This is not a new phenomenon on the Persian Gulf: religious sheikhs (clerics) for hire.
Often they come from Egypt, Jordan, North Africa and other Arab countries/regions. They usually attach themselves to one or another among the ruling absolute oligarchies, of the Gulf, especially in the UAE or Qatar. Attracted by money and opportunity, they start issuing statements or Fatwas in favor of their benefactors and against others who displease these benefactors. They are absolutely mercenaries: clerics for hire. No different from the armed foreign mercenaries that some Gulf regimes hire to do their repression or wage their regional wars.
Here is a man with the impressive-sounding title of Deputy President of the International Union of Muslim Clerics, basically a clerical bureaucracy for hire. He is here accusing another cleric-for-hire, the Religious Adviser, whatever that be, of the top man in the UAE, Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ), of being among “devil worshipers”. He also called him a religious traveling salesman. MBZ and the UAE are among the strongest anti-Muslim Brotherhood in the whole Middle East. This is a sore point of contention with their Saudi “allies” in the stalling war on Yemen.
Of course all this name-calling is a case of one soot-covered pot calling another pot ‘black’.
The Persian Gulf GCC states are full of these hired expatriate clerics, like Al Qaradawi (in Qatar) and others, basically mercenaries, religious guns for hire. Often they are either Muslim Brothers who have found the joys of oil money (in Qatar) or others hired by the UAE potentates to blast the Muslim Brotherhood. Islamic gunslingers and mud-slingers.
All these people do their own interpretation of the Quran or Hadith to serve their masters. They are almost as bad as the Salafis, almost.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
It is a problem, this faraway little Gulf of ours. A few years ago I modified its name, I started to call it the Persian-American Gulf, but it is getting harder. The population is shifting. The princes and potentates in their little kingdoms have now imported a majority of the non-Arabic and non-Persian speaking population from South and Southeast Asia and claim it should be called, no, not the Gulf of Bengal……….. Could it be the Gulf of Mercenaries, as I suggested a year or two ago? Gulf of Wahhabis, heaven forbid? How about the Gulf of Salaf? Gulf of Foreign Military Bases? Gulf of Tribal Sectarianism?
- For example, the little oppressed repressed robbed sectarian island of Bahrain is now nearly sinking under foreign bases:
U.S Naval Base Gulf HQ – Saudi Military Base post the Spring of 2011 invasion – Even the old British colonial masters have not stopped helping the ruling gangs in their robbery and repression. They are starting a new military base – Add to all that assorted imported mercenaries/interrogators and torturers from Jordan, Pakistan, Syria (former security), Iraq (former Baathists), among other foreign places. With an occasional obscure idle English prince and princess or two paying visits to shore up the kleptocratic autocratic outpost.
- Little rich Wahhabi power Qatar where 90% of the population is temporary foreign laborers (mainly South Asian housemaids raising the kids and keeping house):
U.S. Central Command has its regional headquarters at the Al-‘Adeed base – It is now also the Muslim Brotherhood HQ (outside Turkey) – Now reports say that Turkey, under its new Ottoman Caliph Sultan Recep Erdogan, will also establish a military base in Qatar. So, the Ottomans are coming back, with a new sultan. Which might indicate that the on-again-off-again sisterly relations with the fellow Saudi Wahhabis may be heading up the proverbial ‘unsanitary creek’.
- United Arab Emirates (UAE, where some 90% of the population is composed of imported foreign laborers and housemaids), ruled by a Band of Brothers who own Abu Dhabi (lock, stock and barrel). I think it has:
British base – French base – Canadian base (sorry, it was closed over a commercial dispute) – Colombian mercenary military base (no, not FARC) – (Former) Blackwater mercenary force: mainly South American, South African, Australian, etc- Actually I have lost track: for all I know even Monaco or Vanuatu may have military bases in Abu Dhabi by now.
But I don’t have anything against friendly military bases. They can be a protective measure that started with Saddam’s Baathist brutal invasion of Kuwait in 1990. But I suspect they are not only aimed against Iraqi dangers anymore, and not only aimed against the mullahs in Iran, but probably also needed not-so-secretly to keep the sisterly Wahhabi princes next door at home. The princes are only a few tanks’ drive away, as the unhappy people of Bahrain discovered in the Spring of 2011.
