Category Archives: Weapons deals

Of Wars, Budget Deficits, Predatory College Loans: from Germany to USA and Saudi Arabia……

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The budget shows a deficit for all those countries listed below. With the exception of Germany, which had a healthy surplus.

Germany also has an extensive public healthcare system and a generous social safety net system. In addition, Germany has tuition-free education at universities and colleges. It does not saddle its younger generation with heavy education loans for the benefit of predatory banking corporations. Many other countries, including Saudi Arabia, also provide free university education. Germany also, unlike the USA and Saudi Arabia, is not engaged in major expensive stupid unwinnable foreign wars.

Spectator Index:
Govt budget balance as share of GDP, 2017.

Germany: +1.2%

Greece: -0.6%
Russia: -1.5%
Turkey: -1.5%
Australia: -1.5%
Canada: -1.6%
Italy: -2.3%
Indonesia: -2.8%
France: -2.9%
UK: -2.9%
India: -3.5%
US: -3.5%
China: -3.7%
Japan: -4.4%
Brazil: -8%
Saudi: -8.9%
Venezuela: -19%



Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Fallout of Donald Trump’s Poisonous Middle East Visit to Saudi Arabia……..

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Donald Trump‘s Middle East visit was not only the most expensive ever for his Saudi hosts, reportedly to the tune of about $460 billion that they cannot afford. The princes may even be forced later to scale down and stagger payment of some of what many natives consider a “ransom” paid to Trump. If and when the dust from his unfortunate and disastrous visit to the Arabian Peninsula ever settles down. (Already some independent Arab media claim the Saudis are canceling big weapons deals with Turkey, presumably a result of the Trump holdup)

The visit is proving a most poisonous event, one that has raised passionate sectarian tensions to levels that even Al Qaeda and ISIS could not do. Having a world superpower take direct sides in a sectarian conflict largely created by Trump’s new regional allies and urging one side side to “go for it”. That will also prove disastrous for US foreign policy. If the princes are foolish enough to take Trump at his words, they would see his speech as an invitation for them to escalate, with a promise of American collusion and participation in the event of a new war.
(Of course, some of the princes may know, like we do, that Trump is prone to exaggeration, that his word can’t be taken seriously. Hopefully that is the case, but still, so much lethal hardware in the hands of a spoiled young prince….).

First came the accession of King Salman and his rash son. Almost a future reckless Saddam Hussein of the Arabian Peninsula, if the past two years are any indication.

Then enter Donald Trump, whose knowledge of the region is focused on how much money he can extort from the native princes and potentates. An incompetent and greedy Western leader who is after loot: that is how most Arabs and Muslims see him. Regardless of the propaganda headlines of the controlled and royally-owned media of some Gulf GCC states.

Trump‘s Saudi visit was the most poisonous event for the Middle East since the accession of Saudi King Salman and his son, in itself retroactively an event that started the slide towards deeper more open sectarian conflict in the Persian Gulf and the wider Arab World.

The American visitor and his clan were not even out of Riyadh before the fallout from his visit started to poison the air over the Persian Gulf to a degree unprecedented in modern times.

More on this later…..

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

France Elects a New Traveling Weapons Salesman: Emmanuel Macron Wins……..

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Emmanuel Macron, the candidate of the French and European establishment has won the French presidency. He is sort of like a French Clinton, policy-wise.
Here is my prediction as to what he will do for the Middle East (especially the stagnant Arab World):
M. Macron, will act like all his recent predecessors. He will act like other European leaders, from Britain to Germany. Like Donald Trump will do later this month. Macron will become just another traveling salesman, heading to Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and other relatively well-heeled Arab capitals. No, not to solve regional problems, no more than Theresa May, Hollande or Donald Trump have done. He will be peddling weapons that keep the wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen going. Weapons that may start new wars in the Middle East and especially in the Persian Gulf.
Welcome to the Élysée Palace, M. Macron. The new French Traveling Salesman of Weapons, another peddler of death….

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

IDEX and MAGA in MENA: How Arab Regimes Buy More Weapons to Kill Other Arabs……

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Arab kids in IDEX candy store…

“The world’s largest military fair is wrapping up in the United Arab Emirates. The IDEX exhibition attracts mainly African, Arab and Asian officials who are shopping for weapons. For defence companies at the fair, it’s a highly lucrative market. Never since the end of the Cold War have countries spent so much on defence, with deals worth a total of 100 billion dollars signed worldwide last year. Our correspondents report from Abu Dhabi…….”

They call it IDEX (the International Defense Exhibition), but much of it is not defensive. It is a new form of Newspeak. Most of those Arabs who buy the weapons have not been attacked by anyone in recent history, at least not in a quarter century. Those few who have been directly attacked were attacked by other Arab regimes (let’s leave Israel out of the equation here: these weapons are aimed at other Muslim/Arab states). Many of the rich Arab buyers are actively involved in wars in other poorer Arab countries. Some of these oligarchies are also stockpiling weapons to help repress their own people’s aspirations. Western weapons bought by Arabs from foreign “friends” to kill other Arabs.

Sometimes the local potentates get “commissions” from weapons deals (an important consideration). In some cases the weapons purchases are used to exert political influence on the exporting Western governments (British governments have been easy targets for such blackmail, and occasionally the French as well).

As Donald Trump would say or tweet (but he won’t in this case): Sad! So Sad! …….While he runs to the bank.

According to SIPRI data:
Saudi Arabia ‘s share was second largest world weapons importer: 7% of total international arms imports in 2011-2015 (compared to 2.1% in 2006-2010). The United Arab Emirates (UAE) share was fourth largest weapons importer: 4.6% in 2011-2015 (compared to 3.9% in 2006-2010). Each imported more than much bigger countries. But then one of these two Arab states (Saudi Arabia) has been engaged in indirect wars in Syria and Iraq and both are engaged directly in Yemen (active air and land war against local Yemeni forces). Saudis were the largest importers of total American arms exports (9.7% in 2011-2015), while the UAE were the second largest (9.1%).

Some of these Arab-bought weapons find their way into the killing fields of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Possibly other places as well. In an era when revenues are declining and poverty expands even in petroleum-producing countries. Helping Make Arabia Great Again.

M. Haider Ghuloum


France Ships Vladivostok to Egypt: How the Saudis Financed Gamal Abdel Nasser….

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There was once a huge French-made naval vessel: a huge helicopter carrier of the Mistral class. It was ordered from France by Russia in 2011, but with Russia producing a large portion of it.
Then the Ukraine crisis occurred and the West initiated a boycott of Russia. France under pressure decided not to deliver the Mistral, to be named The Vladivostok, to Russia as scheduled in late 2015.

It had a bit of a problem finding a home, a paying home, meaning somebody to pay for it more than Euro 1.2 billion.
It looks like now the Saudis (and very likely their Emirati rivals) have paid for it to be sent to Egypt. Who else, since the Egyptian economy is in no position to buy rice.
So the princes and potentates on the Gulf have financed a new Egyptian battleship named after their toughest historic rival, the secular leftist strongman who sought to overthrow their regime. Another irony of modern Arab history…..

But who will Egypt be fighting in the near future in the Mediterranean or Red Sea that it keeps buying so many weapons with Gulf money (or plentiful Gulf “rice” according to Al Sisi)?

M Haider Ghuloum

Sad Economic Dances: From Tango Argentino to Saudi Arabian Ardha………

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“من حفر حفرة لأخيه وقع فيها :Whoever digs a hole for his brother, he himself shall fall into itAn Arabic saying against treachery, based on a Hadith quote from the Prophet.

” Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, needs to sell oil at around $106 to balance its budget, according to IMF estimates. The kingdom barely has enough fiscal buffers to survive five years of $50 oil, the IMF said. That’s why Saudi Arabia is moving fast to preserve cash. The kingdom not only raised $4 billion by selling bonds earlier this year, but its central bank has yanked up to $70 billion from asset management firms like BlackRock (BLK) over the past six months. After years of huge surpluses, Saudi Arabia’s current account deficit is projected to soar to 20% of gross domestic product this year, Capital Economics estimates. Saudi Arabia’s war chest of cash is still humungous at nearly $700 billion, but it’s shrinking fast…………”

Argentina evokes images of tango, soccer, gauchos…and an awful economy — one of the world’s worst. Its economy is projected to show little or negative growth this year. Argentina is still indebted to American hedge funds, affectionately known as “vultures” in the country. And it remains the poster child of nations that default on their loans. But there’s new optimism in Argentina, mainly driven by presidential elections coming later this year…………….”

In Argentina, the ruling party could win another term in run-off elections. But the Tango Argentino goes on.

Now to Saudi Arabia, where the princes like to force their Western visitors to mimic the native all-male Ardha dance for the cameras. From George W Bush to Prince Chuck of England they have all pretended t enjoy this dance. Only the Frenchmen, Sarkozy and Hollande, could not bring themselves to pretend that they want anything to do with it.

There is a great Arabic saying from the Hadith that ” من حفر حفرة لأخيه وقع فيها   whoever digs a hole for his brother, he himself shall fall into it“.

As I have opined recently, the Saudi princes had bought the fantasy that they can “control” crude oil markets. They thought they could engineer limited lower prices for political strategic goals. To punish the mullahs in Iran, Putin in Russia, and the North American shale industry. It worked well beyond their expectations, to the extent that Saudi Arabia faces economic disaster in a few years.  They probably never dreamed that prices will collapse to less than $50 (apparently the Saudis need oil prices to hover around $100/barrel).  Other Gulf GCC states can live with much lower oil prices than $100, but not the Saudis.


If you look at the IMF chart, you’ll notice that the most corrupt most repressive of the Persian Gulf states require a higher price for crude oil to break even. These are the two countries to the right. Of course that could be just a coincidence, some may say “there is no correlation”.

However, the princes are fine. They take their cut first, from oil production and from huge military and civilian contracts. They keep on sucking the resources of the country and its people. Whatever reduction in their loot results from reduced oil prices they make up with commissions and kickbacks on even larger weapons contracts with the West.

Hopefully their reckless policies do not doom the economies of the other Gulf states.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Weapons Deals: Hollande and Cameron Grow Goatees……….

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In my earlier post I opined that if they, the Saudi princes, can get rid of the moustache, then they might have a slew of kings and princes who are as hairless as Francois Hollande or David Cameron or even Angela Merkel. On the other hand, there may be no need: Hollande and Cameron would be glad to grow goatees in their feverish no-holds-barred quest for more weapons contracts.


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Persian Gulf: Local Powder Keg, Western Market Opportunity……..

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“In Yemen, “Saudi Arabia is using F-15 fighter jets bought from Boeing. Pilots from the United Arab Emirates are flying Lockheed Martin’s F-16″ in sorties in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, wrote the Times. U.S. arms manufacturers have opened up offices in several Arab capitals, and reportedly expect additional orders from regional countries for “thousands of American-made missiles, bombs and other weapons” to replenish “an arsenal that has been depleted over the past year,” according to The New York Times. In an earnings call leaked to The Intercept last month, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson stressed the company’s goals to increase international sales, particularly in the Middle East. “A lot of volatility, a lot of instability, a lot of things that are happening” in the Middle East are potential “growth areas”………….”

In 1979, after the mullahs and their temporary secular allies overthrew the Shah of Iran, they made a nearly-fateful decision. They canceled all pending weapons contracts with the United States (that was before the Hostage Crisis). The decision was partly driven by ‘revolutionary’ zeal, and based on the naive assumption that they were safe from external attack and that they could influence the region with their revolutionary message and rhetoric.
Next year Saddam Hussein did something that quickly disabused them of that rosy view. Saddam saw an opportunity in the turmoil within Iran and made his own fateful decision by invading southwestern Iran. That war disappointed all expert predictions as it lasted eight years and bankrupted Iraq to the extent that Saddam invaded Kuwait to loot its wealth. We all know that story is still unfolding in Iraq and across the region (and to some extent within Iranian political circles).
Suddenly our once peaceful Gulf looked quite menacing. Meanwhile, with the two Persian Gulf superpowers, Iran and Iraq, otherwise occupied, the smaller countries started building up their own arsenals, to supplement the American Umbrella. Now Saudi Arabia, UAE and other GCC states are major weapons markets for the West (and the East). The Iranian mullahs probably salivate at the quality and quantity of state-of-the-art Western weapons that their smaller neighbors to the south can get. Only the Israelis get better weapons than the GCC states, and that is certainly deliberate American policy.

The mullahs will probably have to keep on salivating: Western weapons are unlikely to be available to Iran any time soon. That is not all bad. They have managed to develop their own vast weapons industry, as well as a credible space program. Which means they have locally mastered the sciences and technology needed. For a country the size of Iran, it makes sense to focus on domestic production. Besides, they have not done so bad in terms of regional influence, even without F-15 and F-16 warplanes and shared Western intelligence.

I am tempted to assert that it would be better for the other Gulf states to develop their own weapons industries. But there may be a small problem with that. Where would the princes and potentates, and their families, get the huge amounts of money that the weapons bribes commissions provide?

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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Western Weapons Sanctions: Unintended Long-Term Consequences………

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“It is a tribute to Iranian ingenuity that Iran has been able to keep the planes flying, given US sanctions in place since 1979. The Iranians have done so by a combination of smuggling – using shadow companies to buy parts – and cannibalising parts from civil aircraft. They have also engaged in reverse engineering, though this seldom produces a perfect match, resulting in weaker parts. Justin Bronk, a research analyst in the military science programme at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said of the plane spotted over Iraq: “This is the equivalent of a late Vietnam-era F-4 Phantom D or E variants. We do not know which one.” Bronk, who specialises in combat air power, added: “It is extremely impressive that the Iranians have kept this airworthiness given the ban on spare parts. The Iranian aerospace industry is one of the best in the world in keeping old aircraft airworthy.”…………”

For some reason they can’t seem to get more modern warplanes from their Chinese and Russian allies. Or maybe the mullahs are just as attached to old American jets as the Shah was to new ones.

In any case, they have managed to improvise and build up their technical skills and weapons industries. Necessity is truly the mother of invention, and a fount of new research, technical skill, and knowledge. If and when the American-European blockade is lifted, they will probably find themselves with a robust domestic weapons and space industry that can only be rivaled by the Israelis.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Mulling ISIS Supply Routes and Friedman’s Arab Taxis on a Pacific Northwest Trail………

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I though I’d write a Friedman-esque (as in Thomas not Milton) post today. I am not starting it upon arrival at some Arab airport and a ride into town in a taxi driven by Abdu (in Cairo) or Abed (in Beirut) or Abul-Abed (in Amman). Funny, when Friedman goes to Beijing, the inscrutable Chinese taxi drivers (Abu Wong, et al) never share their local wisdom with him. Only Arabs do: blab and share their apparent wisdom with Western journalists.

No, I was thinking about that yesterday, Saturday. As we biked the twenty mile round trip along the Sammamish River Trail, past a couple of vintners joints and at least one hbrewery, towards the Burke-Gilman Trail. On an unusually cloudless warm morning of the Pacific Northwest. Here goes: 

I saw a retired general (USMC) state that ISIS controls the upper rivers (Euphrates and Tigris) and roads from Syria to resupply their forces in Iraq. Which made me wonder, as I pedaled along that peaceful bike trail:

  • Where do ISIS get these supplies and volunteers from Syria (as the general said)?  Why is Syria their main supply route into Iraq? And from where and how do these weapons and the money and volunteers flow into Syria then into Iraq? And how would increasing the supply of weapons to the useless Syrian opposition groups affect the flow of weapons to the ISIS Caliphate? Should we ask Turkey or Saudi Arabia or Qatar or Jordan about this? They certainly don’t flow from Cyprus (no, Israel is also an unlikely source).
  • From which Syrian (FSA, Ansar-Al-WTF, etc, etc) “relatively moderate” opposition groups and gangs did ISIS purchase some of these Western hostages (journalists and aid workers) that were so horribly beheaded on camera? And they were no doubt purchased from some of the other would-be liberators of Syria.

Before I had finished, er, mulling this last question, it was time for us to hydrate and turn around. Sort of like what happens when Thomas Friedman’s Arab taxi, driven by Abdu (in Cairo) or Abed (in Beirut) or Abul-Abed (in Amman), or Abu-Wong (in Beijing) drives up to the hotel entrance. Before he finishes sharing his strategic and cultural gems with us.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum