Tag Archives: Middle East

Viva Trump y Allahu Akbar: an Arab Islamic International Day of Democracy…….

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They say today is considered the International Day of Democracy. Top leaders of the US State Department celebrated the day, as did many other organizations.

They say the Arab League, the Gulf GCC, and the Organization of Islamic States are also celebrating this International Day of Democracy, each in their own unique, eccentric, unprecedented way. While awaiting the final demise of Mr. Trump’s ill-fated un-original money-focused idea of an Arab Nato. You can say what you want: cheeky, chutzpah, etc.

A spokesman for one of these groups opined that: Alhamdulellah (Allah be Praised), without our own unique Islamic Arab form of democracy we would not have such great leaders as we now have. They can lead us forward, backward, and sideways, as circumstances require.  

Another stressed that the region’s rulers, and hence its peoples, have no beef with “a government of the people, by the people and for the people”, as long as it is far away across the Atlantic Ocean.
He concluded with: Viva Donald Trump and Allahu Akbar (God is Greater), possibly in that order for the time being (pending certain upcoming elections and a certain ongoing investigation).

Another one was quoted:Viva Kushner y Greenblatt y Friedman. Turned out it was not Mahmoud Abbas of the PLO.


An Egyptian voice in the background squeaked: Viva Generalissimo Al Sisi, restorer and father of our democracy.

Happy democracy day everyone, and good luck…

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Middle East Roundup: From China to Iran, Iraq, West Bank Exile, and Suggestive Saudi Potato Chips…….

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Round-up of recent Middle East news and some comments:

In Iraq, it looks like Muqtada Al Sadr has abandoned his near-alliance with caretaker PM Haidar Al Abadi. He has now called for Abadi to resign.
My comment? If it holds up, that will seal the fate of the incompetent PM. Alliance with Muqtada was Abadi’s only route to remaining in power, after he threw his Iranian and PMU allies under the bus to appease Donald Trump.

Israeli and other media report Israel has banned teenage Palestinian protester Ahed al-Tamimi of the Occupied West Bank from traveling abroad.
My comment? That’s freedom for you, in the “only democracy” in the Middle East. But it’s done all over the Middle East, banning travel of dissidents From Tehran to Riyadh to Cairo and Algeria and beyond. It is a form of internal exile, to be locked up within the borders. Probably better than a prison or a dungeon. Unless you can escape into external exile before it is too late.

Saw an article in Foreign Policy to the effect that: China’s Continent-Spanning Trains Are Running Half-Empty. Beijing’s funding dozens of new rail routes as part of its global ambitions — and losing money on every one. So what’s the long game?
My comment? That is China. Meanwhile, back in the USA, Mr. Trump’s Infrastructure non-plan is still just hot air, unexplained and likely misunderstood by Trump, opposed by a small-minded miserly short-sighted Congress.

Reports that the US administration has warned Syria not to attack the Jihadists holed up in Idlib. Some US sources even claimed the Syrian regime is preparing to use chemical weapons against the rebels in the region. Idlib is the last major outpost of the Al Qaeda-led Salafist terrorists in Syria.
My comment? Who would have thunk it! That a day would come when the USA (Trump Admin) is allied to an Al Qaeda Salafist branch in Syria.
September 11, 2001 forgotten, buried in Wahhabi oil money. And how do they know the Syrian regime will use WMD? Did the Jihadis tell them, directly or through Israeli or Arab sources?

A piece sponsored by the Atlantic Council suggested that “Iran and the US Should Use the UN to Reopen a Channel for Dialogue”.
My comment? To start with: Trump has just reneged on the UN-adopted JCPOA Nuclear Deal. As a rule, US Iran policy (and Middle East policy) should be formulated in the United States, in Washington DC, as it was in the past, not in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem (or Las Vegas or Evangelical-LalaLand). And it should not be based on the whims and purchasing power of a few Persian Gulf absolute princes and potentates with money to burn.

The Washington Post reports from the Democratic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that a man was detained in Saudi Arabia for eating potato chips with a woman — and then posting the video.
My comment? Sharing a bag of potato chips with a woman in Saudi Arabia can be very suggestive. Especially if her whole face is completely covered with a burqa/niqab, which makes it even more suggestive, even if nobody can tell who she/he/it is.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

New Western Dreamers of Syria: Build the Wall, Build the Assad Wall…….

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State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) commented on USAID Mark Green’s visit to Syria with US Central Command Chief General Votel. She tweeted:
@USAIDMarkGreen’s visit to #Syria with General Votel of @CENTCOM….

I guess Syria now also needs a #BuildTheWall movement…….
After the first illegal cross border entry by a gaggle of US senators (McCain, Graham, et al), some Syrians could have been marching in the streets of Damascus, chanting: Build the Wall, BuildTheWall………
They did not at the time because the term Build The Wall was still unknown, the idea confined to Israel and the Palestinian and Occupied Territories. And some parts in the USA.

Yet no country has needed to build a wall as much as Syria in the past six years. Illegal infiltrators, without so much as a visa request, or a tour guide, have been sneaking in through Jordan, Iraq, Israel and especially Turkey. Arabs, Africans, Europeans, Chechens, and others along, with their concubines, converted on Syria, seeking to liberate it for the joys of pious Sunni fundamentalism.
They originally formed the backbone of Al Qaeda (or Nusra) and the ISIS (DAESH) cutthroat entities. Then we had a gaggle of US senators sneak in without an invite or a visa request, no doubt accompanied by Jihadi coyotes in civilian garb. The liberators all in ignorant bliss that they were fraternizing with Jihadis. The senators were hailed by US media of all stripes as they posed with Jihadi terrorists dedicated to the liberation of Syria from its secular (if repressive one party) path.

Now we have US forces and commanders sneaking into Syria, also without visa formalities. And these gentlemen apparently need no coyotes to guide them. They have drones and satellites. They were supposed to leave the premise within hours, before the Al Assad ICE agents descended on them and sent them back to some Turkish or Jordanian Tijuana or Ciudad Juarez.

But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asserts that many more, many American troops, perhaps thousands, will remain illegally in Syria for years. Perhaps as unofficial sitting ducks among various warring local and foreign factions bearing down on several sides. Perhaps with the eventual goal of becoming a sort of Syrian Dreamers, mostly dreaming of the day they could come back home to the USA.

Ditto for Iraq since 2003.

Then there is Israel, which sends warplanes and missiles and almost certainly infiltrators into Syria to blow up whatever the Likud does not like the look of. Even Donald Trump, the man who does nothing that does not pay off in cold cash, tossed a missile or two into an abandoned Syrian military base last year.

Saudi Arabia’s nearly-demented foreign minister Adle Al Jubeir every week insists that regime change is the path for Syria (but not for his own democratically elected Kingdom of Free Speech).

It is a wonder the Syrians did not start clamoring to “Build The Wall” all around their country. After all, Kim Jong Un of North Korea has built a stout wall, if only mainly to keep his people inside the nuclear paradise.

This story will continue…..

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Middle East Wars: Asymmetric Military Spending, Asymmetric Military Competence…….

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“Military spending increase over past decade. (at 2015 prices)
UAE: +122%
Saudi Arabia: +20%
Israel: +18%
Turkey: +9.6%
Egypt: -5%
Iran: -7% “
Spectator Index

So, according to these figures up there: the smaller the citizen population of a country, the more military spending (and greater military power?). The larger the citizen population, the less military spending (and less military power)….

But would that also make tiny Qatar or the tiny satrapy of Bahrain into regional military superpowers? Could these two Gulf superpowers be arming up, preparing for the illusionary day when the Iranian invaders finally try to smash through the mighty American-British-French navies clogging my Gulf and sweep into the Arab side of the Persian-American Gulf?

Not accounting for clear regional anomalies like some gross modern Arab military incompetence and other inabilities of military and political leadership (Yemen War, for example) or the Israeli competence in waging asymmetric traditional warfare (asymmetric in terms of the quality and quantity of weapons available). Or the Iranian skill and efficiency at advising and supplying their Arab surrogates and allies in fighting their own wars against better-funded and better-supplied foes.

(Some years ago, back in the Persian Gulf region, we used to speculate about the news/rumors that all the huge weapons deals with foreign exporters paid exorbitant commissions (known as bribes in impolite company) to regional princes and potentates, or occasionally to their wives or their children. Much of these ‘speculations’ were of course based on facts, as we all know from the most infamous of them: the huge BAE Systems kickbacks/commissions of billions of dollars to former Saudi Ambassador in Washington, Prince Bandar. Other regional countries have had their own less famous scandals.)

More on this…..

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Confusing Rex Tillerson: Iraqi Militias Must Leave Iraq, Assad Must Leave Syria, No Pasaran in Arabic…….

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Almost everybody has been after Bashar Al Assad to leave Syria since well before 2011. But the open calls for his departure came soon after the early uprising of the spring of 2011. That Syrian uprising was quickly bought and hijacked by the Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood of the Arab World, mainly the Wahhabi money bags of a couple of the Persian Gulf states. Jihadis poured into Syria from Arab states and Europe, seeking plunder, free women, and Shi’as/Christians/Others to abuse and kill. Eventually the Jihadist international brigades of ISIS and Al Qaeda inherited most of what was left of the active Syrian opposition. Here are some of the calls:


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2009-2011): “Assad Must Go. His days are numbered“.
Secretary of State John Kerry (2012…): “Assad Must Go“.
Various Arab absolute Kings & their Ministers and their media: “Assad Must Go. Assad will go soon, Inshallah“.

Saudi Foreign Minister Al Jubeir, who made a career out of it, even regularly specified in an odd weekly rant: “Assad will go soon, if not peacefully then by force” (For a while I was almost convinced he knew something I did’t).
Barack Obama: “Look, fact is that: Assad Must Go“.
Francois Hollande: “Assad Doit Partir. He Must Go (2011-2016). 
David Cameron: “Assad Must Go
Turkey’s strongman Erdogan (once a major enabler of Jihadists in Syria until about 2016): “Assad Yok! Assad Must Go (2011-2015)

Many others, opinion-ators, pundits, journalists, American hawks, and European cafe men-about-town: “Assad has a few weeks left in Damascus. His top officers are defecting to the joys of Salafism and Wahhabism“.


Donald Trump: “Maybe Assad can Stay. Or maybe not. We must defeat ISIS“.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley: “Assad Must Go“.

Finally, this covering-all-bases doozy from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “Assad Must Go. Also as a bonus: Iraqi Militias that saved Baghdad from DAESH in 2014 and fought ISIS must leave Iraq. (But he didn’t specify go where? Definitely he doesn’t want them in Yemen)”

Assad must go” became the battle cry of the West and many Arab despots and leaders. Sort of like “No Pasaran” during the Spanish civil war. Except that it now looks like it was the Assad side that made sure the refrain of “No Pasaran” applied to the other side.

And the rest of the Middle East is all run by popular elected democratic men and clans and families and oligarchs and kleptocrats of the people.
And that is where it stands, but Assad is still with us, for now. Eventually he will go, but then so does everyone else, even Arab leaders, eventually……..

Inshallah….. God Willing…….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

After JCPOA and UNESCO: Will the USA and Israel Join the Arab League?…….

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President Donald Trump has taken the USA out of a whole bunch of international institutions, agreements, and deals. From the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the Paris Climate Accord, to the United Nation’s UNESCO organization (Mr. Trump and Israel both withdrew this week).

He is on the verge of breaking and violating the JCPOA (the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran). He is also threatening the NAFTA deal with Canada and Mexico. Early in his term he threatened US ties with NATO, the bedrock of the Western Alliance since after the last world war.

For most of the rest of the world Mr. Trump is not the usual credible American president. He has very little credibility. He is not liked (to put it politely) anywhere in the world, with the exception of Israel and some Arab royal palaces (and maybe in Manila). Predictably Netanyahu made a short speech welcoming Trump’s non-withdrawal from JCPOA, while the controlled Saudi media cheered on.

So here is a suggestion: why not declare the United States, and Israel, as members of the Arab League. They can start as observer-members. It is all an incredible fantastic circus anyway……….

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

Imagine a New Middle East Slogan: Export Beautiful Pork, Not Beautiful Guns……

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Vice President Mike Pence tweeted today that:”@Potus just announced that American pork will be exported to Argentina & American farmers and ranchers will reap the rewards.”

Mr. Pence forgot to add the obligatory “Great” this time. In fact Mr. Pence has not used the “epithet” of greatness for a couple of days now to describe his boss. I wonder why….

Mr. Trump was in the Middle East last May, being anointed by Arab leaders as the new prophet of our age. He claimed he had made deals worth more than $450 billion. He claimed.
Too bad Potus forgot to negotiate, during his May Summit, to have American pork exported to the Middle East. Imagine exclusive export of pork to all those allied Arab and Muslim countries. (Scratch sanctioned Iran: they don’t deserve all that beautiful pork, not yet).

Imagine the rewards.
Imagine, if you can, the new slogan:

Export Beautiful Pork, not Beautiful Guns.

Or:

Raise Fat Pigs, not Skinny Terrorists….

(FYI: for some reason Congress always prefers “pork” to “pigs”).

It won’t be kosher or halal, but just imagine the added rewards….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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…..