Tag Archives: Saudi

Arab Leaders Blowing in the Wind: Torn Between Many Lovers…….

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The Arab regimes that care, mainly in the Gulf region, have failed to devise and implement a strategy against the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East. Military attempts in Iraq and Syria (via insurgent Jihadi proxies) have failed. An extended and ferocious destructive bombing campaign with Western help seems to have failed against the fierce Yemenis. Attempts at forging various reliable foreign alliances, from Turkey to Africa, have failed. Now they think they have a chance at a reset with the Trump administration, but that is probably just another illusion.

A leading Saudi newspaper editor, Mr. Turki Al Dakhil who is close to some potentates, has asked Saudis to launch a campaign on Twitter and other social media praising Donald Trump’s criticism of Iran. In the process also exaggerating it. Many, including the huge official Saudi Electronic Army have been tweeting hashtags (most common hashtag has been #TrumpWarnsIranianTerrorism or something like it) supposedly egging Mr. Trump on, pushing him toward a confrontation with the Iranian regime.

Wahhabi extremists, Salafis, ISIS fans, Al Qaeda fans and other assorted fans of Jihadi cutthroats are all suddenly tweeting in praise of the new President of the United States.

Remember when President Obama complained to the Atlantic Magazine last year that some Arab oligarchs in the Persian Gulf were trying to get the USA to join their regional sectarian conflicts? They are now trying to egg Trump on to fight their sectarian war in the Gulf region and possibly beyond. Only a few weeks ago they were blasting Trump as an Islamophobic racist, now they are clinging to him as a potential war ally. The last great (very) white hope.

Of course this is not new. After the fall of Baghdad in 2003 some Arab autocrats tried with George W Bush to provoke yet a new Gulf war. But he turned out smarter than that, less cooperative. Obama was even more skeptical of the Arab oligarchs, especially after the uprisings of 2010/2011 started. So, the oligarchs soured on Obama and hitched their wagons to Benyamin Netanyahu of Israel. As they waited for their old Clintonista friends to retake the White House.

Netanyahu talked tough against the mullahs, but he would not go to a risky war for the sake of Wahhabi kings and princes who don’t even recognize his country. You see, I suspect that much of Netanyahu’s bluster about the Iranian regime was to divert attention from the settlements in the West Bank (he has been warning since 1995 that Iran will have a nuclear weapon within six months). Some Iranian leaders helped him along with their absurd and bigoted comments about the Holocaust and their silly “Death To” slogans. The Iranian hardliners are good at milking these hostile slogans to their advantage in the Middle East, even if they harm their country’s interests in the halls of power in the West.

Enter Donald Trump and his frustrated hawkish former generals and cultural religious racial warriors.

So that is where it stands now. The Arab oligarchs are suddenly admirers of the American leader they called a clown only a few weeks ago. They think they have a chance against Iranian expansion with Trump, given that the president is surrounded by hawks and by cabinet members and advisers who have been close to the Iranian Mujahideen-Khalq opposition group.

Trump promised to avoid foreign wars and focus on America, but he is now making ominous noises. Will he go to war for his new autocratic admirers? Hopefully not: the Middle East has had enough of foreign meddling and Western wars.
Just help defeat ISIS and Al Qaeda, Mr. Trump, then get the hell out. You don’t belong in the Middle East permanently. The Iranians and the Arabs (and Kurds and Jews and others) belong there, and they have for thousands of years.

Cheers

M. H. Ghuloum

Muslim Wars: Mufti Condemns Iranians and Catholics as Descendants of the Magi…….

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The name-calling between the regimes in Riyadh and Tehran has escalated. It has also spread to large segments of the populations of the two countries.

The Saudi Mufti has recently declared or fatwad (again) that Iranians (and almost certainly Arab and other Shi’as) are not Muslims, that they are enemies of Islam. The Mufti, like most good Wahhabis and Salafis, has called Iranian Muslims “Majus“, meaning the Magi. (It will be a shock to many in the West that the term “Magi” can be considered derogatory by anybody. He is referring to the ancient Zoroastrian faith of ancient Persia, before the spread of Islam).
To many Wahhabis, and some other modern Arab, er, thinkers(?), these are considered “fire warshipers” because some of their rites involve using fire. This is equivalent to calling Catholics “candle worshipers” because they light and use candles in their churches. It reflects a shallow and often deliberate attempt to insult and distort the history of “others”.

