Tag Archives: War

Long Live! Arab Rules of Succession from Saddam in Iraq to Jordan, Syria, and now Saudi Arabia……

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“King Salman of Saudi Arabia promoted his 31-year-old King Salman of Saudi Arabia promoted his 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, to be next in line to the throne on Wednesday……As defense minister, he also had primary responsibility for the kingdom’s military intervention in Yemen, where it is leading a coalition of Arab allies in a bombing campaign aimed at pushing Houthi rebels from the capital and at restoring the government. That campaign has made limited progress in more than two years, and human rights groups have accused the Saudis of bombing civilians, destroying the economy of what was already the Arab world’s poorest country, and exacerbating a humanitarian crisis by imposing air and sea blockades.Prince Mohammed has taken a hard line on Iran……….”  N Y Times

Arab kings, potentates, oligarchs, and assorted dictators have often preferred their sons (or other kin) to succeed them.

King Hussein of Jordan had his brother Prince Hassan as his crown prince for many decades. That was how the ruling Hashemite family had decided when young Hussein took the throne. But when Hussein felt his mortality approaching in the 1990s, he dumped his brother in favor of his eldest son Abdullah (from his British wife).
But there was a catch: King Hussein stipulated that his other son Hamza, from his American wife Lisa Halaby, become crown prince. This did not last long after Abdullah took the throne: he soon sidelined his half brother Hamza and appointed one of his sons as crown prince.

Hafez Al Assad (the not-king) of Syria had allegedly set his eldest flamboyant son Basil to succeed him. Basil died in a car accident, and Bashar, being trained as an eye doctor in London, was brought home to learn the ropes. The rest is history.

The most relevant to the events of today in Riyadh occurred in Baghdad in 1979. Perhaps a few years before. Vice President Saddam Hussein became the real power behind the Baath rule of his cousin Al Bakr from the early 1970s.. In 1979 he staged his own palace coup, forcing Al Bakr into retirement. Al Bakr and many of his close associates died soon after, in the usual Iraqi Baathist fashion.

Even more relevant to the recent Saudi events, Saddam was facing rebellion and discontent from minorities inside Iraq. Similarly, he was contemplating what to do about his revolutionary neighbors next door in Iran. Saddam also had the support of most Western powers and most Arab oligarchs (with the exception of Syria, some Palestinian factions, Libya, and Algeria).

About one year  after taking power, Saddam saw messy revolutionary factional Iran as an easy target to help him consolidate his power over the region. He invaded Iran without having first read the history of the German Operation Barbarossa that started in 1941. He got bogged down in Iran for eight years, lost some territory, was forced by a stalemate to sue for peace. His country ended the war bankrupt and deeply in debt to the tune of almost $200 billion (I had estimated in a paper that Iraq enjoyed tens of billions of foreign reserves before that war).

That was the beginning of the end for Saddam and the old order in Iraq. He invaded Kuwait to regain his financial losses, and thus eventually finished his bloody career hiding inside a hole near Baghdad. Before he was tried for three years and hanged.

Now we have a young man rise to power in Saudi Arabia. He has managed to push every rival aside, just like Saddam Hussein did in Iraq in the 1970s. He has also started a messy unending war in Yemen. Two and a half years of bombings by Saudi warplanes, with American and British help, have killed many thousands of civilians in Yemen and destroyed its infrastructure. Genocide with lipstick is still genocide.

With failures in Yemen and Syria under his belt, the new Saudi prince in power is looking across the Persian Gulf for a new adventure. Apparently being egged on by the greed and reckless rhetoric of Donald Trump and some paid American journalists and think tanks, he is talking of taking a war into Iran. Even as his own country, the most-expensively armed in the region, is bleeding in Yemen against lightly-armed Houthis and Saleh allies. He is also targeting his former ally Qatar with an economic blockade. He might even threaten other GCC members in due time.

Can this prince see the light and avoid another war he expects the Americans to help him wage?

Saddam Hussein is dead, but modern day Arabs often tend to repeat the worst of past mistakes. Already some approved writers in Saudi media are shouting: Saddam is dead, long live Saddam.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

The War in Yemen: Exactly Whose Side is Allah On?…..

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Saudi media, like most Arab and Middle East and Muslim states media, is controlled or severely-monitored by the state. Like most Middle East media, the reporting on the news reflects the state’s official policy. This is also true for Iran and especially for Turkey and to a much lesser extent for Israel.

The war in Yemen has not been going well for the Saudi side. The Houthi militias and their army allies have been stubborn in resisting the attempted well-armed and well-financed foreign assault. Moreover, the ISIS and AQAP terrorist groups have grown stronger in South Yemen, the main sector of operations for Saudis, Emiratis, and their hired African allies like Sudan and others (in addition to logistical and intelligence, air-fueling, and the siege help by the USA and Britain).

The Yemenis are also taking the war seriously into southern Saudi territory, areas some Yemenis still remember were their own land before the Saudis annexed them. It is almost like a war between the Yemenis and most of the rest of the world, and the lightly-armed and besieged Yemenis are winning so far.

More recently the attacking coalition has been losing some expensive aircraft. Apparently God, Allah, or Yahweh has decided to join the Houthi-Salih alliance for now. According to Saudi and UAE media, all their warplane and helicopter losses have been due to “bad weather”. Occasionally “technical issues” are mentioned. This scape-goating has not escaped the notice of some Yemeni commentators on social media. Since bad weather, like good weather, is the work of God, I lean toward concluding that God is moving against the Salafi-Wahabi-Muslim Brotherhood coalition fighting in Yemen. To further complicate matters, Arab media report that the UAE has its own plans for South Yemen, possibly as an independent-again entity but dependent on Abu Dhabi for financial support.

So that is where it stands. You’d think Allah would side with the good pious Salafis, Wahhabis, and MB against an alliance that is dominated by Zaidi quasi-Shi’as with alleged ties to Persian Magi heretics. But apparently not this time, not yet. I personally suspect that HE is remaining neutral in this Yemeni folly.

(Which also brings up another point embarrassing to many Salafis: how come Allah always allows the Israeli Jews to easily win all their wars against the Arabs (except for one in Lebanon)? True, they are a People of the Book, HIS earliest clients, but to the Salafis they are still accursed heathens and, as their more rabid Salafi shaikhs always claim at the mosques, “descendants of pigs and monkeys”).


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

The New American Jihadist Movement: Over There ……..

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“In 2006, when the Times published a piece revealing that the government, in the name of fighting terrorism, had collected the private financial information of Americans who had nothing to do with terrorism, Cotton, then an Army lieutenant stationed in Baghdad, sent a letter to the newspaper, saying that the editors should be put “behind bars.” ………… In 2012, he was elected to the House, where one of his first acts was to call for an amendment to a sanctions bill that would impose penalties not only on those who broke the law but also on their relatives, including their “great-grandkids,” “to the third degree of sanguinity.” The amendment failed—as the Washington Post pointed out, it was blatantly unconstitutional—but Cotton didn’t have much time for regret, because he had already decided to run for the Senate against Mark Pryor, the two-term Democratic incumbent, with the backing of the Tea Party Express…………..”

He said: “impose penalties not only on those who broke the law but also on their relatives, including their “great-grandkids,” “to the third degree of sanguinity.” But then he was a brash young man at the time. A brash middle-aged but powerful man can be even more dangerous.

The various American wars in the Middle East and in Muslim lands have created a whole cottage industry of people and institutions that profit from warmongering and guilt by association. And the prospects are promising for more. Never been more promising.

They have had their eyes set on an Iran war, Mother of all Middle East wars. Even the Bush (43) chickenhawks would not take the plunge: shows you how far the Republicans (and a few Democrats) have gone. Imagine how long it could last and how much it would cost and how high some defense company shares can go. And how higher that would raise the barrier along the Jordan River, even higher, one of the goals that are not articulated.

Oh, and about “the letter” to Iran meant to scuttle the nuclear negotiations and possibly provoke a new Middle East war. Juan Cole reports that Tom Cotton received over $700, 000 for his senate campaign from the right-wing Emergency Committee for Israel, another group of well-funded and frustrated but hopeful chickenhawks. Principles, even those of warmongering, don’t come cheap. But then most Republicans and many Democrats in Washington already know that.

It is a new American Jihadist movement. Just like the terrorist Caliphate of ISIS, it seeks to dominate here and to impose its will and that of its donors ‘over there’. Through continued political war here, and continued military campaigns ‘over there’.  That requires a lot of money.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter


Israeli-Saudi Military Alliance? Semites and Anti-Semites Going All the Way……..

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“The Iranian nuclear program has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel closer, according to a report in Israeli media. Saudi Arabia has now offered to let Israeli fighter jets use its airspace to attack Iran when necessary, in exchange for Israel making progress in the peace talks with Palestinians, a senior European source told Israeli Channel 2. “The Saudi authorities are completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran,” the European official in Brussels said. Using Saudi airspace means that Israeli Forces could strike Tehran at a shorter distance, without having to fly around the Persian Gulf…………….”

This from the official Iranian Al-Alam network, but it has been covered by other media as well. There is nothing really new here. Speculation about this has been ongoing since before the Wikileaks disclosures exposed the true ‘head of the snake‘. That was when they urged the Bush administration to wage a war of choice against another Muslim country. The Saudis have already prepared their people, the Wahhabi majority of them, for it. 

Their well-financed political propaganda has portrayed the Iranian ruling mullahs as Zoroastrian Sassanids bent on rebuilding the old Persian Empire. Their equally vast sectarian propaganda has succeeded in dividing Muslims and shifting the Arab uprisings of 2011 into futile sectarian conflicts, from Syria to Bahrain, with some poisonous influences in Egypt and Libya and Yemen as well. They have prepared their people well for it, as well as others on the Persian Gulf. The Iranians may also have helped push this narrative along through their intervention in the Syrian war and possibly in Yemen.

So, yes, it is possible and maybe even likely these days. There is always the prospect of implausible denial, and not for the first time. Yet they must also worry that the supremely self-absorbed Israelis will leave them ‘holding the bag’. They have seen the Iran-Iraq war, how it lasted eight years (The Economist initially stupidly predicted it would last only weeks). How it eventually led to what Americans call the First Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. They must have, since they also colluded in that long war through  money, weapons, diplomacy, and oil policy. They could have lost their kingdom and the two Holy Shrines, but for timely American intervention.

They have been flirting with the Israelis for many years now, these doctrinally anti-Semitic princes and their palace clerics. But they have never dared ‘going all the way‘, something we used to obsess with as young students. Now they may feel that they are ready to close the deal and ‘go all the way’.

(FYI: the Israelis will never dare wage that kind of foolish war without forcing some American participation. Even the spineless U.S. Congress would be upset, if only about the bill for the war).


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Is Al Sisi Being Pushed into Foreign Military Adventures?………

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“The Associated Press has learned that U.S. Arab allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are discussing the creation of a military pact against Islamic militants, with the possibility of a joint force to intervene around the Middle East. Four Egyptian military officials have confirmed the talks to The Associated Press. They say the alliance would be separate from the U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The alliance, they said, could intervene in other extremist hot-spots: Libya, where militants have taken over several cities, and Yemen…………”

Confronting the terrorists of ISIS is one thing: that is facing a danger close to home, with clear intentions to violate many regional states. Going beyond that into the realm of intervention in other countries is a risky proposition. I doubt this group of governments can organize a serious military campaign against an ‘armed’ foe rather than against unarmed civilians.

The Gulf GCC princes and potentates may believe that Egypt can be a formidable military ally that can be used in trouble spots from Libya to Yemen and possibly the Persian Gulf. They are wrong.

On paper that may seem to be true. Egypt has a huge army and some of the best American and other weapons in the region. As does Saudi Arabia and the under-populated United Arab Emirates (where nearly 90% of the population are foreign laborers and expatriates). The military prowess is all on paper: it is an accountant’s military prowess.

The Egyptian military has not been able to reclaim full authority over parts of the Sinai Peninsula, where Islamist Jihadis and various outlaw and trafficker gangs hold sway. They had one experience in outside intervention, in Yemen in the 1960s, and did not perform well. That 1960s army was supposed to be motivated and patriotic. This current Egyptian army is top fat and in reality it serves an entrenched oligarchy that only its top officers can identify with. Its soldiers cannot identify with their political and economic masters and are unlikely to fight effectively on their orders against a tenacious and fierce enemy. Not if their own homeland is not threatened.

Generalisimo Al Sisi would do well not to allow his military be “rented” by the princes and potentates to fight their wars. He would only get stuck in a quagmire in Yemen, again, or in some other place. Yemen especially comes to mind, because this week Saudi royal media have been quoting Egyptian “experts” warning about the Houthis and the Bab El-Mandab Strait. Ironically, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia have had miserable military experiences in Yemen in the past half century, the Saudis against the same Houthis a few years ago.

The Al-Nahayan brothers who rule the UAE have no military experience except maybe carrying Saudi baggage in Bahrain. But they also have some of the most expensive Western weapons and lethal toys that money can buy, and they may be deceived into thinking that is sufficient to wage real warfare against determined enemies.

They need bodies, reliable bodies that they think can wage war. Something like a huge army of mercenaries that is an efficient fighting machine. They may think they have found it in Egypt. I have no doubt that they are wrong.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum