Tag Archives: UAE

UAE-Saudi Game of Bases: from South Arabia to Horn of Africa with Temporary Love and Money….

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“Somali President Mohammed Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo request for mediation Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to persuade not to complete the establishment of a military base in “Somaliland”……..”

“Somaliland signs agreement allowing the United Arab Emirates to set up a military base in Berbera with a 25-year lease…”

An interesting and unexpected development in the Middle East in recent months. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is getting deeply into the business of foreign military bases. In one sense it has been in it for many years now. From early on, the UAE has had military bases on its territory for various counties: the United States, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, as well as Canada (canceled after a commercial dispute). All the while vigorously criticizing foreign (non-Western) bases in Iraq and Syria. Not bad for a country of a little more than 1 million citizens (plus about 6 million foreign residents).

Now the UAE, ostensibly a part-time and wary ally of Saudi Arabia, is getting into the dubious business of establishing foreign bases of its own. Basically the UAE are (for now) the strongest foreign power in the Aden area of South Yemen, having easily outsmarted and elbowed out the Saudi Wahhabis. The Saudis are closer allies to the deposed president Hadi and his corrupt old partners in misruling Yemen (the Islah, the local Muslim Brotherhood). The UAE rulers hate nothing more than the Muslim Brotherhood.

The main Saudi problem in Yemen is that they share a long border with that country. They occasionally get tempted to test these borders. Hence their fear of any perceived foreign (non-Western) influence over Yemen, be it real or imagined. The war they have been waging on Yemen for more than two years often comes back to haunt them in the form of Yemeni retaliatory attacks on their border towns and cities. As well as Yemeni rockets, reportedly local versions of Iranian and maybe Russian missiles.The rockets are a new introduction into the war, and the Yemenis in the capital Sanaa have promised more and more potent ones to come if the Saudis do not desist.

So the Saudis are stuck in a destructive but futile genocidal bombing campaign (with strong and indispensable American and British help), as well as a worrying border war. They are cornered, while the Emiratis expand their influence in South Yemen and now in the Horn of Africa. The Emiratis can better afford it than the Saudis who need to support and subsidize about 16 million citizens (there are also about 10 million foreign residents, a few million of them reportedly illegal).

To the Horn of Africa. That area seems like a favorite place for many powers to establish military bases in recent years. The Russians (Soviets) had a large base at Berbera for years under the Marxist Siad Barre military regime of Somalia. Eritrea and Djibouti have both had bases or presences of the French, Israelis, Iranians and others (including the famous pirates). Natural for an impoverished region. Now the UAE is establishing bases in Somaliland, formerly part of Somalia, which apparently still considers it part of its sphere. To the extent that Somalia can have a sphere. There have been earlier reports of a UAE base in Eritrea as well. There have been reports of a potential UAE presence in Libya as well, but that would be a foolish undertaking.

It is not clear what is the purpose of all these foreign bases and presences by a small country like the UAE. Only Oman among GCC states has had an extensive foreign presence until the 19th century, mainly in East Africa (including Zanzibar).

Oddly the Saudis don’t seem interested in foreign bases, except in Bahrain. But that is a historic cultural thing: Saudis, especially the elite Najdis of Central Arabia, were historically a landlubber people never known as sea-going people, unlike others like the Emirates (or Oman and Kuwait).

There is more. The UAE often splits from the Saudis on Yemen. The two alleged allies support different outlooks for Yemen, but the UAE can afford it financially although they have limited human resources and need local groups as allies. Hence the Hirak Movement which wants South Yemen (capital Aden) to regain the independence it lost in 1990.

My educated guess is that the UAE has the upper hand over the Saudis in that southern part of Yemen. But they need to reckon with three groups that have been strengthened by the destructive Saudi-led air war on Northern Yemen: the Southern Secessionists, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and Islamic State (ISIS). These three groups have gained strength as the Saudis bombed their main enemies in Yemen, the Houthis.

In any case, in the end neither of these Arab allies can last in Yemen. It is already bleeding them, and will kill off many of their soldiers before they realize they have to leave. And they will leave: it has been the story of Yemen since the days of the ancient Persian and Roman empires. The rugged tribal country wears them down, and the aspiring conquerors are forced to give up and leave. A hostile foreign power cannot control Yemen, it has been the case since the days of the rule of Balqis, the Queen of Sheba.

More on this later, stay tuned.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Islamic Mercenaries of the Persian Gulf: Have Quran, Will Travel………

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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.
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Gulf of Confusion: from Religious Police to a Commission for Entertainment……

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Saudi Commission for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has been notorious for restricting all kinds of freedoms. Especially the freedom to have fun, be it innocent or not. I have taken to calling it Propagation of Vice.
Now there is a new Saudi “commission”: the Commission for Entertainment ( in the least entertaining city in the least entertaining country in the whole wide world). Allegedly the idea of the young influential son of King Salman. This could have been inspired by a step taken months ago by the UAE government to improve the state of ‘happiness’, so long as it does not involve the freedom of expression. The Saudi opposition (in exile of course) claim that the UAE potentates have a lot of influence over the new Saudi Deputy Crown Prince (MBS).

The UAE established a Ministry of Happiness. Sounds like a good idea to me. It sounds like something that defies irony, perhaps something from North Korea. But it is the thought, the intention that counts, and it seems to be good.

Could the Society for Islamic Heritage Revival back home, the intolerant Salafi group designated a terrorist supporter by UN, change its name to Society for Revival of Islamic Joy and Tolerance? Could the local Muslim Brotherhood become a Brotherhood of Joy?

Or maybe the Wahhabis are softening, becoming gentler. Maybe they want to keep up with the mullahs next door in Iran who permit street music, as this photo of urban entertainment in Iran shows:

IranStreetMusic

Don’t get me wrong. I believe these are all steps in the right direction. Long overdue, but better late than never.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

UAE: Ministry of Tolerance, Ministry of Happiness, Ganja, Ganja, Ganja……

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“New post of Minister of State for Tolerance created to establish tolerance as a fundamental value of the UAE society. A board of Emirati scientists, researchers and academics set up to provide scientific advice and knowledge to the government. The Ministry of Cabinet Affairs has been tasked with devising future strategies and will become the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future. New post of Minister of State for Happiness created to channel policies and plans to create a happier society…………”

Good and in fact cute idea to start with. But will this happiness idea include the overwhelming majority of the people in UAE (about 90%) who are citizens of South Asia, Philippines, Nepal, among other places?
All I can say about the “happiness” bit is that Timothy Leary is dead, but still: Ganja, Ganja, Ganja……

P.S.: now the Saudis feel under pressure to try and match this. They can probably appoint their first female minister: Ministeress of Beheading and Flogging and Crucifixion. As for a ministry of Tolerance, it might work in diverse UAE, but as for Saudi Arabia: forget about it. Tolerance is a truly dirty, and often dangerous, word in Riyadh: it can get one beheaded. The clerics say so.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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View from the UAE: Obama the Shi’a and the Jewish Nuclear Deal………

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Our Middle East region has truly gone crazy, sectarian crazy. That is especially true of the Persian Gulf region, which has gone apeshit (forgive mon français) sectarian. I mean people of all sects have gone sectarian, be they Sunni, Shi’a, Wahhabi, Sufi, or Haredim.

A comment on Twitter by Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan, the chief of the Dubai Police and a high United Arab Emirates -UAE- official with many followers attracted my attention. He is often clownish, in his deeply sectarian and primitive tribal way. As sectarian and divisive as any full-blooded Wahhabi across the Buraimi Oasis. As sectarian as someone from, say, ISIS or DAESH, can be. He is a serious man: all the nonsense he tweets he does quite seriously and he believes it all. That could be dangerous, but he has potentates above who make the real decisions. He claimed in his tweet, quite seriously, that:
“Obama, whose origins are Shi’a, was elected to move America and Iran closer, especially on the nuclear issue, and he has succeeded”.

He also tweeted that
Jan 18 Dubai, United Arab Emirates

في علم طبائع البشر يدرس الإنسان كيفية درء الخطر وهذا ما فعله بني صهيون في دراسة طبع الإيرانيين. أتوا لهم بشخص جذره شيعي كيني برافو .
“Bani Sahion (Children of Zion), meaning Jews, elevated a Kenyan Shi’a (Obama) to serve their purposes…”

Khalfan did not mention if Obama was born in Kenya or Hawaii to Shi’a parents, so he is not a birther. Just a quasi-Wahhabi nut job that only our Gulf region can produce. Nor did he mention if Mr. Amano, chief of IAEA is also an East Asian Shi’a.

The odd thing, or maybe not so odd, is that many people, including some quite educated people in the Gulf region (and Arabian Peninsula) believe such nonsense. They are beginning to see Shi’as under every bed, so to speak.

On the other hand, who knows: maybe he has a point, maybe it is all true………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Yemen: a Genocidal War of Clashing Foreign Mercenaries…….

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Some Gulf states have hit on a new ingenious technique to compete with more powerful neighbors like Iran, Turkey, and Israel. They have sought to expand their sphere of influence through a combination of financial inducements and the hiring of foreign mercenaries to act like national armies. All of it allegedly hush-hush, but not enough hush-hush on the Gulf. State secrets on the Persian Gulf last about as long as they would in a cathouse (a k a a brothel for the, er, uninitiated). But that is okay: everybody is involved in Arab civil wars these days, from Russians to Americans and Iranians and Turks and Lebanese and Chechens and Euros. Among others.

The United Arab Emirates, UAE, with a small native population of nearly a million have been actively hiring foreign mercenaries. They have been especially hiring Colombian fighters, so many officers at high pay, creating a shortage in the Colombian military. Some reports have also come out of Mexicans. As early as the Arab Uprisings of 2011, Abu Dhabi formed a mercenary brigade organized by former Blackwater executives, and composed of Latin Americans, Australians and white South Africans, among others.

The Saudi population is about one third temporary foreign laborers (housemaids, drivers, etc). The native population is not interested in fighting a foreign war or any war, except for the many who volunteer with terrorist Wahhabi groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS.  So the princes have sought a different kind of mercenary force. They have bought off the dictator of Sudan, the convicted war criminal General Omar Al Bashir. He has rented off thousands of his forces to the Saudis in their war on Yemen. There is the possibility of Mauritanian and other African mercenaries, including Djibouti (both members of the Arab League). Jordanian mercenaries are almost certainly involved as well, as they almost always are in these cases (in Bahrain, as one example). Pakistan, which has about 35+ million Shi’as, has declined for its army to be hired off, and Egypt has been stonewalling.

The deposed Yemeni regime of General Hadi (Al Zombie) has been allied with the corrupt Islah (mainly Muslim Brotherhood) group. Now the Saudis are moving closer to the MB with whom they had good relations in past decades that had soured, while the UAE rulers see the MB as Enemy Number One. Hence a divergence of opinion and policy among allies in the quagmire that is Yemen.

Both countries have been bombing Yemeni cities for months, essentially committing genocide, with logistical and targeting help from the United States government and possibly other Western powers. Reports indicate that the UAE is moving away from the Saudis, especially in Yemen which lies almost between the two countries. The Abu Dhabi potentates are reportedly sending their own mercenaries to southern Yemen. They are also inviting former South Yemen (PDRY) Marxist leaders to the UAE for consultation. Since the Emirati sheikhs are unlikely to have gone Marxist, I assume they are making some other deal.

So, the real war is not between just two Yemeni sides. It is between the Saudis and Emiratis and Qataris and Colombians and Americans and Mexicans and Sudanese and Jordanians and Al Qaeda (AQAP) and ISIS and Hirak secessionists and aging Aden Marxists. Meanwhile the genocidal air war by the bought and hired Arab and African alliance is pushing Yemen back about sixty or so years.

Stay tuned………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Laughingstock of MENA? Oligarchs Hijack the Anger of Arab Youth, LOL…….

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A lot of conferences and symposiums and fora are held in the Gulf region. All allegedly representing the whole Arab world, from the Gulf to the Atlas Mountains. Another one was held recently in Dubai which seemed to trend toward pinning the blame for Arab problems on anybody but those responsible: the Arab establishment.

Just why are the Arabs angry? And how angry are the “young Arabs” at being “a laughingstock” according to Roger Cohen and Amr Moussa? And do the masses of Arab youths from Iraq to Morocco really give a hoot about the preferences and prejudices of unelected Gulf oligarchs? 

And who best expresses the anger of Arab “youth” according to most Western media types and pundits?
Why, it is first of all Amr Moussa, former Egyptian foreign minister then secretary general of the Arab League under Hosni Mubarak. Who else can express revolutionary anger but an octogenarian man of the establishment? Then after that who else but the absolute Saudi princes, then the absolute oligarchs of the UAE and Bahrain and Qatar.

And why are the Arab youth allegedly supposedly perhaps so angry that Persian Iran has influence in the Persian Gulf, but they are not angry that Britain, France, Monaco, and Colombian mercenaries are building bases in the same Persian Gulf faster than petro-money can finance them? And why are these “youths of the whole Arab world” allegedly represented by a handful of foreign absolute kings, princes, potentates, and their paid media minions?

And why are Arab youths, according to Amr Moussa and others, not angry at their rulers instead of being angry at foreigners who take advantage of meddling opportunities created by the rulers? Shouldn’t they be angry, as they used to be in past decades, at their rulers for enabling foreigners (Iranians, Turks, Israelis, Westerners) to wield influence?

All this puzzling “stuff” I gleaned from the recent article by Roger Cohen in the New York Times.  Written in the warm afterglow of a well-fed six-star conference in the United Arab Emirates. While the Yemenis next door got bombed and starved by the same brotherly and sisterly Arab oligarchs.          

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

From UAE to NYPD with Love and WTF………

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“The New York City Police Foundation received a $1 million donation from the government of the United Arab Emirates, according to 2012 tax records, the same amount the foundation transferred to the NYPD Intelligence Division’s International Liaison Program that year, according to documents obtained by The Intercept. A 2012 Schedule A document filed by the New York City Police Foundation showed a list of its largest donors, which included several major financial institutions such as JPMorgan Chase and Barclays Capital — but also a line item for the “Embassy of the United Arab Emirates.”………. Conspicuously, while the financial institutions are listed as donors on the Police Foundation website, the UAE is absent…………..’

Interesting: clearly now the UAE diplomats “can breathe” at will in the Big Apple. This deserves a resounding WTF………..

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

Princes of La Mancha: Saudis Still Seeking Hired Foreign Forces for Yemen…….

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“Pakistan’s parliament on Friday unanimously approved a resolution promising the country will stay neutral in the conflict in Yemen, despite Saudi requests for Islamabad to participate in the coalition fighting Shi’ite Houthi rebels. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had summoned the emergency joint session to debate a Saudi request for Sunni-dominated Pakistan to send its warships, planes and ground troops to help the Saudi-led military coalition. A heated debate continued for five days, as many lawmakers strongly opposed any Pakistani military intervention in Yemen. They feared such a move would fuel sectarian tensions inside Pakistan………..”

Saudi Deputy Deputy Crown Prince (who is also Minister of Interior) Mohammed Bin Nayef Al Saud flew to Turkey last week. The common assessment is that he wanted Turkish help in the military operations in Yemen. That came just before President Erdogan flew to Tehran. Erdogan had blasted Iran for its alleged interference in Yemen (and other places), but after his Saudi and Tehran meetings he moderated his comments. Turkey is mostly Sunni, which means the sectarian-oriented Saudis think it can provide “Sunni” military help. The problem is that only about 75% of Turks are Sunnis, and the Turks could develop an Alevi or Shi’a problem that has been so far dormant, especially in the south.

Last weekend, Saudi defense minister, the youngster Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud flew to Egypt for meetings with his Egyptian counterpart, and possibly with Al Sisi. The Egyptian media has been gung-ho last week on intervention in Yemen, complete with headlines about the “Shi’a threat” to Egypt. Egyptian media are rarely subtle and almost never into due diligence, and some of them even accused “Shi’a and Iranian” agents of terrorist acts in Sinai. Yet Al Sisi seems hesitant about sending his soldiers into Yemen to fight for the Saudis. Some Saudi Wahhabi opposition groups, those who support ISIS and Al Qaeda, claim that he is holding out for more money from the princes. Yet Egypt has a history in Yemen that it would not want to repeat.

Pakistan under the Nawaz Sharif administration was seen as a reliable source of mercenary troops to fight the Saudi war in Yemen. Yet Mr. Sharif has met with Turkey’s Erdogan and with the Iranian FM Zarif last week. After which he threw the ball in the court of the Pakistani parliament with a request to authorize intervention. The Saudis are reported by some media to have asked for “Sunni” soldiers. But Pakistan is some 20% Shi’a (about 30-35 million of them), and it is already facing sectarian terrorist acts in some major cities. The Pakistani parliament voted this week unanimously against “renting” their army to the Saudi princes. After which Anwar Gargash, a minor state minister in the United ِArab Emirates played his best card. The UAE minister threatened that Pakistan will pay “a cost” for its decision not to join the war on Yemen. Meaning financial blackmail.

This leaves Egypt, which has been monitoring the Turkish and Pakistani developments. The only country among the three which has had experience fighting in Yemen in recent times. Will Field Marshal Al Sisi jump into the fray and provide canon fodder, at the “right price”?

Stay tuned………….

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

Potentates of the Gulf Unite! (Against Human Rights)………

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“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recalled the UAE ambassador to Sweden in wake of comments the country’s foreign minister made about Saudi Arabia. In addition to recalling the ambassador, Sultan Rashid Al Kaitoob, the ministry also summoned the Swedish ambassador to the UAE, Jan Thesleff, and delivered a formal memorandum of protest over Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom’s remarks, state news agency Wam reported. Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, highlighted the “condemnation by the UAE of strong statements made by the Foreign Minister of Sweden to the Swedish Parliament against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its judicial system”. Dr Gargash stressed that these statements violate the principle of sovereignty……………..”

This show of outrage by the princes and potentates and their minions. Supposedly ‘sisterly or brotherly’ outrage as Gulf media and officials like to call it. This outrage would be funny if it were not outrageous. Coming from Persian Gulf potentates who meddle in Libya and Syria and Iraq and Lebanon and Bahrain and Egypt, among other places. Who paid billions to crush the Tahrir Uprising by the military and help repress Bahrain even as they claim to seek to liberate Syria and steer it towards the joys of Wahhabism.

So why would the Abu Dhabi potentates protest a diplomatic issue between two other countries? Maybe it is a case of “If the shoe fits, wear it“. In Arabic it would be “He who has a bump on his head will reach and touch it” (اللي على راسه بطحة يتحسسها).

Likely it has to do with a (non-mathematical) principle of transfer. They also do it, so maybe they expect the Swedish diplomats to mention them as well at some point. They feel entitled to certain consideration and accommodation, because they can threaten to block lucrative contracts (some may consider it a sort of blackmail). You never see the British or French governments talk about human rights in these countries. Why do you suppose that is so? Certainly it has nothing to do with principles: both these European governments leave their principles on the other side of the Mediterranean before they hit our shores. They always have.

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