Some Iranians and other Shi’as have pointed out that the Peninsula tribal Arabs who are now ruled by the Al Saud and their palace muftis were in pre-Islamic times worshipers of idols, many little statues that occupied the Kaaba at Mecca. That the ancient Egyptians used to worship their kings, the pharaohs who married their own sisters, until the Persian conquest about twenty-five centuries ago. That in the Levant they worshiped Baal and Astarte and others

No doubt the Mufti and most Wahhabi Salafis believe that all Shi’as are not Muslims, including a majority of Iranians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Bahrainis, Azerbaijanis, as well as tens of millions in other countries like Turkey and Pakistan.

The Wahhabis have always used the Iranians’ ancient empire and culture as an indication of the aspirations of the current theocratic regime in Tehran. That is also part of the Salafi war on everything that is ancient and predates Islam. In fact, even early Islamic monuments and historic sites have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia as idolatry (as they are under ISIS) .

The Iranian mullahs have retaliated by Ayatollah Khamenei calling for the Holy Places to be placed in other non-Saudi hands. An unrealistic proposal that is politically and emotionally motivated.  Some mullahs were reported to have now created a newer category of their favorite epithet “Satan”. Perhaps calling the Saudis a “smaller Satan”. We all know whom they name the two bigger Satans.

So, the war of words goes on. As do the wars of proxies in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon. And in other Muslim and non-Muslim lands.

Some Arab media now report that the Mufti Shaikh Al Shaikh is being eased out of his job as a result of his latest sectarian tirade. This would be an unusual development since he is a direct descendant of Mohammad Bin AbdulWahhab, after whom the Wahhabi sect was named. They have been co-rulers with the Al Saud family for along time.
Some radical Wahhabi elements among the exiled Saudi opposition have been claiming for some time now that the new regime of King Salman & Son are trying to ease Wahhabism out of mainstream Saudi life, pushing the Saudi state away from its traditional theocracy.
That would be an improvement, but only a small step.

Cheers

M.H.Ghuloum

 

America is Blackmailed Again by Former Allies (and Its Own Leaders)……

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” Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage……………..“It’s stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens,” said Mindy Kleinberg…….”

This will probably become a hot election issue. Obama supports the Saudi position, so reportedly does House Speaker Paul Ryan. Hillary Clinton is practically clinging to the Obama coattails to win the nomination and the election. This may be handing the Republicans a new issue to beat the Democrats with. Maybe.
The New York Daily News already festooned its cover today with a photo of the wayward “allies” and a huge headline: ROYAL SCUM. No doubt Barack Obama and both Clintons cringed at that picture.
RoyalScum

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Islands Afloat: Lebensraum from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea……..

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Speaking of Al Sisi selling two strategic Egyptian islands in the Red Sea to the Saudi ruling family (my previous post).

I must add that Generalissimo Field Marshal President Al Sisi got a better deal, financially speaking, than the potentates of what is now the UAE did a few decades ago. Rather better than some rulers of the Gulf (emirates) Sheikhdoms in 1970. At that time, many of the smaller sheikhdoms of what was called Sahel Oman (Omani Coast) on the Persian Gulf had no oil fields, and they needed cash. They usually sold colorful stamps, passports, as well as their share of the rights to some of the islands in the Persian Gulf.

That was before the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was created to join all these small tribal neighborhoods. Through a deal brokered by the British overlords of the Arab side of the Gulf, the Shah of Iran paid a few million dollars for the deal to “get the islands back”, according to the Iranians. The islands are near the Strait of Hormuz. Actually the agreement was for “joint administration” of Abu Moussa. The Iranians claim the British took the islands in 1921 and put them under the jurisdiction of the sheikh of Sharjah, which was part of the British Empire. They also claim the Qasismi ruling sheikhs were at one time living on the Persian shores of the Gulf, and hence were Iranian subjects.Another convoluted complication.

