Tag Archives: Persian Gulf

New American Winning vs Normalcy: from Europe to the Gulf to Pyongyang……

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Riots in France.

Britain in disarray over Brexit.

Poland and Hungary ruled by Neo-Nazis; Ukraine has many longing for the days of occupation and mass graves and Babi Yar……

Europe is now in disarray, which will force America’s hand at some point in the future…..

The Afghan war in its 18th year..
Yemen
genocide in its fifth year…..

Financial Markets tanking…

Kim Jong Un speeding up his nuclear arsenal even as Trump utters public love-sick letters to him….
China
(a k a Chi-Coms to conservatives) is resurgent…

A tin-horn Arab oil prince is threatening stability in the Persian Gulf. He has his own highly placed-agent inside the White House……

So much winning, Mr. Trump repeats…..

I say, screw all this winning. How about some good old American normalcy…..

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Game of Musical Pockets Between the Trumps and Gulf Princes, Fuzzy iPhone Math and Immigration…..

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Some Arab media have recently quoted an Israeli source that First Son-In-Law Jared Kushner and some Trump associate and lawyer named Jason Greenblatt are using several allied Persian Gulf leaders and potentates as ATM cash machines. For their own financial advantage.
Previously, some media had quoted certain Persian Gulf princes & potentates as claiming that in fact it is they who have Kushner in their deep pocket.
Others had previously also quoted Kushner that the said Gulf princes are in his own pocket of questionable depth….

A bit confusing, this game of pockets, both deep and not so deep, no?

 

I saw some interesting figures put out by Spectator Index that:

It takes earnings of 133.3 average working days in Cairo (Egypt) to buy one iPhone X.
It takes earnings of 4.7 average working days in Zurich (Switzerland) to buy one iPhone.

Truly unfuzzy economic math that partly explains the recent westward and northward immigration surge. If you leave Cairo and go work in Zurich instead, you can buy 28.4 iPhones instead of only one, if you work for 133.3 days. And it can only get worse for the foreseeable future, unless Generalissimo Field Marshal Al Sisi and his ruling military Junta can perform a miracle.

On a lighter yet potentially more serious more ominous note: President Donald Trump was quoted today about Hurricane Florence that “it’s tremendously big and tremendously wet”
No doubt, ‘tremendously wet‘ is a higher category than merely ‘bigly wet’.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Eyes on Aden and Oman: How the Saudis Were Outsmarted by their UAE Allies…….

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The war in Yemen has been going on for over three years. The best armed military forces in the Middle East are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and they have been fighting and constantly bombing North Yemen and the capital Sanaa which is held by an alliance of Houthi tribal fighters and elements of the former Yemeni Army. The Arab neighbors even have had heavy involvement of American and British personnel. But the war has been a failure, so far.

Now reports indicate that the Americans are getting more directly involved against the Houthi alliance. Perhaps Mr. Trump thinks he can somehow change the course of the war. He has not learned the recent lessons of Afghanistan or the history of Yemen. But then they say he does not read (or write). A futile war so far, although the Saudi-UAE coalition have hopes that Trump will try to pull their royal nuts from that fire. Something their bought and well-paid foreign mercenaries from Africa, Australia, and Colombia have failed to do. But Donald Trump does not come cheap: it will be for a fee of many billions of dollars.

The Yemen case is complex: it involves multi-faceted wars involving various sides. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are fighting the ruling Houthi powers in the capital of Sanaa, claiming they are trying to eject Iranian influence from their border region. That would be a passable excuse, except that they have failed to show us one single Iranian or Lebanese captive from the battles in Yemen. Then there are Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and now the Saudi invasion has also expanded the domain of ISIS in Yemen.

Then there are the Southern secessionists (Hirak) who want to regain the independence of Aden and the Southern provinces.

But a major new headache for the Saudis are their current allies in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has a citizen population just barely over one million, and it also has some 7-8 million foreign expatriate laborers and others who rotate every few years. The secret of why it is doing better than their Saudi allies is their foreign mercenaries plus better training for their own native forces. They have formed elite units of fighters from among experienced foreign mercenaries, and have outmaneuvered the Saudis out of contention for Southern Yemen. They effectively control the urban parts of Southern Yemen, and they have made hints at supporting the secession (or return to independence) of the South. Even the Saudis may have come to accept that.

So, the Saudis are stuck with facing the tough Houthis just to their south. They take their frustrations on Yemen by destroying the infrastructure with daily bombings, with reported targeting and mid-air refueling done by alleged American and British experts.

Enter the case of the GCC member country of Oman, actually a reluctant member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Oman is an interesting case, the only Gulf state that had built a small overseas empire up to the late 19th century. Now the UAE borders the neutral Gulf country of Oman from the north. Oman always keeps away from Gulf and Arab petty disputes, preferring to face towards the Indian Ocean and Iran. You never hear or read of Oman complaining about Iranian (or Lebanese) meddling, unlike the ruling family of the Saudi satrapy of Bahrain, for example.

If the UAE rulers can control South Yemen, they would be squeezing Oman from the Southwest as well. They will be able, along with their Saudi partners in war, to wreak havoc in Oman, possibly make her face some new problems, although like Qatar, Oman has better ties with Iran and other countries. The Marxists who ruled the independent South Yemen tried to encroach into Oman in the 1970s, but failed.

The Saudis and Emiratis have tried recently, through their media and proxies, to coerce and pressure Kuwait to the north. That attempt failed spectacularly, given the political history of Kuwait and that it is a special case and shares borders with Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The Emiratis are also reportedly creating (actually renting) bases on the impoverished Horn of Africa, not bad for a tiny Gulf country. It is unlikely the Saudis will be comfortable with Emirati (actually Abu Dhabi) influence encircling them to the south either. There are already increasing signs of Saudi discomfort that the much smaller UAE is outsmarting them in Yemen (and in Libya). You can read it in some media and in the social media comments of some top officials. 

So, the Arab places to keep an eye on in the next few months and years are South Yemen and Oman.

More to come……

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Dhahran Summit of the Incompetent and the Impotent and General Sisi’s Plastic Missiles……..

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Arab leaders started their annual summit yesterday. This year it is in Dhahran (Zahran), Saudi Arabia, right on the Persian Gulf, right over the oil fields. Right across the waterway from Iran and the scowling ayatollahs. One can imagine that you can see the mountains of Iran if you squint hard enough, if you can see through all the Western naval warships clogging my Gulf.
These Western warships that are there presumably to deter an alleged Iranian attack that will never materialize, that has not materialized in over two centuries.

So far in my lifetime (and in my father’s and my grandfather’s lifetime), the only aggression in my Gulf has been committed by one Arab country against another, in one case by one Arab country against Iran:

Kuwait was invaded from what is now called Saudi Arabia at least twice, last time in the 1920s.
Kuwait was often threatened and then actually invaded and occupied by Baathist Iraq in 1990. Only the USA and Western allies liberated it, with some token Arab forces.

Yemen was invaded at least twice from Saudi Arabia. Large chunks of its territory were annexed, Israeli-style, by the Saudis during the last century.

Yemen has been, still is, the target of daily bombing and genocide by Saudi Arabia with active British-American help for the past three years.

Bahrain has been the beneficiary of a joint Saudi-UAE expeditionary force that helps the ruling family crush a popular uprising and the popular calls for reform.

Qatar was the target of a Saudi-instigated coup in the 1990s. It failed and several high Saudi intelligence officials were jailed in Doha for years. Now Qatar is again the target of a Cuba-style economic and total blockade from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Bahrain and Qatar have had their territorial disputes and clashes for decades.

Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, starting a war that lasted eight year. That losing war bankrupted Iraq and was the beginning of the end of the Baath regime of Saddam Hussein.
And there is more….

This Dhahran summit was weakly-attended: several Arab leaders sent second or third or even fourth rate representatives. The Emir of Qatar was smart enough to stay home; he probably did not want to be taken hostage by the fellow Arab princes of Riyadh. He remembers what happened to Lebanon’s Saad Hariri last year. Algeria, Oman, Morocco, even the UAE downgraded their delegates.

Bashar Al Assad would not stoop to attend the summit even if he were invited. There was no mention of the GCC crisis, of the Arab blockade of Qatar, of the Western attack on Syria.

The Saudi king declared that the Dhahran Summit will be called the Jerusalem Summit (presumably to celebrate his new friend Trump’s move of the US embassy).

In recent decades, Arab summits have been impotent gatherings of incompetent leaders. In the shadow of the huge American and British armadas and military bases, the Saudi king talked against “foreign” interference in Arab affairs. As if the NATO military forces and bases dotting my Gulf region were purely Arab forces.

In my lifetime, I have never seen the Arab world in such disarray and weakness, largely controlled by outside powers: be they American, Iranian, Israeli, or Turkish. This was probably the worst summit of them all, and the most hypocritical.

Its incompetence was summarized by Egyptian dictator Generalissimo Al Sisi, who raged against what he called “plastic” missiles being fired from Yemen in retaliation for constant Saudi bombing. I believe Al Sisi meant “ballistic” missiles. But he was onto something, inadvertently. The huge Arab armies, very expensively armed by the West to face a non-existing enemy across the Persian Gulf, are almost like “plastic” missiles. They are useless without Western help, guidance, and management. And very likely they also need imported personnel to operate them…

Cheers (if you can)
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Trump’s Perpetual War: With Pompeo and Bolton, New Persian Gulf War Cabinet is in Place…..

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Perpetual American wars of choice around the world are apparently here to stay. To expand soon.

Donald Trump almost has his most intimidating Cabinet of War in place. Or so he thinks. Or maybe so he wants others, the North Koreans and the Iranians and the Arab absolute kings, princes, and klepotocratic potentates, to think.

Remember: his first National Security adviser Mike Flynn, whose first official statement was that he has “putting Iran on notice“. Mike Flynn himself was “put on notice” and fired within a month, replaced by H R McMaster, a more steady man. Now McMaster has been fired, replaced by a Fox News windbag. John Bolton is a dangerous windbag. So dangerous that a Republican Senate committee refused to vote him as ambassador to the UN under George W Bush. He was appointed during recess for one year.


Between the nomination of Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State and John Bolton, one Iranian pundit tweeted “WE Are All Going to Die!” Two partisan allies and son-in-law Kushner (a potential stooge of Persian Gulf repressive princes and potentates) steering a naive blustering president towards another American war of choice in the Middle East.

Perpetual war is here to stay. A new Muslim war of aggression against Iran: America breaking an international agreement and looking for an excuse to attack another Muslim country. A Saudi-American sectarian war in the Persian Gulf that America can’t win in the long term. America can’t afford it either, which might explain the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince and the welcome he got for spreading his oil money. Trump and son-in-law probably think this prince of darkness can make a new war affordable.

US Middle East policy to be determined by John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and New York slumlord arriviste Jared Kushner (rumors are strong that the Saudis and some Emiratis may have made financial promises to Kushner and family).

Imagine this: Bolton is also widely seen as an anti-Muslim bigot who reportedly allegedly cooperated with Quasi-Nazi Robert Spencer and a famous New York female anti-Muslim blogger (someone called her activities ‘the downside of a generous divorce settlement’). Now he will be in charge of US foreign policy. On the fringe no more.

Of course Donald Trump may think he is smarter than Pompeo and Bolton, smarter that all the naysaying pundits, even smarter than me! He may think he is now credibly blackmailing both Iran and North Korea. Maybe even China! That these two added warmongers, Pompeo and Bolton, will make those countries quake with fear, cry uncle.

There are others, top American generals who have actually fought wars and are truly patriotic, who are opposed. General Votel of the Central Command, and almost certainly Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and other leading generals. They want to keep the Iran Nuclear Deal, since the Iranians and the rest of the world are abiding by it. With the exception of the plotters: absolute Saudi princes and a couple of other kleptocratic oligarchies in the Persian Gulf region who are trying to buy themselves a new sectarian war to be waged by American boys and girls as mercenaries.

 Then there is the valid theory that a foreign adventure or war is often a useful refuge for scoundrel-leaders during periods of potential domestic political trouble. Human and other costs be damned……

Should be interesting weeks coming……

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Norah O’Donnell Interviews Prince MBS, Sans Pom Poms…..

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Norah O’Donnell of 60 Minutes was a lot like one of the journalists from Saudi Al Arabiya Network (or one from an offshore Lebanese network) while interviewing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS). I expected Norah to end the interview by standing up and clapping heartily, as a Lebanese interviewer for one Arab network did a couple of months ago. But no real colorful pom poms for CBS.

I can’t wait for the upcoming interview with Vladimir Putin. At least Putin, with all his reported meddling, will not be pushing (almost certainly paying) for the United States to wage another war of choice in the Persian Gulf or elsewhere. They say part of the prince’s mission is to talk Donald Trump into a new blockade and likely into the mother of all quagmires: an unprovoked war of aggression against Iran.

(Anyone remember  Saddam Hussein of Iraq in the 1980s and how progressive & popular we were told he was? He was popular enough to be armed to the teeth by the West, including WMD technology. He invaded Iran, and when that failed he invaded Kuwait. He used chemical weapons extensively against the Kurds and the Iranians, and nobody objected. Very progressive)

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

The Second Frustration of Prince Bin Salman: a Fiasco in Qatar……

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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known affectionately and otherwise as MBS, has had a rocky period. But that is to be expected for a young man who finds himself suddenly at the helm of a country, purely by the coincidence of birth. In my last post I covered briefly his Yemen adventure. But the adventures were not done.

Last Spring came the Qatar fiasco. Qatar generally stood on the Saudi side in the losing Syrian war. But Qatar supported its own version of Islamic Jihadists, not the Salafist Wahhabis that the Saudis funded and armed (who later became AQIS and ISIS). Yet as long as they were both on the same side against the Assad regime things were mostly fine.

But there has been serious tension between the two Gulf states in the past. In the 1990s the Saudis engineered a coup attempt in Doha to overthrow the father of the current Emir and reappoint his predecessor (his father) who was more to their liking. The coup attempt failed, and Qatar continued to be a thorn on the Saudi side. The Qataris also supported and funded the Muslim Brotherhood, whom the Saudis (and Emiratis) disliked almost more than the Iranians. Then there was  the Aljazeera network, which was too outspoken on regional issues for the Saudi (and Emirat) taste.

So, finally, after several bouts of alternately making up and breaking up, the dark cloud of Donald Trump and his avaricious clan showed up in Arabia. I posted here at the time that Trump’s visit to the Arabian Peninsula in May of 2017 was a most poisonous visit. Apparently the potentates of Saudi Arabia and the UAE convinced Trump that Qatar was a major source of trouble and terrorism; they also bribed him with promises of hundreds of billions of dollars of arms purchases and investments. Somehow they got the impression that Trump was on their side, and that he would condone any action they might take against the smaller Wahhabi emirate.

So, early in Summer 1917, they announced a complete break with Qatar including land, air and sea blockades, with the support of the Egyptian regime which fears the MB as much as they do. The inexperienced new Saudi strongman Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was told that it will be easy, that the Qataris will fold, but that unlike the case of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Americans will not object.


There were signs of trouble from the start with the campaign against Qatar. First: Oman and Kuwait, almost half the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members refused to join the boycott and blockade and the threat of invasion against Qatar and its citizens. Second: Turkey stepped in to shore up its budding military alliance with Qatar. Third: Iran, which shares a huge gas field in the Persian Gulf with Qatar, opened her airspace and sea lanes and land routes to Qatar in order to go around the closure of the Arab routes. Soon plentiful Turkish and Iranian foods started replacing Arab sources of food and other imports. One pathetic Saudi commentator went so far as to absurdly tell the Qataris on Saudi semi-official Alarabiya TV that their stomachs were not used to Turkish and Iranian food products.

So far the Qatar adventure has failed. Qatar’s rulers  have not become Saudi satraps or an appendix like the rulers of rebellious Bahrain.

Another major miscalculation that has backfired and further weakened the Saudi hold and influence on the GCC alliance.

Stay tuned. More to follow….

GCC AND PLIABLE ARAB REVOLUTIONARIES: QATARI-SAUDI MICRO COLD WAR……

MEDIA WARS: CAN SAUDIS AND QATARIS BUY THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE ARAB WORLD?………

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Turkish Islamists and American Outlier Republicans vs. Darwin……

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“When children in Turkey head back to school this fall, something will be missing from their textbooks: any mention of evolution. The Turkish government is phasing in what it calls a values-based curriculum. Critics accuse Turkey’s president of pushing a more conservative, religious ideology — at the expense of young people’s education……… At a news conference last month, Turkey’s education minister announced that new textbooks will be introduced in all primary and secondary schools, starting with grades 1, 5 and 9 this fall, and the rest next year. They will stop teaching evolution………..”

Years ago, when I was a school kid, we were taught about Charles Darwin and the evolution (and creationism of course). That was on the Gulf, the Persian-American Gulf. That was in our small corner on the northern coast, almost certainly not in the whole Gulf region. We considered ourselves more ‘advanced’ than the others, at least in education (and we were in those days).
Now Turkey, formerly thought of as the realm of Kemal Ataturk-ism but now a Muslim Brotherhood bastion, is going backward, even beyond what we had in my simple corner of the Gulf years ago.

Things are going backward in some ways, and not only in parts of the United States. More than 90 years after the Scopes Trial of Tennessee (that God-fearing state apparently still teaches mostly creationism in public schools). It is a losing battle, but some states and regions still fight (or try to) the teaching of evolution. Fortunately, many of these regions they can’t afford to publish their own science textbooks.

That is in Mr. Erdogan’s realm. It is tempting to wonder what Mr. Trump believes about this. But I’ll leave that for another time: need to hike before the predicted showers start, and out here they threaten to start any time now.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Mother of All Persian Gulf Miscalculations: Petulant Princes and the Ultimatum that Failed……..

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” Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that have cut ties to Qatar issued a steep list of demands Thursday to end the crisis, insisting that their Persian Gulf neighbor shutter Al-Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran and sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries also demand an end to Turkey’s military presence in Qatar. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute…….— Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence currently in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside of Qatar…… If Qatar agrees to comply, the list asserts that it will be audited once a month for the first year, and then once per quarter in the second year after it takes effect. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance……” AP

The princes and potentates along the Persian Gulf region are rarely original. But it seems that on the occasions when they do show some originality, they can be breathtakingly so.

All these countries have foreign military bases on their territories, which is fine. The UAE has several bases on its land: American, British, French, and allegedly imported mercenary forces organized by Blackwater (later renamed Xe then Academi). Bahrain has American, British, and Saudi bases, plus thousands of Jordanian and former Arab Baathist and Asian mercenaries, so far. The Saudis have American ‘bases’ coordinating the war on Yemen, possibly British as well, as well as reportedly humorless Jordanians and other foreign military personnel. Yet they demand that Qatar end the small Turkish military presence of Caliph Erdogan. No mention of the huge US Central Command base at Al Eidid.

The brotherly, or is it sisterly, princes also want Qatar to reduce ties with Iran, yet the UAE is reportedly the main regional trading partner of Iran. Dubai’s ties with Iran precede the rule of the mullahs in Tehran and precedes the creation of the UAE. And Oman has historical and growing trade ties with Iran. Kuwait is normally neutral in disputes among Gulf GCC potentates, and it has normal ties with Iran. Yet the focus is on Qatar, or perhaps Qatar is the first target, with others to follow.

Yet Qatar is also almost umbilically tied to Iran: it shares a huge offshore natural gas field with Iran in the Persian Gulf, and that is something that cannot be broken. Besides, Iran has been on the Persian Gulf since the early Aryan invasions/migrations from the north many thousands of years ago. Long before Bush, Obama, and Trump showed up. Long before Percy Cox and Gertrude Bell and T.E Lawrence showed up. Ironically, the Emirates Airlines (UAE) flights from the United States cross the whole of Iran, over Tehran, to land in Dubai. Yet these petulant potentates have a blockade against the Qatar Airlines, banning it from their airspace.

The oddest demand is supposed to be an imitation of the IAEA nuclear task as part of the Iran Nuclear Deal with the world powers (JCPOA): they want Qatar periodically monitored for compliance with the demands of these silly princes and potentates. Can’t Arab leaders ever be original? Apparently only when they go beyond reason and into the realm of absurdity.


My conclusion? the Saudi-UAE siege of Qatar seems to have failed. Another failure to be added to their adventures in Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. Only their huge investment in General Al Sisi seems to have paid off for now, but Egypt is now a monumentally unstable war-torn mess. In Egypt it is like this: they broke it, and now they own it.

They probably thought surprise tough measures combined with hints of military action and attempted internal coup would bring the troublesome Qatari rulers down. That combined with some vague supportive comments from the new Muslim Caliph Donald Trump, a hardly reliable advocate of complex policies. They did not. The ruling princes and potentates of the Gulf have miscalculated, again.

Let us hope these petulant princes don’t keep misreading Donald Trump or James Mattis and make the Mother of All Miscalculations, plunging the region into another war, this time the Mother of All Persian Gulf Wars.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum