Tag 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

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.