters of Southern Independence or AQAP).

Media here in the United States have a way of describing certain Arab or Muslim political entities or groups by their perceived affiliations. Especially political or military groups that they dislike or disapprove of. For example, any Middle East group deemed friendly with the Iranian regime is described as Iranian-backed (or Iranian-supported) w.x.y.z, and I can almost read or hear a disapproving sniffle. I never read a description like Saudi-backed (or Saudi-supported) q.w.e.r.t.y. No mention of Saudi-backed or Qatari-backed or Turkish-backed Nusra Front. So, I have suggested a list of other potential backed-by list, just to even the playing field (or is it the killing field?):

  • Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’a Militias; Iranian-backed Houthi Zaidi Shi’as; Iranian-backed Hezbollah; Iranian-backed Hamas; Iranian-backed Assad; Iranian-backed anyone who is not Saudi-backed; Iranian-backed Texas used-car Dealer Wannabe Assassin Arbabsiar (LOL);
  • Saudi-backed Wahhabis; Saudi-backed Hariri; Saudi-backed Hadi (actually nobody-backed Hadi); Saudi-funded Jihadis; Senegal-backed Saudis; French-backed Saudis; Saudi-Qatari-Turkish-backed Nusra Front; Saudi-Ignored AQAP in Yemen; Saudi-backed Likud;
  • Qatari-backed Ikhwan; Qatari-backed Hamas; Qatari-backed Jihadis; Qatari-funded FIFA officials; Emirati-backed Sisi; Emirati-backed Clinton Foundation; Saudi-backed Bush Library;
  • Turkish-backed Nusra Front; Salafi-backed Caliphate; American-backed FSA; American-backed Jihadis in Syria; British-backed Bahrain Rulers; 
  • Republican-backed Netanyahu; Netanyahu-backed GOP; Adelson-backed contenders; Caliphate-backed Naftali Bennett; PLO-backed Ayelet Shaked;
  • We can also extend this to other, er, interests: Honey-Baked Ham (something I wouldn’t eat); Chinese-style Beijing Duck and Chicken Kung-Pao; English-style Fish and Chips; Ballpark-style Hot Dogs; Arab-Style Fried Sheep Brain; Serbian-Style Fried Sheep Balls (a k a: fried sheep cojonesبيض غنم)……………

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

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
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

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