Now the UAE leaders, who were not part to the deal since the UAE did not exist in 1970, would like to re-purchase the islands from Iran. Not sure why they want the islands since they have had to import 6 million foreigners to populate their own country on the mainland. It is not like they need Lebensraum.

In short: both sides in the Gulf are using any argument, whether it makes sense or not to support its case. Nobody seems in a mood to share the islands anymore: that would be too sensible for the Middle East mindset. History has been telling us this for at least 70 years.

Anyway, all this is history, but some sheikhs in the smaller Emirates of the UAE are now kicking themselves for not knowing at the time that they had so much oil under their privies and outhouses. Right under where their pet goats dropped their pellets. (FYI: I had pet goats as a kid, as well as pet birds. We also had chickens but I ate my pet eggs whenever I could).
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

On the Gulf: Tribal Statecraft, an Embarrassment of Poor Alliances……..

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Statecraft is not an extended form of tribalism. Its goals are different, so should its tools  Me

Too many international and regional alliances, created at too frantic a pace, are a sure sign of weakness rather than strengthMe

Saudi Arabia has been keeping its military forces active: mostly in doing large military exercises and maneuvers with invited, convinced, and bribed ‘allies’. They have been almost monthly events, all these military exercises, with promising names like Thunder of the North. May as well; given that their real southern war, like the Storm of Determination (the massive war against poor, under-armed Yemen) has failed miserably.

None of the titles given these military exercises and wars are original: they are all plagiarized from the original Desert Storm, the American name for the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 from Iraqi Baathists. As I wrote once before, the Saudi leaders and their minions are rarely, if ever, original.
The Saudis have also been very busy announcing new ‘alliances and pacts’, also on an almost monthly basis. Sometimes even the Arab (and Muslim) countries listed as part of an ‘alliance’ are reported to be surprised. Clearly the Saudis don’t believe that their “allies” need to agree to an alliance, or that they may have legislatures that need to have a say. But they must know that not all Muslim (or Arab) countries are ruled by absolute tribal princes.

The Iranians apparently realize that “alliances” are complicated things, given that they have not had many in recent years. So they seem to take them more seriously. They do, however, try to match the Saudi military exercises with some of their own. They also apparently realize that too many international and regional alliances, created at too frantic a pace, are a sure sign of weakness rather than strength. This last fact is something the Saudi princes don’t seem to understand.

Statecraft is not an extended form of tribalism. Its goals are different, so should its tools.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

King Solomon of Arabia Sweeps into Cairo: About the Wisdom and Ibrahim Pasha……..

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King Salman of Saudi Arabia has been on a long state visit to Egypt. The visit started with Egyptian authorities covering a public statue of Ibrahim Pasha, son of the creator of modern Egypt Mohammed Ali Pasha, during the Saudi King’s visit to Cairo. Ibrahim Pasha conquered Najd, birthplace of Wahhabism early in the 19th century. That was probably the last Egyptian military victory of modern times.

Saudi media and diplomats have hinted at a “pleasant” surprise gift from the Saudi King for the Egyptian people. That is rather doubtful: Arab leaders (or Middle East leaders in general) never have pleasant surprises for the people of another Arab state, nor for their own people. It is certain that the visit itself is no gift.

But we can speculate. President Al Sisi was recorded last year as suggesting to his advisers that Persian Gulf states have so much money, that it is like rice (unlimited numerous grains of rice). So, there might be ‘some’ more Saudi rice for the collapsing economy of Egypt. But the Saudis don’t have as much “rice” as they used to: their own reckless oil policies have contributed to the crash of crude prices in the past two years. The kings, potentates, and princes of the Gulf are cutting back on spending on their own people (but not on themselves or their merchant-class political and business allies). They are highly unlikely to be more generous with Egypt.

There is another option, but the Saudis have managed to make it a not-so-credible option, almost comic. After the Arab uprisings of 2011 started, then Saudi king Abdullah surprisingly invited far-away Morocco and humorless Jordan to join the GCC. Neither country is on the Gulf, and neither is as well financially as the GCC states. But both are monarchies, but much more democratic than the Gulf states. I commented at the time that it will never happen, and I was right.
Now, with the money limited, the Saudi King can invite Egypt to join the GCC: the first military-ruled republic to get this dubious honor. That may force the Egyptians to become more active in the Saudi military endeavors and adventures, in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. That may be the Saudi hope. But Egyptians are unlikely to accept the role of second-fiddle, or even deep involvement far from hom. A country with a civilization of 6 thousand years, albeit now poor and misruled, is unlikely yo take orders from some tribal backwater like Riyadh or Abu Dhabi.

Egypt can’t be Number Two in any Arab endeavor. We all know the Arab world is full of ruling Number Two’s already, if you get my meaning.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Humor in Politics: Donald Trump of the Middle East?………

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“Saudi Arabia’s moves against Lebanon seem amateurish. Even if the Lebanese parties wanted to, they could do little to diminish the role of Hizbullah, which acts as a state within the state and also dominates the government. “Saudi Arabia sometimes acts with bombast and violence that makes it look like the Donald Trump of the Arab world,” says Rami Khouri of the American University of Beirut. The result is likely to be that the Saudis lose influence in Lebanon, possibly to Iran………”

The Economist is often wrong about the Middle East, especially if it holds a view different from mine. This time it is quite wrong. Saudi Arabia is not quite a Trump of the Arab world: it is causing much more harm. Trump is not an extremist Wahhabi. Trump is not involved in bombing towns and cities in poor Yemen. Trump is not engaged in unleashing Jihadis terrorists in Iraq, Syria, and other places. Besides, Trump is a humorous person, highly entertaining, unlike Saudi Arabia and its potentates. No sir, it is a rather humorless place, and not only because of their current unsmiling foreign minister, the grim Mr. Al-Jubeir.

Besides, Saudi Arabia is not as much fun to watch as Trump is on the campaign trail. No Arab regime is. No Middle East regime is. In fact most Middle East comedians, not just princes and potentates and leaders, are not as much fun to watch and listen to. Even ex-president Hadi of Yemen issuing meaningless daily executive orders from a Riyadh hotel is not as funny.

Unfortunately, and in fairness, humor is fading away in most of the Middle East (and North Africa), from Iran through Turkey (especially Turkey) and into Egypt all the way to Morocco.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Riyadh Bob of Saudi Arabia………

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Saudi foreign minister Addle Al Jubeir has been making an unusual number of statements on Syria (and some other issues) for days. I would call them a frantic spurt of daily statements:

Al Jubeir: Assad will go, through a political solution OR a military solution.

If Assad does not leave, he will be forced to go.

We are ready to send ground forces into Syria.

We are ready to send ground forces to fight ISIS.

We will really send ground forces to Syria (if we have to?)

We will send troops to Syria IF the USA is willing to lead the campaign. (He didn’t say if the troops will be Sudanese, Somalian, Senegalese, Mauritanian or Klingons).

Ad nauseam, and on an almost hourly basis….. He is almost like Baghdad Bob, Saddam Hussein’s last minister of propaganda.

Then the headline of this morning (Friday 2/19): Saudi FM al-Jubeir: “We believe introducing surface-to-air missiles would change balance of power.” Which means he is threatening to wreck civil aviation in the eastern Mediterranean by supplying the Jihadists with anti-aircraft missiles. The region is not Afghanistan of 1980s where only Russian military jets flew the skies. Maybe someone in Washington will call this minister and read him the Riot Act on weapons.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Sex and Starbucks in Riyadh: Wahhabi Logic ……..

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Some Arab media report that the Saudi Commission for the Propagation of Vice (the Religious Police/Vice Squad) has issued an order banning women from entering Starbucks cafes. Saudi women who have a hankering for a latte or mocha now have to send their drivers (usually unrelated Asian males) into the shop to purchase what they need. A sign on the window of a Stabucks would read “Please no women allowed entry. Send your driver to get your order“.

So the woman are not allowed entry because there are also men in the cafe, yet the woman is allowed to be “alone” with a driver in a dark and “very private” car or SUV. Saudi women are not allowed to drive cars or ride motorcycles or bicycles or mopeds or skates. And we all know what happens when a Saudi woman in Burqa or Niqab is alone in a dark car or SUV with a male foreign driver. Satan will not be far! According to Wahhabi logic, the Devil will make it a threesome.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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