As well as the dangers that may emerge from the troubles in Iraq/Jordan/Syria. Dangers that were largely created and financed by wayward Persian Gulf Islamist groups and some princes. As well as some unsettled tribal issues and risks that Gulf GCC states have experienced (attempted Saudi-backed coup in Qatar in 1998) and others may be experiencing.
Still, a Turkish military base in Qatar? But why not? After all there is a Saudi Wahhabi base in Bahrain. The Muslim Brotherhood Turkish base in Qatar could balance that.
But there is still the same nagging question that won’t go away for me: whoever the hell heard of a country welcoming a Turkish military base?
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
A few Arab governments, and their controlled media, spent several years criticizing the way the United States handled Iraq. The Saudi and Qatari potentates especially seemed to think they could have done better.
They dabbled in Iraq, but got their real chance, both of them and others, in places like Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Yemen.
- In Libya they talked the Western powers through NATO into bombing the installations controlled by the Gaddafi regime. The West essentially won the civil war in Libya for “the opposition”. People like Senator McCain, Hillary Clinton and French pop-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy thumbed their chests (and breasts) and declared a victory in Libya for democracy and tolerance. Allegedly with some Arab help, no doubt token help. It turns out the Libyan opposition was not what they thought it was. Libya is now divided among tribal elements and Jihadist terrorists. It is suffering from Al Qaeda affiliates as well as ISIS (DAESH) branches.
- These two Persian Gulf , er, “powers”, ruled by absolute tribal Wahhabi potentates, also thought they could do better in Syria than the West did in Iraq. Of course they had a strong hand in the failure of Western intervention in Iraq and the growth of Wahhabi terrorist enclaves in that country.
- Having messed up Libya, the Saudis and Qataris started, along with Senator McCain and, yes, French pop-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy to push for the Western powers to follow their same advise in Syria. From the spring of 2011 they flooded Syria with money, weapons, and Salafi Jihadists. With logistic and trafficking help from the Muslim Brotherhood regime of Caliph Erdogan of Turkey. That was when the non-sectarian original Syrian uprising ended and was replaced with sectarian Salafi Jihadist groups many of whom eventually joined ISIS or Al Nusra. Close to a quarter million Syrians from both sides have died, millions are roaming the shores of Europe seeking refuge. Meanwhile, the Arab potentates who started it all refuse to take in the refugees they helped create.
- Now the current options for the West in Syria range between accepting Al Assad or one of his allies in power or allowing the intolerant sectarian Wahhabis to take over. There might be a quasi-Wahhabi option somewhere in between, but that may have been co-opted by the new Russian intervention.
- In Yemen, the Gulf potentates allowed former vice president Generalissimo Abd Rabuh Hadi to win a rigged election with 99.8% of the vote in 2012. Not a very subtle form of democracy is it? Hadi allied himself with the corrupt quasi-Islamist Muslim Brotherhood-ish Islah (ironically Islah means Reform in Arabic). He lost out in Sanaa to an alliance of tribal Houthis and former dictator Ali A Saleh supporters in the army. He fled to Aden, but he was chased out to a hotel in that other bastion of Arab democracy and freedom, Riyadh. The war in Yemen became a struggle between the Houthi-army alliance and Southern secessionists and Al Qaeda. And American drones.
- Now the Saudis have managed to hire, rent, and buy a bunch of Arab and impoverished African allies ranging from Jordan to Sudan and possibly Mauritania and others. There are unconfirmed reports that the UAE is also sending its mercenary army of hired Colombians to Aden. Yemen is now a war among various groups and proxies. The Saudis and their allies are bombing the country indiscriminately, as do some of their local enemies. Thousands have died, and many displaced in the second poorest Arab country after Somalia. Speaking of which, many Yemenis have fled to Somalia, which tells you how bad things are in that country.
Together, these princes and potentates can write a best-seller: A Dummy’s Guide to Managing Arab Turmoil………
So much for an ‘Arab solution‘. I had thought the idea of an ‘Arab solution’ for any regional problem was laid to rest in 1990/91. Apparently not yet, but no doubt soon enough.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“Qatar, a major supporter of rebels in Syria’s civil war, suggested it could intervene militarily following Russia’s intervention in support of President Bashar al-Assad but said it still preferred a political solution to the crisis. The comments by Qatar’s foreign minister, made in a CNN interview on Wednesday, drew a swift reply from Assad’s government with a senior official warning that Damascus would respond harshly to such “direct aggression”……….”
Last month, as the Russian air campaign over the terrorist Islamic State of ISIS escalated the Qatari government threatened to intervene militarily. Yes, militarily. Now Qatar has a population of about 2 million, 90% of whom are temporary foreign laborers, mostly from from south Asian countries. Which means its citizens are about, what, a quarter of a million?
A few years ago, when the father of the current Emir ruled Qatar, some Qatari officials threatened military intervention in Iraq, if the domestic political power was not altered. At that time the citizen population of Qatar was almost certainly less than 200 thousand people.
It is true, Qatar has huge monetary reserves, and its ruling family and their tribal allies can and do buy the best Western weapons. But a statelet of a quarter of a million people intervening in Syria or Iraq? They’d need a nuclear arsenal, which their money can’t buy. It is best to stick to buying exclusive French and British hotels and real estate, and a few soccer clubs. And bribing international football/soccer FIFA officials.
An absolute tribal Wahhabi regime claiming to seek freedom for the Syrian people? Just leave Syria and Iraq to the grown-ups, will you?
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“As with its military operation in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is throwing a great deal of money and resources into media backing for the government of President Abd-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. In short order, it has helped equip and launch two satellite TV channels supporting the exiled president, as well as an alternative version of Yemen’s official news agency. Meanwhile, TV channels sympathetic to the Huthi movement are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their broadcasts via satellite as the main regional operators suspend their transmissions…………… At the regional level, the two leading pan-Arab TV news channels – the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya and Qatar’s Al-Jazeera – have put aside their differences over Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood and are both running a similar anti-Huthi, and sometimes anti-Iranian, line on Yemen, as is the Abu-Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia…………..”
The Yemenis can defeat, truly trounce, the Saudi forces and their hired allies in any battle. But they don’t have a chance in the media war, almost nobody in the region does. The potentates certainly have not held back on spending money on acquiring old Arab media and establishing new ones. Nobody in the Middle East has such unrestricted access to financial resources, and they have been buying.
Two undemocratic anti-democratic absolute tribal dynasties now dominate the Arab media, both old media and new media. The two Wahhabi regimes, the little one in Qatar and the bigger one in Riyadh are almost in control of much Arab media narrative. Their message is heavily sectarian, not always subtle, the best way to divert attention away from royal corruption and the natural human demands for freedom and self determination. The two Wahhabi financial powers seek to dominate the majority non-Wahhabi Sunni Arab minds while marginalizing and often demonizing Shi’a Arabs (and non-Arabs).
Can they win, nay buy, the hearts and minds in the vast Arab region that extends from Baghdad to Morocco? They can only influence some minds, but they can’t win, nor buy, any hearts. Hearts cannot be bought. The princes and potentates can’t win any outside their own domain.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“To make sense of this unlikely alliance between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, let’s travel back in time to 2011. Amidst the turmoil of the Arab Uprisings, Erdoğan was counting on the overthrow of the dictatorships of al-Assad, Qaddafi, Mubarak and others, fondly imagining that Muslim Brotherhood parties would then come to power across the Middle East. This was the “Islamic order” of which Erdoğan and his colleagues dreamed, an order which was to be led by Turkey. In an apparent homage to the Ottoman sultans’ tradition of performing their prayers in a newly-conquered capital, Erdoğan declared that he would soon be praying in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. However, Erdoğan has been unable to make good on this promise. Erdoğan’s Syrian venture — the most ambitious such undertaking in the entire 90-year history of the Turkish Republic — has also proved to be the undoing of Turkey’s foreign policy. Intent on overthrowing al-Assad from the very beginning, Erdoğan is one of those responsible for the devastation in Syria today, along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States. A March 24, 2013 report in the New York Times stated that 120 cargo flights from Qatar and Saudi Arabia had carried military supplies to Turkey destined for the rebels in Syria. This weaponry was then delivered to the rebels in trucks alleged to belong to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT).………..”
I have often posted, as have others, that nobody is as responsible for the bloody mess in Syria as Mr. Erdogan of Turkey and his Arab Wahhabi allies (the Al Saud princes, Al Thani of Qatar, and other Persian Gulf Islamists). Together these anti-democratic forces, with some misguided Western cooperation, managed to turn what started as a legitimate demand for Syrian democracy into a nightmare. One more Arab uprising became a Wahhabi Salafi terrorist campaign out of control, fed by petro-money, petro-weapons, and petro-volunteers. The Saudis and Qataris count on being far away from any spillover in their on police states on the Gulf, with no common borders with the inferno that is Syria. Turkey does not: their miscalculation is next door.
Just as the Pakistani ISI helped create the Afghan Taliban and now have to put up with terrorism in Pakistan, the Turks now will face spillover terrorism across their borders. They have the aspiring Kurds and they have millions of Alevis who strongly oppose Erdogan’s Syria adventure. The latter no doubt felt more secure under a secular regime in Ankara than under the Caliphate of Erdogan, ensconced in his new billion dollar royal palace.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
In the Beginning………….
There were two major recent Middle East alliances: (1) the alliance of Qatar and Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood-MB- (that was after the MB regime in Egypt was overthrown by the Al Sisi military coup) and; (2) the alliance of military-ruled Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Now the old alliances have been shaken and jumbled so that there are, for now: (1) the alliance of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Turkey (hard to believe that five years ago the Saudis used to accuse Qatar of being allied with Iran and Iraq and Syria and Lebanon) and; (2) the alliance of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE potentates shared an intense mistrust and hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood, while the Qatari potentates financed and supported the Brotherhood. Apparently the Qatari potentates have so much money that they are always looking for some foreign ally willing to accept some of it, including the FIFA sports officials. The Qataris still support the MB, but the Saudis have modified their view somewhat of their ancient ally and later enemy the Muslim Brotherhood. After all they are allied with the Brotherhood in both Yemen and Syria. The UAE still violently opposes the MB and has moved closer to Al Sisi of Egypt even as the Al Saud have moved closer to Qatar and Caliph Erdogan of Turkey.
Now apparently the Saudi opposition, the Wahhabi branch of it that is overseas, is confused or conflicted about the Saudi-Qatari ties. One school of thought claims that the new Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Nayef Al Saud strongly influences, nay dominates, the Qatari Emir Tamim Al Thani. Another school of Wahhabi opposition thought sees the influence reversed: it claims that it was Emir Tamim of Qatar who influenced the Saudis and talked them into easing up on the Muslim Brotherhood.
They both agree that the real power in the UAE, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed, lost out because he had betted on and was closely allied with Saudi Prince Meteb Bin Abdullah who has lost out after his father died.
P.S:So far only Oman and Kuwait have remained outside these flexible shifting sub-alliances among the potentates of the GCC. Probably wisely, for now.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
The Saudi Wahhabi opposition (Mujtahidd and others who support ISIS) recently claimed that the new defense minister Mohammed Bin Salman, the crown prince to the crown prince, has ‘purchased’ a hundred thousand Twitter accounts, possibly other social media as well. That he plans to hire many security workers to man them and use them. It claims he plans to use them to build up himself in the media. That is not new, some of the top potentates, as well as the most vociferous fundamentalists now ‘own’ millions of followers.
Anyway, right now the media wars for the West are being won by the Arab princes. Hands down. When it comes to media control and public opinion, billions of dollars make a big difference, especially in influencing Western opinion (but not so much non-Gulf Arab opinion). That is why the Saudi and Qatari potentates have spent billions acquiring existing major traditional Arab media outlets and establishing new ones. From Asharq Alawsat (owned by King Salman) to Al-Hayat (owned by prince Khaled Bin Sultan) to Alarabiya (Saudi royal in-law) to Al-Jazeera and Al-Quds Al-Arabi (Qatari royals) to Middle East Online (UAE) to Al-Arab (owned by Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal but searching for a home outside the Gulf after being ejected from Bahrain), to LBC, among others. And many others.
Now major Western outlets and news agencies often grab anything headlined by Saudi and Qatari networks and magnify them as ‘truths’. By the time they are bounced around the globe and return to where they started from, they ‘are’ quoted as ‘the truth’. A neat trick. It is like the claim that in Yemen, ‘loyalists’ to deposed president Hadi Al Zombie (actually mostly Southern Independence and AQAP) are fighting the Houthi-Saleh alliance on his behalf. Or the myth that Yemen’s war is a proxy war between saudi Arabia and Iran: except that it is the Saudis who are directly bombing Yemen (no proxies there) with Western munitions including cluster bombs. There are no proxies there now, unless the rented Sudanese and Senegalese and Egyptian troops land in Yemen. But then some clever reader might ask: and who are the Saudis acting as proxies for?
