Category Archives: Tribes

NIMBY on My Gulf: of Muslim Brothers, Tribal Islamist Politics, Divisions over Yemen, and All That……

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KuwaitCox2                 Hiking

Muslim Brotherhood “thinkers/propagandists” in the Gulf region have been recently blasting the UAE government about developments in the southern Yemeni city of Aden. Apparently the UAE is exerting some influence in that port city.

They are too fearful to criticize the Saudis (or their Bahraini appendix) openly, since local Saudi (and Bahrain) embassies in the GCC states have been actively pressing host governments to prosecute and persecute public critics. It it now considered a ‘crime’ to insult other GCC regimes, even on Twitter and Facebook. It is also a crime in the GCC to criticize Al Sisi of Egypt. (In a positive step, a Kuwaiti court last week rejected this argument, opening the door for more freedom of expression).

Many Gulf Islamists are strongly tribal, and some have tribal roots inside Saudi Arabia. That, as well as an enduring alliance with Salafists (also dominated by pro-Saudi tribal ties), keeps many Gulf Muslim Brotherhood (outside UAE & Qatar) from criticizing the Saudis openly. Most Gulf MB outside the UAE and Oman have roots from Saudi kin. Hence they go easy lest they upset tribal (as well as business) allegiances and balances.
In that sense, especially in Kuwait and Bahrain, the MB are essentially as Wahhabi as the local Salafis are. In Qatar, it is likely that any public strong criticism of Turkey’s strongman Erdogan is not tolerated.

Oddly, or maybe not, this is also true for many Persian Gulf academic and media types with tribal affiliations (even those who are classified as ‘liberals’ by twisted Gulf standards). Most proclaim support for freedom/democracy, but not in the Gulf region, especially not in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain. A unique Gulf version of the American term NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).

The MB in Kuwait, for example, these days seem to think that the Saudis are accommodating the Houthis of Yemen too much. Meaning they are still bombing their towns, but not as intensely as in the past fourteen months. It must be kept in mind that the powerless former Yemeni president Generalissimo Abd Rabuh Hadi was and is allied with the Islah, the notoriously corrupt local version of the MB. But they keep their “best” and most vocal criticism for the UAE, which is the most antagonistic Arab regime toward the MB (other than Egypt). But they criticize the UAE without mentioning it: a skill some Gulf Islamists have mastered in recent years.

(On the other hand, it is also unacceptable in Iran to openly and strongly criticize allies like the Syrian government or Hezbollah in the media. Even though there are no tribal ties involved. Just strategic and some sectarian ties).

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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

Shuwaikh-school1 Hiking Sharqeya-Baneen-15


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.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Part 1: The Kuwait Opposition in a Velvet Society: a New Life or a New Nail in the Coffin of the Old Leadership?……..


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The Kuwait opposition
 has long managed to avoid and evade its main problem: it is only a partial opposition. It has failed to convince large identifiable segments of society to join it. I will list some of its failures in the next posting (Part 2). 

The (partial) opposition had seemed to be basically fading away for a few months now, until last night. They had a big public protest, a contained gathering, with chairs provided for the VIPs while everybody else had to sit on the ground or stand up (considered by some undignified and too plebeian back home, especially for the elites, be they regime elites or opposition elites). 

The organizers initially estimated more than 20 thousand would attend, which probably means they had about 8 thousand. But that’s okay: it was a hot night in June and many of the politically-inclined on both sides had decamped for European vacations. (Some used to call these elite types of both sides members of the velvet society, based on their lifestyles and, er, financial resources and how much access they had to nepotism).

of the leaders of the opposition at the gathering, former MP Mr. Musallam Al Barrak, presented a bunch of heavily redacted documents he claimed show huge amounts of money of public funds transferred by the “elites” of the regime to their own and their children’s foreign bank accounts. Oddly, and shockingly, he claimed that some of the money was transferred into an Israeli bank in Israel with close ties to the Likud, and that these officials also donated funds to the Likud Party of Benyamin Netanyahu. He did not name names, presumably for “legal” reasons, but some names were published on another website. All this needs to be verified of course: I could not accept them at face value so I will reserve my judgment for now. He did show some slides that he claimed prove the alleged financial transactions, but these were partial and heavily redacted documents and need to be verified by experts. Their sources also need to be verified, a thorny point. A
nd there had been much redaction and photocopying: only the committed would jump at them accept them at face value.

this is not new: no doubt corruption is widespread. Corruption and petroleum go together. In the 1980s and early 1990s, even while Kuwait was under Iraqi occupation, there were cases of huge embezzlement of public money by very high officials and their minions. Some escaped abroad to spend the fruits of their treachery, a couple went to prison. The alleged big man of the scandal was not touched. Oddly a couple of the leading figures of the opposition worked for years for a media empire presumably built from the embezzled public money, all allegedly of course. Go figure……….

The Kuwaiti opposition needs to clean house to become a truly broad representative national movement. I will cover some self-inflected issues that the opposition faces in Part 2 in my next post. 

Clarification of the Gruntgrunt Tribe (With No Flag) of the Gulf……….


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                                Neck of the woods

Re. my earlier post on Anthropology and the stone-age weapons trade between Europe and the Persian Gulf. I just want to emphasize that this was just fanciful speculation. There is no such tribe as the Gruntgrunt tribe in the Gulf region, not that I know of. It is a generic “tribe” name that does not refer to any existing tribe that I know of, not necessarily. I apologize if I stepped over any tribal sensibilities (or on any tribal senselessness or insensibility, which is probably more likely).
FYI: the largest tribe in the Gulf region is not on the Arabian Peninsula. It is the Bakhtiari tribe in Iran that numbers more than a million. This is true, although Iran is not a ‘tribal’ society, except for the ruling Mullah tribe. I was not referring to them either with the Gruntgrunt thingy.

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