Tag Archives: Oman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M Haider Ghuloum

Mystery of Oman and the Never-Ending Arab and GCC Wars……

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Every Arab country is engaged in some kind of war these days.
In fact every Middle East country, including Iran, Turkey, and Israel are involved in some kind of warfare. Look at the map, and name one country that is not fighting either its neighbors or its own people (civil war)  or somebody else. We can’t blame it all on Iran or Israel or the West, can we?

For example ISIS/DAESH is a purely Arab creation, although now it has Chechens, Uzbeks, Bosnians, etc, etc. There are no Iranians or Israelis in North Africa, none that have been caught and blamed.
Saudi Arabia and its allies are fighting directly in Yemen (there are no Israeli or Iranian or Lebanese forces in Yemen). They are fighting indirectly in Syria. There are wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Sinai, Libya, Tunisia, North Africa, East Africa. You name it, it is involved in some war. Even Jordan is involved in Yemen, Syria, and possibly other places.

I can think of one Arab state that is NOT involved in any war, I think. At least not yet. It is Oman, right at the southern tip of the Persian Gulf. For some odd reason Oman is not involved in any regional war. And it never claims to be threatened by anyone, at least by anyone that is not Arab. Unlike Bahrain, Oman does not claim to discover weekly plots by Iranian agents nor by Hezbollah, nor does it ever feel that its national security is threatened by anyone. At least not by anyone outside the GCC.

In fairness the UAE and Qatar also never seem to uncover any such plots either. Not since the Qataris uncovered a Saudi plot to overthrow their regime in 1998. The same is mostly true for Kuwait, where the most serious current security threat seems to come from Wahhabi Jihadists. Kuwait has recently convicted one network of Iranian espionage agents and plotters, a mix of Iranians and locals. But it has also uncovered several Wahhabi terrorist cells (the country had two lethal bombings of Shi’a mosques by ISIS sympathizers last year). Bahrain of course claims to uncover such plots on an almost weekly basis (grain of salt alert).

Odd, no, about Oman? Can it be that they are wiser than their neighbors? Is it their historic focus on the sea and beyond, away from the rest of the Arab world and its troubles? You figure it out…….
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Gulf GCC Comes to Camp David: the Addled, the Wretched, and Emma Lazarus……..

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“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
 Emma Lazarus

The Huffington Post headlined (exaggerated) on Monday: “The Great Gulf Back-Out. Saudi King, Other Gulf Nation Rulers To Skip Camp David Summit………..”. Other US media have also repeated this idea of the hesitation of the tired, poor, huddled, wretched of the Gulf to make the trip to Washington. This is a bit of an exaggeration. There are solid non-political reasons why most of the top GCC leaders will not attend; Several of them are physically unable:

  • King Salman of Saudi Arabia: the Saudi princes are as unhappy about the Iran nuclear deal as Netanyahu claims to be. Maybe even more so, given that Netanyahu is a faker: he uses it as a red herring. Saudis want Iran under blockade, impoverished and preferably attacked by Americans or Israelis or both. Because it is the only way they can be the most important player in the Persian Gulf. The Iranian population is about 77 million, almost all native, and they sit over the world’s largest gas reserves. The Saudi population is about 16 million citizens (plus about 9 million temporary foreign laborers who rotate). Some Saudi (Wahhabi) opposition groups claim that King Salman is suffering from Alzheimer’s and that he will never attend any foreign summit anyway. This self-serving rumor has not been totally corroborated yet.
    (Bahrain doesn’t count as completely independent here. The rulers of Bahrain ape the Al Saud: with thousands of Saudi troops in their country, they do as they do and probably they do as they are told).
  • Oman: the Sultan of Oman has had surgery and lengthy medical treatment in Europe. In recent years he has had someone else represent him at all foreign summits. Besides, he maintains friendly relations with both sides of the Iranian-Saudi rivalry.
  • United Arab Emirates: the president of UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed is ill, and he has been absent from all summits. The real power is with his brothers, especially crown prince Shaikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, who will attend. Nothing new here. So, in spite of claims by some UAE minor officials and professors about a reaction to the Iran deal, this is not exactly true: the ruler has not attended any summit for several years, nor should he, and he would not attend Camp David anyway.
  • The Emir of Kuwait and Emir of Qatar apparently are the only two healthy rulers of the GCC. They will attend.

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

Sahel Oman: Coast of Oman and Rewriting History in the Gulf of Mercenaries…….


      


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Rewriting history and faking history has become a habit in our native region, especially in the Gulf GCC states. But it is a good thing that ‘facts’ are stubborn, mostly. This week’s political noise about an Al-Jazeera documentary film on the Coast of Oman is a good example.

When we were children growing up on the hot shores of the Gulf (Gulf of Mercenaries? Persian-American Gulf?) we knew about Sahel Oman (ساحل عمان) from readings and from family members. We called the whole coast south of Bahrain and Qatar by one name: Sahel Oman (Coast of Oman). We had student colleagues and friends from what is now the UAE and we called them ‘Omani students’: they did not seem to object. Dubai existed as Dubai, a commercial center, as did Al Sharjah and maybe Ras Al Khaimah. Abu Dhabi existed, but barely. We never heard or read about Abu Dhabi or some of the other emirates. Maybe we were ignorant, but we called the region: Sahel Oman. As did the other Arab media whenever they paid attention to the Arab side of the Gulf beyond Bahrain and Kuwait. In those days Bahrain was were the political action and political news were: even then the people were in constant rebellion against the absolute Al Khalifa clan and their British advisers (how some things never change!). Not much has changed in Bahrain: except for the unwelcome intrusion of Saudi troops and other imported foreign mercenaries shoring up the regime.
Now this recent recent documentary film on Al-Jazeera about Sahel Oman has riled up the UAE (mainly Abu Dhabi), and some of their Saudi allies are also making the right supportive noises. Saudi mouthpiece Asharq Alawsat (owned by Crown Prince Salman) had its obedient chief editor blast the film as a Qatari insult to the United Arab Emirates. The film is reportedly non-political, although the Qataris must have suspected that it would upset up the ruling potentates of the UAE who fancy themselves the heirs of the Greek-Persian-Roman-Babylonian-Umayyad-Abbasid empires (now they can add ancient Egypt through their share of the Gulf investment in Generalisimo Field Marshal Al Sisi). 

 

Cheers

mhgm.h.ghuloum@gmail.com