Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

Twist of Fate: Are the Saudis Hiring Foreign Forces to Face Possible Wahhabi Attacks?………


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“Saudi Arabia has deployed thousands of troops from Egypt and Pakistan along its frontier with Iraq, amid fears of invasion by the al-Qaeda splinter group that has declared a radical Islamic state across the border. Panicked by the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis), Riyadh has taken the drastic step of calling in military assistance from its close allies ……. Saudi Arabia spent an estimated GBP 35 billion on defense last year……………”

Most Arab regimes spend a lot of money on importing weapons, even though many, nay most of them face no external threat. But their focus is not defense against a foreign enemy. The priority is to keep the regimes, the ruling elites, the oligarchies, in power. The target, especially since the Arab Uprisings in 2011, has been potential domestic unrest.

Foreign mercenaries are not new in the Persian Gulf countries. Bahrain has been notorious for importing some of the nastiest of them from countries like humorless Jordan, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq (mainly former Baathists), among others. The rulers of Bahrain, who are also seriously humor-challenged, need mercenaries because they refuse to hire much of their own citizens.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have often relied on foreign military personnel, but they famously went even more international recently. The ruling potentates went ahead in 2011 and reportedly formed an elite parallel mercenary army organized by former Blackwater officials. The mercenaries are chosen from Colombia, South Africa, Australia, and other places. Colombian media even reported that country was facing a shortage of qualified military officers because of the money offered veterans by the UAE (which has very few citizens among its population).

Saudi Arabia does not face the same population problems as Bahrain or the UAE. About 15 million of its 24 million population are citizens, and thus eligible to serve in the military and security services. Yet their have been reports over the past few years of secret Saudi agreements with governments of Pakistan, Malaysia, and others to supply mercenary forces “when needed”.

Now this new report of Egyptian forces makes some sense. Egypt has a huge reserve of under-employed military personnel (all security personnel are probably needed t home these days). Egypt is not facing any foreign threats, contrary to what local media reports (unless Al Sisi goes foolish and intervenes in Libya). With many of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition either shot by the military or hanged or in prison, they can afford to send a few thousand to Riyadh.

Yet it is highly unlikely that the Al Saud will openly rely on foreign mercenaries. They can’t exactly aspire to become an important regional player and OPENLY depend on foreign mercenaries to defend the regime.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

New Tri-Partite Coalition: a Jewish Democracy, an Arab Military Dictatorship, an Arab Tribal Monarchy………


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“A “joint high command” of Arab states is advising the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu how to press home his ground operation in Gaza, the Debka Net Weeky, a publication of a website close to Israel’s foreign intelligence service Mossad has confirmed. The website said that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are in “constant communication” running daily conferences and sometimes more, according to the website’s sources. That communication is done over secure telephone lines, but such is the political sensitivity of their close co-operation that for really important messages human couriers are used. A special Israeli plane is parked permanently at Cairo’s military airport, ready to lift off whenever top-secret messages between the Egyptian president and the Israeli Prime Minister need to be delivered by hand. The flight takes less than 90 minutes. King Abdullah’s point man in this daily dialogue is the man he dismissed as intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, but who has now been re-hired as the King’s special adviser on the Islamic State in Iraq. Bandar maintains “direct contacts” with the Mossad chief Tamir Pardo….…………”

I would call it a coalition of convenience, not an alliance. It is like “the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, but I will not specify which one of these is which: it is probably a toss-up. It is really a coalition, if that is what it is, of two parties: Israel and the Saudi regime. Egypt has already made its peace with Israel and is doing its share in blockading Gaza and its Hamas rulers, and it has no regional influence left beyond that. Egypt under Al Sisi is now part of the Al Saud sphere of influence as far as other Middle East issues are concerned. Besides, Egypt is not directly involved with the main target of this coalition: Iran and her ruling mullahs.

This is quite a mix of an eclectic coalition of regimes, just look at its members: 

  • One militarized Jewish democracy (it is a democracy so far, if we set aside the West Bank’s future, and not only by Arab or Middle East standards),
  • One harsh Arab military dictatorship led by a Generalisimo Field Marshal but pretending to be a democracy,
  • One absolute tribal Wahhabi theocratic monarchy that has no pretensions of democracy or constitutional law whatsoever (its constitution is however the princes and their palace clerics interpret the law).

What brought them and holds them together? A mix of factors: (1) a desire to maintain the status quo and keep absolute family rule (Saudi Arabia and allies), (2) a desire to keep the military in absolute power and the old oligarchy in place while pretending otherwise (Egypt), (3) a desire to divide the Arabs and other neighbors and to weaken her main regional rival (that would be Iran in the case of Israel).

There is one other factor that sounds ridiculous but some Arab regimes pretend, for political reasons, to take it seriously: a professed media-driven fear of the spread of Shi’ism. This indicates a lot of religious insecurity within the sects of Islam. Saudi and other Gulf sectarian propaganda often warn of this threat of the ‘spread of Shi’ism’. Recently so have otherwise apparently calm but apparently Wahhabi-ized Egyptian clerics from within and without Al-Azhar. But I doubt the Jews of Israel worry much about this nonsense as much as their paranoid neighbors, perhaps excluding some remnant zealots in the settlements and around Jerusalem.

However, it would be fun if there was a true Shi’a threat of conversion in all three countries. Imagine a common threat to convert all Sunnis of Egypt, all Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, and the toughest nut of all would be to convert all Jews of Israel (and hence of the Diaspora from New York to San Fernando valley).

Just think: they wouldn’t have to wait for the Second Coming and the Rapture to convert, although it would be to the wrong faith. That should give all Christian Zionists in the American Red-blooded States massive group infarct.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

King Abdullah Earns a Doctorate from Al Sisi University, Morsi Moves from Elba to Saint Helena………


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“Al-Azhar University granted an honorary doctorate degree to the King of Saudi Arabia as a tribute to his efforts to support Egypt and for serving Islamic Dawa , head of Al-Azhar University Osama el-Abd told Youm7 Wednesday. The board of directors of al-Azhar University is seeking an appropriate way to deliver the degree to the king, Youm7 added. King Abdullah Ben Abdel Aziz supported the 30th of June revolution………..”

Al-Azhar University in Egypt has decided to bestow a degree of honorary doctorate on Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz for “his sincere efforts in the service of Islam and Muslims and his brave patriotic stance with Egypt and her people”. The president of Al Azhar University said the board has authorized him “personally” to travel to the Saudi kingdom soon to present the doctorate to the king.

It did not say if he will discuss with the Saudi king his dissertation or if he will administer his written qualifying exams or the orals. Assuming his majesty has already taken his Graduate Record Exams (GRE) long before he earned his doctorate from Generalissimo Field Marshal A. Al Sisi. The Al Azhar statement did not add that his majesty is also being rewarded for encouraging democracy and freedom in Bahrain and the Gulf and for financing and arming the Wahhabi bombing campaigns for free speech and religious tolerance in Syria and Iraq and Lebanon and for his role in keeping the people of Gaza under siege and a target of Israeli bombs.

I suspect this will now open the floodgates for copycats across the region. Other colleges and universities across the Arabian Peninsula and Lebanon and Jordan and Egypt will shower his majesty with honorary, and a few regular, doctorates. The King Doctor Custodian will soon have a resume that is the envy of a whole faculty of a college. He may just get the Nobel Prize for Academic Degrees by default.

P.S.: One of my sources claims that Al Azhar is mulling changing its name to Al Sisi University. Personally, I think it is probably too soon. What if the imprisoned president Morsi managed to do a “Napoleon from Elba” number instead of a “Napoleon in Saint Helena” number planned for him by the generals and their Saudi and Abu Dhabi allies? What if he managed to bust out of his military prison in which the generals and the Persian Gulf princes want him to spend the rest of his life?

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Saudi and Qatari Monarchs Meet to Push for Democracy……….


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Saudi media report the Emir of Qatar Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani flew to Jeddah and met with Saudi King Dr. Servant of the Two Holy Shrines Abdullah.

I will guess why such a sudden meeting: they met to discuss how best to introduce electoral democracy into Syria AND how to improve the state of electoral democracy in Iraq. With the help of their Wahhabi elves and helpers who had snuck into these tow countries uninvited.

Speaking of democracy, agencies report the meeting was attended as follows:

  • On the Saudi side those attended were: the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – and Interior Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef Al Saud
  • On the Qatari side: Shaikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani (prime minister & minister of interior) – Shaikh Ju’an (Hungry in Arabic) Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani – Shaikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani – Shaikh Khalid Bin Khalifa Bin Abdulaziz Al Thani – Shaikh Abdullah Bin Thamer Bin Moahmmed Al Thani (Qatari ambassador in Saudi Arabia).

But it couldn’t just be about Syria and Iraq and Lebanon and other hard to deal with Arab countries. Not even just Gaza and Hamas. Prince Mohammed is the Saudi minister of interior, the man in charge of police, internal security, religious police, prisons, arrests, interrogations, enhanced interrogation, and all the interesting things that happen to those convicted (and even some who are never convicted).

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Arab Dissidents: Internal Exile in a Kingdom Without Magic……


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“Yet recently enacted anti-terrorism legislation has so far been more enthusiastically directed at a different target: Saudi human-rights activists. On July 6th Waleed Abul Khair, a lawyer and founder of a local rights centre, was sentenced to 15 years in jail and a 15-year travel ban upon his release. According to his wife, who was at his hearing, the judge cited vaguely defined offences such as “distorting the kingdom’s reputation” and “inflaming public opinion”. Mr Abul Khair had defended Raif Badawi, who was sentenced in May to ten years in jail and 1,000 lashes for starting a Facebook page to talk about religion. The two men are the most recent of a string of activists convicted for doing little more than talking and sending messages …………..”

There used to be a famous poster in Europe during World War Two, warning of enemy spies, saying: “loose talk costs lives”. Now all Arab capitals should have posters saying: “Plain talk costs more than freedom”.

Abul Khair was sentenced to 15 years prison, then 15 years banned from leaving the kingdom. Which means he was sentenced to 30 years in prison (the last half of it in a larger prison). That means remaining in the country is considered by the ruling princes a form of punishment. This raises an odd comparison between the Arab past, under foreign colonial rule and the present under local despotic rule.

Under European colonialism, prominent Arab dissidents were usually sentenced to foreign exile. They were forced to leave their countries: Urabi and Zaghloul of Egypt, King of Morocco, others. Now under Arab regimes, things have been switched: the Arab dissidents are punished by being banned from travel. They are being forced to remain in the country, in a sort of internal exile (plus the medieval or biblical flogging with 1,000 lashes).

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Case for Splitting the Arab States: Wahhabistan and Huthistan and Rafidhistan……….


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Much has been written and said in the past ten years about the potential for splitting Iraq. The argument is mainly that the sects and ethnic groups cannot reach a deal to remain together peacefully within the British-created borders of Iraq. The Kurds want to split away, they are just waiting for when the moment is right (to quote the famous TV ad). The Sunni southwest region is in many ways more like northern Saudi Arabia than Iraq, at least in a tribal sense. There has also been talk of a split of Syria into Alawi, Sunni, and Wahhabi parts (perhaps a Kurdish one as well). We can extend that to some other Arab states; why only Syria and Iraq and Sudan (as happened a couple of years ago) or Somalia (which is bound to happen)? Let us explore a few other cases:

  • Saudi Arabia: King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud invaded and annexed several regions to his own Nejdi kingdom in the 20th century. His kingdom can now be divided into three states. The Nejd area will form a Wahhabistan which will keep the current name of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (if they don’t like Wahhabistan). The Hijaz will form another state where they all speak the same dialect of Arabic and say things like ‘ya shaikh’ and ‘ikhtishi’ and ‘koweyiss’ (meaning ‘good’). The smallest state will be along the coast of the Persian-American Gulf, where most of the Shi’as live. The southern part will join the next state on my list in northern Yemen.
  • Yemen: the northern most part of Yemen will annex the southern regions that had been usurped by Saudi King Abdulaziz in 1930s. It will be renamed Huthistan. The central part, the rest of the old Yemen will become “Yemen”. Southern Yemen which lost its independence in 1990 to become part of Yemen will regain its freedom and will be renamed the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen Southern Arabia.
  • Bahrain: Shi’as and some others have been in protest mode for more than three years, seeking equality in politics and economics. The Al Khalifa rulers and their tribal and Salafi allies are determined to deny them that right. So why not divide Bahrain into two mini parts: Manama and Muharraq to become one country (perhaps forming one new Saudi province), and the rest, including the neglected villages and townships could become another state of its own. This Shi’a part could be called the Rafidhi State and join the GCC as such. Or maybe it can join the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the eighth emirate. Okay, maybe I will send a text message to the shaikh, sorry king, suggesting it (with a copy forwarded to the Saudi king since it will be his decision to make).
  • Libya: is already divided into at least two parts: let us keep it that way.
  • Morocco: no change, except that the king will have to give up the Sahrawi region.
  • Egypt: Egypt has had nearly the same borders for thousands of years, the only Arab country to have this distinction. There are no major tribes or tribal divisions, although there are now deep religious divisions. So Egypt will probably remain the same: bored to death under a boring military ruler presiding over the same old bureaucracy, but united. The Sinai will remain a wild violent outpost and the south a place of violent clashes among the clans over women and cattle and religion.
  • UAE: the Abu Dhabi shaikhs have got the rest of them by the balls. Only Dubai is rich enough to draw the line.
  • Qatar: maybe it will join Turkey as a new Ottoman outpost.

(The Arab League will them change from a league or 20 some despots to a League of Forty Thieves. And I am almost serious about this, almost).

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Political Instability and Musical Chairs in Riyadh: Erratic Saudi Royal Chess……


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“Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has tapped the former deputy defense minister to lead the kingdom’s intelligence services and revitalized the political career of a former spy chief and longtime ambassador to the United States by naming him to a new senior advisory post. The moves come as the world’s largest oil exporter watches the rapid military gains made by al-Qaida-inspired militants in neighboring Iraq with growing concern. The king named Prince Khalid bin Bandar to the post of chief of general intelligence in a decree Monday, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. Khalid was relieved of his post as deputy defense minister on Saturday, barely six weeks after he was appointed. Khalid was previously the governor of the Riyadh region, an important post he assumed in February 2013 that involves overseeing the capital and provides opportunities for direct contact with top officials and visiting dignitaries. He is the son of Prince Bandar, one of the eldest surviving sons of King Abdulaziz……………”

The Saudi government used to be considered one of the most stable in the Arab world. Not anymore: it has become quite unstable in the past two years. The instability among the top royal officials is partly related to the continuous death of the elderly princes (and kings). The kingdom has had three crown princes in about as many years. This also partly reflects a jockeying for position among the rival branches of the Al Saud family (eventually at some point in the future they will be called thighs and bellies and whatever).

The current King Abdullah, possibly on his last leg, has been moving his relatives, nephews, even brothers about like so many pawns on a chess board, (but perhaps more dispensable). The Chief of Intelligence position especially has been moved around a lot, and within short periods. The troublesome Prince Bandar has also been moved around a lot, a reflection of their belief that he might be useful somewhere, in spite of his past failures in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. Prince Turki is now also used as a kind of unofficial roving ambassador to send out ‘harder’ messages from the Al Saud family to the outside world. Messages about their positions regarding Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Israel. The quick return of Egypt to the Saudi sphere has been the one singular success in the past year.

Many believe that King Abdullah is positioning things and personalities in order to enhance the chances of his son Met’eb of becoming a future king. Met’eb is reported to be in intense rivalry for the prize with Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, who inherited the Interior Ministry which was the private fiefdom of his late father. No doubt crown prince Salman is also pushing for his own side of the family, but his is perceived as the weaker side.

These internal Al Saud moves are making an interesting game to watch. An interesting subplot of the unfolding Arab history of this decade.

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Photographic Tale of Two Polling Stations: Voting in Cairo, Voting in Beirut, Voting in Riyadh……

      


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Pictorial tale of elections: Compare the two polling stations in the photos below. One is of Syrian exiles and refugees in voting in their elections in Beirut Lebanon. The other one is of a lonely Egyptian polling station in the heart of Cairo:




  

Syrian Refugees voting in Beirut                             Nobody voting in Cairo
 
Prince Chuck Bin Windsor voting in Riyadh


Saudi prince and his, er, ahem, voters