Initially the Houthis were not Iranian proxies or allies either: they had their own agenda. Colonel Saleh certainly is not: he was a close Saudi ally for years, even though he is a Zaidi, (or Shi’a) as Western media keep mentioning. But now the Houthis have moved closer to the Iranians for practical reasons, so they are Iranian-backed, but it is still farfetched to call them proxies or stooges.
Yet references to the legend of ‘proxy’ wars in Yemen and Syria continue in the media………
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Apparently the other Wahhabi dispute, the Saudi-Qatari dispute is alive and well. It is usually swept under the rug just before GCC summits, and briefly. In fact it has been around for a couple of decades, ever since the Saudis tried to engineer a coup d’etat in Doha in the 1990s. The coup failed, but many high Saudi intelligence officers were caught in Qatar and jailed for years.
More recently there was the Libyan episode. Qatar expressed opposition to Egyptian bombings in Libya whereby the Egyptians openly accused Qatar of supporting terrorism, a very Egyptian reaction. The GCC automatically issues a statement in support of a member country in the face of accusations by outsiders. They did it this time in defense of Qatar, which angered the Saudis who came to the aid of their man Al Sisi. The secretary general of the GCC, a Bahraini potentate, was ordered to rescind his earlier defense of Qatar. He had to quickly issue another statement against his own earlier statement. So the Saudi-Qatari dispute goes on.
Meanwhile, the potentates of Qatar have been busy. They were reported yesterday to have just signed a military agreement with fellow Muslim Brotherhood supporter Turkey. Media reports also claim the Qataris may have paid enough money to buy Al-Nusra Front away from Al-Qaeda, or maybe they have just rented Al Nusra for a period of time. If true, this will have implications not only for Syria, but also for Lebanon. The Qataris are still aiming to own Syria through some other proxy. They apparently have an urge to own some other country besides France. They lost Egypt last year to the Saudi-UAE (Abu Dhabi) potentates who practically drowned Al Sisi and his generals with billions of dollars. That may explain why Al Sisi and his aides thought that to the Gulf rulers billions of dollars are like grains of rice, numerous.
Apparently almost everybody in the Arab world is up for sale now, including many former ‘revolutionaries’. Not to be outdone by the military and Sisi, Egypt’s Tamarrud movement was also reportedly bought by the Abu Dhabi potentates of the UAE as far back as 2012. Long may the revolution live, and may all Arab revolutionaries prosper from oil money, and not just in Egypt.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Have Yourself a Merry Little——-> Kenny G. Holiday
“Nepalese migrants building the infrastructure to host the 2022 World Cup have died at a rate of one every two days in 2014 – despite Qatar’s promises to improve their working conditions, the Guardian has learned. The figure excludes deaths of Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi workers, raising fears that if fatalities among all migrants were taken into account the toll would almost certainly be more than one a day. Qatar had vowed to reform the industry after the Guardian exposed the desperate plight of many of its migrant workers last year. The government commissioned an investigation by the international law firm DLA Piper and promised to implement recommendations listed in a report published in May. But human rights organisations have accused Qatar of dragging its feet………….”
If you have seen the old Ten Commandments films of Cecil B. DeMille, either one of them, you’d recognize something here. That was when Charlton Heston rebelled on behalf of the Jewish slaves who were building the Pharaoh’s (Yul Brenner) tomb. The slaves were ancient Jews, including Edward G. Robinson who probably looked ancient at birth, instead of Nepalese, Bengalis, and other South Asians. Many of them died on the job, at least in the Hollywood version of the story. Ditto for the most recent version featuring Big Moses and Little Yahweh.
Now back to earth and our current age. If the figure of one dead every two days is accurate that is suspiciously excessive, to grossly understate the tragedy. And it is only for one nationality of migrant workers, one of several. A crime either by negligence or callousness toward the value of certain lives. With temperatures in the forties Centigrade and in the 120’s Fahrenheit, labor should be curtailed, especially at daytime. Not that the evenings are that much cooler in summer on My Gulf (I bet you didn’t know it is mine and not some king’s or potentate’s).
FYI: there is no Moses on the Persian Gulf, nor is there likely to be one anytime soon. These are not captive forced labor, not until they land in the host country. Besides, if there were a Moses, some Pharaoh would buy him off. If they can buy off governments of big democratic world powers like Britain and France, they can buy off almost anyone.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum