Tuesday, November 24, 2009

GCC Troubles Resurface: Issues of Sovereignty, Independence

The United Arab Emirates has formed a special federal council “Council of Border Affairs”, which means that relations with Saudi Arabia are set to get even more tense on the eve of the GCC summit in Kuwait in December. The measure comes after Riyadh stonewalled about making requested clarifications on certain border issues. The border has been an area of contention since before the UAE was formed. And there have been periodic flare-ups especially over the past year. Saudi Arabia has used trade pressures over the border and other issues, as when it blocked thousands of trade trucks from the UAE from crossing the border twice this year. Once this past summer the Saudis even rescinded a joint agreement that citizens of both countries can use their ID cards to travel across the border. That forced many UAE pilgrims to scramble to go to Riyadh in order to get new papers before they could go home. Some had to go back from the border area. It was a small and bullying type of behavior on the part of Saudi Arabia: it was also stupid because it did not endear them any more to the UAE citizens.

Another issue that rankles the Saudis is that the UAE has joined Oman in refusing to join the GCC Gulf common currency. The project is being postponed (as I expected on the site) and revised because the earlier studies were not sufficient and did not cover many economic and technical issues that are necessary to implement it. The UAE partly objected to the Saudis forcing through the selection of Riyadh as the venue for the future Gulf central bank.

The issue of sovereignty is even more important. Oman has always had an eye across the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean. My impression has always been, from interacting with them, that they were skeptic about deeper integration with the Gulf or the wider Arab world. Omanis are clearly worried now about Saudi hegemony, as is the UAE now. The Saudis have been acting as if Riyadh will be the capital of some form of a united Gulf, which raises serious political issues. For example, Kuwait has an electoral system that imposes certain checks and balances on the ruling family. There are no checks and balances in Saudi Arabia, the name of the country tells it all: it is “Saudi”, which means it belongs to the al-Saud. Politically there is no compatibility. This is not a group of democratic European countries seeking to integrate.

Look for independent Qatar to either withdraw from the common currency or to become even more active in asserting her independence. The Emir of Qatar followed the Sultan of Oman in visiting Tehran last week. He was followed this week by the Kuwaiti prime minister. The smaller states are reasserting their independence, and that is a good thing. The Iranian wolf may still be a wolf, but it is across the sea, not across a disputed border.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Gulf Arab “Intellectual” Opines, But Where are the Half-wits…………..

Kuwaiti “Liberal” writer Sami al-Nusuf called that Egypt become a monarchy again, with Gamal Mubarak crowned king. He said that will guarantee the stability of Egypt and the prosperity of her people…… He said that spain and Greece have gone back to the monarchy system and they have done well……… He also happened to say that Elaph was the best media outlet in the Arab world…..Elaph

Didn’t they call this same guy a “thinker” a few days ago? Now he is a mere “liberal writer”, demoted: which means they are on the right track, but not quite there yet. That “liberal” has got to go. How about “plutocrat”?

Greece never went back to a monarchy system.

Egypt has a king already, and he has screwed up his country real good for 28 years.

What was that old E F Hutton commercial? It can be rephrased: when half-wits talk, Arabs listen, especially in the absolute royal Saudi media………….

I tell you, he didn’t leave much for the rest of us half-wits .

More on this same later…..


On the Gulf: Plutocrats, Tribals, Islamists, et al…….

A political tug of war has been going on in Kuwait. It is essentially a struggle for power between an elected parliament and unelected plutocrats of the merchant families. It is also a struggle for the economic pie.

The plutocrats, the merchant families who control businesses and the media, are pushing for adoption of sweeping packages of major construction projects. They would get the contracts and the benefits from these contracts, and they are salivating at the prospect. This would not benefit the other classes much since the plutocrats usually import cheap labor from Asia and Egypt rather than hire locally. A plutocrat family usually has one or two of its sons manage a multitude of imported cheap labor and a few imported white-collars: that is how they run their businesses.

Parliament, now mostly representing tribal elements and middle to lower classes, is pushing, part of it is pushing, for direct support for the debt-ridden consumers, their voters, rather than to the business classes. They are holding up government projects that would benefit the plutocrats until the consumer issue is resolved.

The merchant classes used to be considered the “liberal” classes of Kuwait, but that was way back then. Now they are “liberal” in the sense that they support more opening of the economy and making it a competitor to places like Dubai. That also happens to benefit them mostly. But they have shifted away from their old “liberal” support for elected democracy in order to preserve the old political influence of their class. In the past few years they have pushed for reducing the number of electoral districts, with the goal of reducing the influence of tribal and Islamist elements. They got the districts reduced from 25 to only 5. Still, the tribal-Islamist alliance won. Now they are calling for making the whole country one single district. I doubt that will change things. Demographics are against the plutocrats. The old merchant families are few and they tend to intermarry among themselves, which does not make for a growing political base. Once the tribes discovered the joys and the power of the electoral process, the political goose of the plutocrats was cooked.

More recently the plutocrats have formed among themselves a Group of 26 that has sought to directly influence policy, through lobbying the ruling family. Some are hinting in their media of the need for suspending the constitution and allowing a period of “suspended democracy” in order to pass major legislation through an unelected cabinet. This has been picked up and eagerly adopted by the Saudi media, never supporters of electoral democracy in the Gulf region, or in the larger Arab region.

Kuwait went through two periods of suspended democracy, essentially unconstitutional rule. Both had disastrous consequences. They were characterized by major corruption scandals that did not come to light until after constitutional rule was restored and the media freed from censorship. The last one ended with the Iraqi invasion of 1990.

The goal this time will probably be an interregnum during which the electoral system can be changed. Most likely some will opt for the Bahraini solution, whereby the monarch appoints a second assembly of his choosing that would dilute the powers of the elected one. That appointed assembly will automatically be dominated by the plutocrats who cannot win many elections these days.

But how can the constitution be changed without the consent of an elected assembly? That in itself would be unconstitutional. Besides, suspending the constitution is unconstitutional, by definition.

A dilemma, n’est-ce pas?



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Squared Shaikh, A Jihad is Declared, Heretics Denounced……..

“Mufti of Saudi Arabia declares soldiers at Yemen border in Jihad situation, calls Houtji thought based on fitna and prejudice. Shaikh Abdulaziz al-Alshaikh said the ideas of the Houthi (Shi’a) Yemeni rebels are perverted and rotten. He, Head of the Council of Major Ulema (Saudi Pope?) said that Islamic countries should reject their heretical ideology. He praised the security forces and soldiers………In an interview with the daily Okaz…..”

The old sheikh has had his marching orders: they all g them at some point. That is the price of hitching his wagon to the oligarchs.

The Houthis are a bit odd on their own: some say they have retro ideas and want the old Yemeni Imamate (monarchy restored). Funny: that sounds exactly like what the Saudis have right now.

But Shaikh al-Shaikh (mathematically he would be called Shaikh squared) is a direct descendant of Shaikh Mohammed Bin Abdul-Wahab, after whom the term Wahhabi is named. He was an ally of an early al-Saud prince in Najd. It was the first alliance between the ambitious theocrat and the ambitious clan sheikh, one that has lasted until today. He must not, however, be confused with the late Mohammed Abdelwahab, the talented Egyptian composer and singer who was not fundamentalist. I preferred the latter.

Friday, November 06, 2009

War of Israeli Falafel Flares, Arabs Eye Gefilte Fish and Yarmulke……..

“Israel steals Lebanese falafel and wins New Jersey prize. An Israeli company yesterday won the top prize in a New Jersey food exhibit with its newly packaged Falafel. Head of the Lebanese Manufacturers Association angrily made television rounds announcing he will send a letter those in charge of the exhibit protesting “the Zionist entity posing as international Falafel salesman….He promised a vigorous international campaign to regain the usurped glory of Lebanon and all Arabs…..” al-Manar TV (Hezbullah)

My two cents: I think it is another lost war. The Falafel is gone the way of East Jerusalem, the West bank, and the Golan. The Lebanese should give it up, that part of their past glory. Maybe they should have had Hezbullah run the Falafel campaign; they seem like the only Arabs who are able to best the Israelis in anything. Although I believe they would be beaten in a Falafel war.

My advice is to start encroaching on traditional Jewish food and call them “Lebanese”. But what would they call Gefilte Fish in Arabic? (געפֿילטע פֿיש, or דגים ממולאים)?

Or they can hit below the belt by usurping the yarmulke…….

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ahmadinejad Hotter than Merkel, Gulf Dichotomy of Looks, Arabs Dominate Ugly Ducklings, the Pope Beats Kim, the Reliable Swimsuit Test……..

The list of hottest heads of state is out, whatever it means. Here are some interesting rankings for all its worth, which is nothing more than entertainment and giving me a chance to vent. I have added my own insight after every name:

1. Yulia Tymoshenko Prime Minister of Ukraine, and almost deservedly so.
5. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner President of Argentina. I thought she should be a close runner-up.
9. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo President of the Philippines I though she should be the second runner-up.

15. Barack Obama President of the United States of America . They broke Michelle’s heart with this one, but gave the Republican right a lift, especially former co-president Dick Cheney who probably thought he would be on the top ten list.

18. Vladimir Putin Prime Minister of Russia. Must have been his Street Car Named Desire undershirt.

22. Saad Hariri Prime Minister of Lebanon. They must have slipped him in as a joke, or maybe it was the old Lebanese way: money changing hands. And what about Hassan Nasrallah? He cuts a nice figure in a swimsuit.

31. Benjamin Netanyahu Prime Minister of Israel. Now that is another joke: they must have looked at him, say, twenty years ago…

48. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad President of Iran. This one is rather confusing. I am not sure he deserves such a high ranking: after all we have never seen him in a swimsuit, although he probably wears one in the shower.

50. Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia. Not sure what he is.
54. Abdullah II King of Jordan. This one is also over-rated. I’d put a swimsuit on him then quickly move him past 100.

82. Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah King of Bahrain. They are being too generous here. Bahrain royalty, like those of most of my native Gulf states are ugly, to put it politely- unlike us the peoples who are mostly handsome. A strange dichotomy of looks, This one is lucky he was rated so high, too high. Maybe they got his photo mixed up with someone else. I’d put him past 120.

At the bottom were the following. I certainly have no further comments on these. There is no need, is there?:
138. Nouri al-Maliki Prime Minister of Iraq
164. Abdullah King of Saudi Arabia
166. Omar al-Bashir President of Sudan
168. Robert Mugabe President of Zimbabwe
170. Hamad bin Khalifa Emir of Qatar
171. Pope Benedict XVI Sovereign of Vatican City
172. Kim Jong-il Chairman of the National Defense Commission of North Korea
Cheers Mohammed

Monday, October 12, 2009

GCC Gulf Currency Acrobatics, Watermelon Ministry, Watermelon Economics, Watermelon Policy……...

Kuwait ‘strongly backs’ Gulf currency in January. Kuwait strongly backs the launch of the Gulf monetary union and single currency on time in January 2010, the undersecretary of the finance ministry said on Monday, a day after the ministry demanded a delay.
"Kuwait strongly supports the Gulf monetary union and the launch of single currency as scheduled next January," Khalifa Hamada said in a statement cited by the official KUNA news agency. "Kuwait is keen to cooperate with its partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at all levels to speed up the completion of all issues related to launching the single currency on its target date in January 2010."…..On Sunday, a statement by the finance ministry carried by KUNA called for a delay in the 2010 launch date to allow committees and concerned parties to complete unfinished technical issues……..”

Kuwait calls for delay on Gulf currency launch. Kuwait, one of four Gulf states to sign a pact to launch a monetary union and single currency, on Sunday called for a delay in the 2010 launch date, citing incomplete preparations. "The ministry of finance calls for revising the target date for launching the Gulf single currency until all committees and concerned parties have completed technical issues," the ministry said in a statement cited by the KUNA news agency.
" The ministry of finance calls for revising the target date for launching the Gulf single currency until all committees and concerned parties have completed technical issues "……..”

I don’t know who this Finance undersecretary is and how he got his job, but he certainly did not get it for his expertise on monetary affairs. I suggest they give him the task of preparing, synchronizing, and choreographing for the implementation of a unified currency by next January (2010) as he suggests, then fire him when he fails to get it ready, which he certainly will. That would be the best outcome of the futile task: getting rid of one incompetent official.
Such is economic policy done in a watermelon economy, by watermelon officials……

Friday, October 09, 2009

GOP Nominates Failure for Nobel Prize, Carla Nominates Sarkozy, Hariri Nominates Saudi King, I Preferred Pete Seeger……

“It's also created a remarkable bit of fury among the president's Republican opponents. One week after conservatives were exuberant with Obama's failure to secure the Olympics for his hometown of Chicago, they were left bitter and bemused that he was bestowed the world's most prestigious honor. The real question Americans are asking is, 'What has President Obama actually accomplished?'" reads a statement from the Republican National Committee. " It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain -- President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action........"

There were 205 nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize. Organizations can nominate anyone they deem deserving. French president Nicolas Sarkozy was nominated, presumably by Carla Bruni (he didn’t nominate her). Also nominated wwere Ingrid Betancourt of Colombia, Chinese dissident Hu Jia, among others. Some organizations were also nominated, and I thought that The Cluster Munitions Coalition should get the prize (it campaigned effectively against cluster bombs, which means they may not be used over the Shi’a tenements in the next Lebanon war). My second choice was Pete Seeger.

Someone had nominated King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, presumably by the Lebanese Saad Hariri or Fouad Saniora, or maybe alseyassah. For some reason Hezbullah did not nominate Ayatollah Khamenai. The Republican Party (USA), discovering that ‘Dr. No’ was dead, nominated failure.

I doubt that I was among the 205. My spouse refused to nominate me, claiming we never got an invitation from the Nobel Committee to submit nominees..

Monday, September 28, 2009

Gulf Views on Iran and the West, the Audacious and the Craven, Dr. Strangelove of Arabia, Slim Pickens……….

The Audacious:
“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is discussing Iran's nuclear capabilities just as Israel accused the monitoring body of holding back on its most recent report on Iran. Israel says it "expects the international community to take substantive and prompt steps to halt Iran's military nuclear programme."…….
“But what about Israel's nuclear arsenal? It is a well-known secret that Israel has nuclear capabilities and nuclear weapons. Officially, Israel has a policy of not confirming or denying its nuclear capabilities……”
He is just asking, I think……

The almost craven:
“In a few days Iranian and European negotiators will meet. I don’t want to say that we are having a repeat of yesterday’s Iraq (but he will anyway), but riding the same train of challenge will lead to the same results…..Does Iran face a crisis or an historic opportunity? I think both doors are open……Iranian are smarter than Saddam Hussein. Iran can reassure the ‘international party’ and she will have to provide a new position with enough transparency and ‘accommodation’ which would reduce tensions…..Otherwise , inflexibility will lead to tougher sanctions and…..remember that since World War II two of every three international sanctions ended with a hot war……”
Except that Saddam Hussein turned out not to have any WMD, and that the evidence may have been fabricated. Even I believed it and cheered on that war in 2003. No more.

The totally craven:
“The Iranian regime is weak internally, its legitimacy reduced after the election crisis……Negotiating with Tehran while she is weak can be dangerous, for the regime may become adventurous in order to divert…….Iran may offer to negotiate everything, not just the nuclear issue, in order to reduce pressure and preempt an Israeli military strike…..That means we should watch Hezbullah, Iran’s most loyal follower and agent…we must also not forget Hamas…..”
Okay no negotiations according to this chap. Does this mean this editor, or his Highness his boss who owns the newspaper, is volunteering with the first military strike force that flies over the Persian Plateau toward Qom? Ever see Dr. Strangelove? Slim Pickens anyone?

Gulf Currency Union, Issues of Pegging and Trade, Ibn Saud and Demography…….

Gulf states should implement a monetary union and single currency in phases, Kuwait's central bank governor said in comments published on Sunday, casting further doubt on a 2010 target date. Due to the limited progress achieved so far... I believe that the best way is to work out an administrative plan for the monetary union and single currency and implement it in stages……
The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plans to launch monetary union and a single currency in 2010, although many experts believe the target date is too ambitious and unrealistic…….Sheikh Salem said the administrative plan should focus on the institutional requirements of the union including financial, trade, statistical and common market policies. He also said that printing banknotes for the new currency would take three years to complete.

“The GCC states have agreed on a number of monetary union requirements but failed to reach consensus on others. They have also failed to fully implement a customs union launched at the beginning of 2003……..”

He was stating what I knew, what many have known for some time.
Finally, it is good to hear practical public statements, for a change, from GCC officials on the Gulf currency union project. Economically and politically it makes sense to do so. Without implementing some gradual preliminary steps the whole project will be a disaster. It is better, much less costly, to admit short-term failure and work on redrawing plans, than to try to force the issue and create huge problems later on.
I recall some years ago when it was impossible to get everyone in the GCC to peg their currencies to the same anchor. Some preferred the dollar, others the SDR, and one a special basket.

It was absurd to expect anything to be in place by 2010 without first ironing out the differences on such issues as trade, and without reaching the agreement on the grueling and time-consuming process of the actual issue of notes and coins. This is something that I had mentioned earlier on this site. I believe I mentioned Zollverein in Arabia more than once on this site.

It can be shocking how little interest both the GCC general public and politicians have shown in the issue of currency union. It was being treated as a ‘political’ issue that concerns only the officials. It does have political implications, of course, but its immediate impact would be to affect economic issues. Even the legislatures and what passes for legislatures in some countries have rarely ventured to deal with the issue, most likely because they are technically incapable of doing so.

Of course, having the union confined to one large country (Saudi Arabia) and two smaller countries (Kuwait and Bahrain) does have political implications- I expected Qatar to pull out at some point. There are always concerns, valid concerns, about the loss of sovereignty and political independence. After all, the current borders of Saudi Arabia were extended when old Ibn Saud expanded out of his native Najd to swallow several smaller kingdoms and emirates of the Arabian Peninsula during the 20th century.
(Ibn Saud also expanded in another way; demographically, by marrying into almost every tribe he could get his lusty hands on; eventually filling the kingdom with thousands of princelings. But that will be a topic for another day.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why are speeches of Qaddafi and Ahmadinejad covered live, but nobody does so for speeches of King Abdullah, Mubarak, and others? Consistently networks carry live the speeches of tehse tow, and maybe Hugo Chavez. So what do these tow have that others in the Middle east do not have?

1. Because they are more important?

2. Because they are wiser?

3. Because they are more dangerous?

4. Because they are more entertaining?

5. Because they are cool?

6. Because they are hunks?

I would immediately take out the one about wisdom, although there is a Middle East saying about “taking wisdom from the mouths of mad men”. I would rate (4) and (1) at the top, followed by (3). I suppose at middle school (junior high) one can say these guys are cooler than others. By the time one gets to high school, they become hunkier, but not these guys.

That Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah should work on their abs and get hunkier somehow; try to get cooler and polish up their charisma, or at least rent some.

Dumbest question heard in the US, especially on the media: why are these guys allowed into the USA? Why are they here? One CNN anchor Kyra Phillips even asked: “why is he allowed to speak?” And I don’t think she is even really blonde!

The answer is simple: they have the right…… unless you want the UN to move to Geneva or Tegucigalpa (look it up).

Oops the loquacious Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is on CNN again ranting about Qaddafi. Whatever his motives, the good rabbi should drop this; it only gives him more attention. It’s not like Qaddafi is planning on immigrating and living in the New York area.



Friedman on Dick Cheney’s Wisdom, Roadmap for Iran, ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Lebanon, Horse left the Barn……

For the first time….we have a glimmer of hope for a diplomatic solution to this problem — as long as we are not too diplomatic, as long as the Iranian regime is made to understand that biting economic sanctions are an absolute certainty and military force by Israel is a live possibility.....
"While real sanctions are necessary to exploit this moment, they are not sufficient. We also need to keep alive the prospect that Israel could do something crazy. I don’t favor Israeli military action against Iran and hope we’re telling Israel that privately. But I do believe that U.S. officials, particularly the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, need to stop saying that publicly. Gates is a smart power player. He knows better. If any U.S. official is asked for an opinion on whether Israel should be allowed to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, there is only one right answer: Refer them to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2005 comment that Israel “might well decide to act first”………”

Thomas Friedman must think Iran's mullahs and other leaders are as gullible as some of his readers, those who buy the argument. And to have to go back to Dick Cheney for fonts of wisdom on such an issue; that is really scraping the bottom of the diplomatic barrel. Oh yes, we can rely on the man who gave us Iraq….to give us an Iran war. Brilliant.

But I call much of Friedman’s stuff ‘feel good’ analysis. He also announced ‘mission accomplished’ in Lebanon just after the last election, and I commented on it at the time. Lebanon still does not have a cabinet, nor can it have one without the Hezbullah bloc; so much for the new era.

I would guess that the horse has already left the barn as far as Iran's nuclear program is concerned. In fact it left the barn the day after George W Bush added Iran to his ill-conceived and sophomoric ‘Axis of Evil’ just after they had helped in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Dark Slavery, White Slavery, Baser Instincts, Contemptuous Familiarity, Creating New Enemies.....

Our Coming Problem: (no he does not mean the Iranian nuclear program, Jihadist terrorism, petroleum prices, or the spread of Shi’ism. It is more basic than that).
“ An American court has ordered a Saudi citizen to pay his Indonesian maid $ 143 thousand, compensation for wages he had refused to pay her for seven years, and for forcing her to work 14 hour days and did not allow her weekend leave and holidays….
“The Saudi Shaura Council last July deleted a stipulation giving maids 7 hours of daily rest, between 10 PM and 5 AM. The council justified this deletion using the ‘special needs’ of Saudi families and the traditions of Saudi society. This type of abuse and worse has become part of family life not only in the Gulf states, but has spread to other Arab countries, where abuse and exploitation is even worse…..Then there is the case of the Saudi graduate student who is in an American jail for abusing his Indonesian maid……”

There are reports that the Saudi Labor Importing Authority(there actually is an organization that negotiates with source countries) is negotiating with some Central Asian Republics for the import of housemaids from these countries… Saudi Media

From “dark” slavery to “white” slavery. The housewives will be sure to get more creative now, more “basic”, and so will some of their husbands…….
What is that saying about ‘familiarity breeding contempt’?
Cheers and Ramadan Kareem

Nuclear Mullahs, Nuclear Shaikhs, Nuclear Chic…….

DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates is days away from awarding the largest ever energy contract in the Middle East for the development of a nuclear power plant, industry sources said on Tuesday. The contract to build at least four reactors is expected to cost the world's third-largest oil producer as much as $40 billion, consultancy Eurasia Group said in a research note published in August.
“President Nicolas Sarkozy was in the UAE in May to open a military base, and some analysts saw the visit as enhancing the French consortium's prospects of winning the contract….."France is already a major partner to UAE in the defence area and I wouldn't be surprised if they are leading in the bid now."……………..”
Cheers and Ramadan Kareem

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Plato’s Gulf Republic: Doctorates in Watermelon Studies

Dr. (Fadhel …….) Minister of Public Works and Municipality may not be in danger…... Meanwhile assembly member Dr. (Waleed …..) objected in a speech……But assembly member Dr. (Jama’an …….) requested a “To Whom it May Concern” legal clearance for the session on Swine Flu …All this while assembly member Dr. (Mohammed …..) wondered why the government refuses to attend the special session on the Swine Flu…….For his part assembly member Dr. ( Faisal……) aimed had in his crosshairs the minister of……

I might add that Dr. Watermelon, however, declined to comment, playing his mysterious cards very close to his hairy chest……
And what about Dr. Doolittle, Dr. Dre, Dr. No, Dr. Kevorkian, et al?
I almost forgot my favorite, second favorite, Dr.: Dr. Maxwell Edison.
With all them Drs. (real and otherwise; serious, online, and Shari’a) You’d think it is a veterinarian’s convention on the shores of the (Persian) Gulf……
Cheers and Ramadan Kareem
Dr. Mohammed

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Song of a Prince: Saved by a Terrorist’s “Anatomy” and the Mufti’s Shower Tunes

May Allah Protect You? The two companies will join efforts with a television satellite network to produce the new video clip about the Prince……The lyrics will be written by famous Saudi poet…..Director said it will be a major effort.....”

As I reported here, an al-Qaeda man blew himself up in the presence of the son of Saudi Arabia’s top anti-terrorist chief, Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. He is the son of the country’s new strongman Prince Nayef, but that is a mere coincidence; almost everybody over there publicly believes that he got the job on merit- and I believe that they do publicly believe that.
The man managed to kill himself because the explosives were hidden in his rectum (apparently royal security is reluctant to inspect recti in the presence of royal princes). His body, as I mentioned, bore the brunt of the explosion.
Now two major Saudi media companies are joining efforts to produce a song about the terrorist suicide attempt (these attempts are always terrorists when they happen in Saudi Arabia, but not when they kill the ‘right’ kind of people in places like Iraq).
Needless to say the video clip portrays HRH the Prince in a heroic light, and it will become the new hit on Saudi Arabia’s top Forty Hits, right after the favorite shower songs of the Mufti.
Don’t expect any praise for the part of the man’s anatomy that saved the Prince.
Cheers and Ramadan Kareem<

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

“Even before the television debates, the Iranian candidates were going along with the regime….the were in denial, just as they were on the eve of the occupation of Fao (Peninsula)…..before their forces collapsed in all operational fronts….

“One of the most exciting events of the Fao ‘epic’ is that Iraqi disinformation planners wanted to convince the Iranian command that Iraqi forces…….

"They are making the same mistakes they made during Fao….following the same route…”

Idiotic Iraqi general, who was head of Saddam’s military intelligence during the war crimes: during the use of chemicals and gassing of Kurds and Iranians, during the invasion of Kuwait, during the setting of the Fires of Kuwait when 700 burning oil wells spewed smoke for for nearly ten months (I know, I breathed that black smoke with others, there was no escaping it, 24/7 for many months), and during the massacres of Shi’as and Kurds in the popular rebellions of 1991. I know people who were tortured and killed by the grisly regime that he was part of. Others know even more.

He is still fighting old lost wars, using the massive media of his former victims from a safe distance. A losing general Samarrai in search of a new war that would set the Gulf region on fire again, just like it did when he served his old master. A losing general in search of a winnable war…..a war that American boys and girls or, barring that, Israeli pilots can win for him and his new masters.

So, every time General Wafiq Samarrai publishes a piece advocating a new war, I will have to respond with my own wish list which consists of one item: his head in the hands of his main victims; the Iraqi people.

Mon Email

Saturday, July 11, 2009

On Jacko, Kim Jong-Il, Bush, Netanyahu, and Mother of All Follies

CNN, which can be truly called the Michael Jackson News Network has interviewed a Jacko insider (a friend names Chopra, but no dollar amount was put on this particular friend, yet) who mentions that Jacko was thinking of reaching out to Little Kim in old Pyongyang. He said that Jacko always reached out to strangers, calling them late at night (this doesn’t sound good) trying to learn from them. Maybe he could have gotten the Dear Pudgy Leader to give up some of his nukes for a duet, or a spot on his aborted tour?
Look for Larry King (Michael Jackson Live) to elaborate on this one for the next week or two. Hey, the news business is slow in summer.

What if Israel does it? Thank God that Benjamin Netanyahu and George Bush did not manage to get together (in power. That would have been the Mother of All Catastrophes. Thank God there is a wiser master in the White House today, one who doesn’t look at the world with the arrogant eye of the neo-conservatives: wither with us or against us. The new Israeli government is more in tune with the last American administration…..

If Netanyahu, lulled by the ease of the Ozirak operation in the early 1980s tries to bomb Iranian facilities…this would be the greatest gift to Ahmadinejad and the extreme conservatives in Iran….. Asharq Alawsat

Friday, June 19, 2009

An Iranian Summer and GOP Family Values

Ayatollah Ali Khamenai seems to have opted for the hardline against the masses of protesters in the cities of Iran. Not sure how this will work out: historically, Iranians don’t like to be cowed by brute force and they have always returned to challenge those in power. This has always differentiated them from their Arab neighbors to the west.

The Shah’s security forces could not do it. Besides, the armed forces usually refuse to fire on their own people, as they largely refused to do so during the 1978-79 Revolution. It will be interesting what happens when the memorial for those killed comes around in a few weeks. Not sure how things will go now: it largely depends how the ‘opposition’ leaders lead now. Either way, I doubt things will be the same in Iran. As for Prince Reza Pahlavi, I wouldn’t start polishing that crown yet: remember the Romanovs never made a comeback, even after Yeltsin.

Interesting how Republicans have tried to capitalize on the situation in Iran for their political purposes. They are calling for more support for the Iranian people. The same people they were eager to bomb to oblivion until recently. They use it to score points against Obama, but it took Henry Kissinger, their foreign policy uber-guru to come out and debunk their argument. Next: expect Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft to wade in.

Still, all this probably will not take public attention away from Senator John (Family values) Ensign- it turns out he was doing some kind of four-some with his chosen partners, a whole family involved in either adultery and/or payoffs. Newt Gingrich’s own version of (family values) has probably faded from public memory. It turned out his values were worse than Bill Clinton’s, the man he criticized so much in public (they both fooled around with the help). Almost forgot that other stalwart of family values: Sen. Vitter of Louisiana- he of the hookers’ blackbook fame.
It almost looks like family values (Republican version) = screwing around, with females (and males if necessary), while married- without getting caught, of course. Once you get caught, it ain’t family values no more.
In fact the GOP has surprised us when it comes to sex: many more of their politicians are involved in/with adultery or prostitution than Democrats. It didn't use to be that way. It must be the many years of power, or maybe it is all these new enhancement drugs.

FYI-speaking of family values, Iran, Tom Daschle, and health care: in the semi-( or is it quasi)-democratic Iran of the mullahs they have both the public and private options in health care. of course in the Cuba of the Castor brothers, there is no choice: it is all public. That is what Michael Moore discovered: they would not accept his Visa.

Monday, June 08, 2009

American Sports, Arab Sports, Northwest Grog, and Uptight Gulf Potentates

This last entry is copied from web site:
Of Seattle Mariners, Potentates, and empty Gulf Stadiums. How a Friday night game watching the Mariners lose another one made me ponder the chasm of sports cultures. Of ballpark food and grog, bike rides, and the usual Arab ennui in public. Why escaping Arab politics into Arab sports can be a more depressing affair. Sfeir, Netanyahu, and Hezbullah may be preferable to games presided over by tense Gulf potentates:

Went to another Mariners’ game last night (Friday). Lots of fun, tens of thousands of eager fans, singing, dancing, and waving signs. A typical Friday night baseball scene. The food was tasty, and the Northwest micro-refreshments great. But we left at the top of the ninth inning: the game against the Twins was tied 1-1, but I guessed what was coming and we decided to leave early. Besides, we wanted to avoid the crush out of the parking lot. I heard the final score on the way home: I was right to leave.

Just came back from two hours of biking along the beach. We needed the exercise to burn off and sweat out all the food and grog at Safeco Field.
Browsing through the news, I started to ponder sports, and how they differ among nations. I mean how people deal with them. The ritual of watching the game, and the whole event. The contrast could not be different between a ball game in America and a sports game in most Middle East countries, especially Arab countries, especially on my native Gulf where I was born and raised.
In my hometown on the Gulf, few people go to local soccer games these days, even though they claim to be passionate about the sport and about their favorite teams. Local teams would not survive as private concerns: ticket sales are lousy. Most people watch them on television, and you can see the stadium nearly empty. Maybe a few hundred show up, maybe one thousand in some cases. And usually one or two potentates and quasi-potentates. I have always suspected that the few who show up are connected to the presiding potentates, maybe their employees or favor-seekers. Or maybe they are given free Lotto tickets- not sure

There is no festive atmosphere as at Safeco Field. Watching the few people and the presiding potentate can be disheartening, it is like a wake (‘azaa) for somewhat who had died. The spectators are nearly all male. They all seem to be overly concerned with their headgear (ghitra & agal), keeping them straight: I am not sure why- maybe they expect a scout to be around seeking new faces for a remake of Lawrence of Arabia. But I do the same when I am home.

All, everybody who is over 18, sit with grim looks on their faces, with the grim potentate and his flunkies taking up the first row. Rarely does anybody smile, there certainly is no laughter. Everybody steals occasional glances toward the presiding potentate- some of them do it so often, you’d think it is Carla Bruni, Angelina Jolie, or Nicole Kidman presiding (I thought I’d throw in Nicole because her tall blond looks are so un-Arab, mate). Certainly the schmuck up front does not deserve a second look.

A soccer game without a potentate or two is not considered worthy of showing on state television, also run by other potentates. There is no food and refreshments, no singing and dancing. Arab men are absolutely the most uptight anywhere in the world in public, and the men in my native Gulf hometown are the most uptight of Arab men. The most uptight of the most uptight: get the picture? Don't get me wrong: they can raise private hell with the best of them, I know that firsthand- but in private.

Not sure exactly what this has to do with politics or economics of the region- but I was taught early at school that "a healthy mind lies within a healthy body"- no, it is not a quote from Chairman Mao.

But writing this beats reading up on Lebanon, on Patriarch Sfeir warning Christians not to vote for Hezbullah allies (at least half of them will anyway), on a Hezbullah leader predicting they will get the majority vote tomorrow (maybe, maybe not, not that it would change much), on Netanyahu being miffed at Obama for calling for a two-state solution in Palestine (the only solution that will not make Israel into an apartheid regime). Not to mention on Iraq and Kuwait going back to a silly Saddam-era game of verbal escalation through the media and through irresponsible politicians. Not to mention Saudi media gloating that Obama visited their king before he went to see Mubarak in Cairo. Not to mention Iran’s Ahmedinejad and his opponents for next week’s election blasting each other in their televised debates (if he loses, the next leader will not be nearly as entertaining). Not to mention…….

Monday, May 11, 2009

Egypt Losing War on Swine. What Iran, Hezbullah, and Israel Have in Common

"Ghazwat al-Khanazeer": this is what some commentators in Arab media are calling the new Middle East War- and it is not all tongue in cheek. The name harkens back to the early Islamic battles of 14 centuries ago in the birthplace of the faith, the Hijaz Region of the Arabian Peninsula.

Arab media report that in its "War on Pigs", the Egyptian army has succeeded in killing only about 10 thousand enemy combatants so far. This is considered by many commentators as an unhappy level of performance, especially in view of the billions of dollars of arms purchases and foreign military aid. There were estimated to be more than 300 thousand pigs in Egypt, the actual number is probably much higher, but de-Nile is a river in Egypt- n'est-ce pas?

Initially there had been high hopes, even by the Islamist militants, that the army will quickly route the enemy and rid the country of the abominable pig (referring to the four-legged variety). National pride in the military has not been unanimous: Christian Copts, for example, have strongly, and in some cases violently objected to a move that pretends to concern public health while trying to encroach on their own cultural heritage- at least encroach on their cuisine. Some may see the military campaign as a prelude to end the presence of pigs (four-legged ones) in Egypt, thus destroying a rich history that goes back thousands of years.
But would liquidating the swine make the country even more homogeneous?

Some in the pro-regime media (i.e. almost all the media) are already laying the groundwork to blame a possible Tabout Khamis (fifth column) that sympathizes with the plight of the pigs. This fifth column is suspected by some of undermining morale and some even believe it may have helped the pigs directly. This looks suspiciously like the end of October 1973.
Some are seriously looking into an Iranian connection, others suspect a Hezbullah connection and yet others are seeking a possible Israeli connection. There is some logic in all that, of course: all the above do not like pigs. I forgot all about the grim boys of Hamas.
Cheers Mohammed

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Egypt's army and the pigs:
The death of his wife did not keep prime minister Ahmed Nazeef (Nazeef=Clean) from closely monitoring developments in the war being waged by the Egyptian government against pigs…..Meanwhile more than fifty thousand Copts (Egyptian Christians) who work in garbage collection warned that they might force confrontation with the authorities if they find themselves swine-less… al-Quds al-Arabi

The Egyptian government had decided to liquidate (i.e. destroy) all local pigs, estimated at more than 300 thousand, for fear of the Swine/Mexican/H1N1/N1H1/R2D2 flu. Reports from the battlefields have been sketchy, but it does not look like the Egyptian army is faring well against the swine so far. It may be facing its toughest battle since 1973 when Ariel Sharon punched through to the western side of the Suez Canal and threatened to encircle and destroy the army- the Egyptians still call that a 'victory' mainly because he actually did not destroy their army. For some odd reason he did not: let's ask Kissinger.
Better be careful: the pigs may pull a stunt and surprise the army with a multi-front counterattack led by their very own Wellington and Gebhard von Blucher. But then, after the swine Waterloo, who will end up on Elba, or maybe even St. Helena?

Speaking of porcus:
The Imam of the Holy Mosque in Mecca has said that all Shi’a ulema (clerics) are heretics without exception. He also denied that Saudi Shi’as face sectarian (Wahhabi) discrimination. He told the BBC that Saudi Shi’as have taken more than their rights. When asked if he agrees with those who cast the Shi’as as heretics, he answered quickly that for the Shi’as in general this is an issue that can be looked into and considered, but as for their ulema (clerics), they are heretics without exception…..When Shaikh Adle alKalb-ani was asked if he believed in religious freedom he said that there should be limits to freedom, asking almost rhetorically (my term) ”Do they have mosques in the Vatican?” …He also said that we will never hear the sound of church bells in the Arabian Peninsula…..(my rhetorical question: so how do they get married to their ten year old brides over there?)al-Quds al-arabi
I must say, if I had way I would cast most clerics of all faiths as heretics. I may not even start with the good Shaikh Adle alKalb-ani himself. A disclaimer: Shaikh Adle al-Kalbani is not completely adled. His last name derives from ”canis” , a k a man’s best friend but presumably not the shaikh's- look it up.
This is the last word on pigs and their wars for now. But stay tuned.

Friday, May 01, 2009

On Terrorism, Cuba, and Don Corleone. Middle East Swinocide and Literacy. A Guantanamo Closes in Lebanon.

"As a ring of gold in a swine's snout So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion" Proverbs 11:22

"And the swine, though its hoof is parted, and is cloven-footed, yet it chews not the cud; it is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall you not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you" (Leviticus 11:1-8)

"Prohibited for you are 'al-maytah' (animals that are found dead),
'Al-Damm' (blood), 'lahm Al-Khinzeer' (the flesh of pigs),
and animals dedicated to other than God." Quran

Terrorism, al-Qaeda, Don Corleone, and (a fly) Swat: “US State Department report names Iran as the major sponsor of terrorism in the world…But al-Qaeda, which has restructured and rebuilt in Pakistan, is the biggest threat….The Bush administration deleted North Korea from the list of states supporting terrorism… Which leaves Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba….”
Cuba? Maybe, but it sounds so twentieth century…sort of like talking about the gulag or Generalissimo Franco...Or even Batista, Hyman Roth, and Don Corleone (fils).

Everybody, almost, knows about al-Qaeda regrouping in Pakistan/Afghanistan after their defeats in such places as Iraq and Saudi Arabia, for now. But which of these four states on the list sponsors al-Qaeda? Could it be not a state, but part of a state apparatus, such as the Pakistani ISI? Or maybe it is done in a roundabout way through the ‘more palatable’ local Taliban.
FYI: al-Qaeda also has growing influence in Yemen (Arabia Felix), where the qat (ghat) is eminently chewable (by all) and the various tribes and sects are restless when they are not stoned.
BTW: the green Afghan grasshopper (Karzai, if you need to ask) has been awfully quiet lately, ever since the fiasco about legal conjugal rape.

Church and Dungeon: “Churchgoers are more likely to back torture…survey finds.” CNN, today.
So, what else is new? I could have told you that without a costly, funded, survey. That has been often the case since before Tomas de Torquemada. Just look around: religious fun-dementa-lists of all denominations are more prepared to condone violence. Look at the Middle East (as well as America). Both the Islamic fundamentalists as well as the extremist Jewish fundamentalist settlers in the West Bank who stand in the way of peace. Not to mention the political fundamentalists of the right who have never met a contracted private torturer thy didn't like.

Update on Egyptian swine: The decision to slaughter the swine in Egypt has been clarified. The healthy swine will be slaughtered for food, as they are supposed to be (ever hear of pig milk or pig cheese? Come to think of it, why not?). The contaminated swine will be utterly destroyed. Apparently they have not heard the cautions from WHO and other health officials that the pigs are not carriers, not the four-legged pigs anyway. Maybe Egypt’s politicians are like most other Arab politicians: they do not read beyond comic books.
If it makes any difference: the UAE has banned the import of all sorts of swine. Told ya about the aversion to reading thing, didn’t I?

Along the same vein: “An Egyptian wife, a female doctor, has asked a judge to annul her marriage after her husband refused to grant her a divorce. This all happened after she discovered that her husband is in fact an undertaker, not a veterinarian as he had been claiming to her. She discovered his true job by accident while she eavesdropped on a phone call…” Alarabiya, today.
When confronted, the husband is reported to have coolly told his wife that “So what. At least I deal with humans instead of animals as you had thought.”
Not exactly a hate crime, but…

Guantanamo in Beirut: Four top Lebanese security officers (some of the very top security chiefs in Lebanon) had been held by the Lebanese government four years without charges, suspects in the bombing assassination of former PM Hariri. Yesterday the International Court reviewing the case in the Hague ordered them released because they were being held illegally and for lack of evidence to indict them. The four (a mix of Muslims and Christians) came out swinging in favor of Hezullah and its allies. The 'opposition' are ecstatic, even though they are playing it cool, not gloating too loudly in this tense election year. The Hariri-Saniora camp has several eggs, exactly four eggs, on its collective face, for it was the government that held these four so long without charges. They would have preferred the four released after the June elections.
Lebanese analysts seem to think that this will affect the outcome of the election. Maybe but not by much, on va voir.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On Pigs, Middle East Politics, and American Politics

"You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig." Barack Obama
“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
Winston Churchill (well, he
said it)

Swine on the Nile
"Egyptian parliament votes to execute 250 thousand pigs..." The parliament, totally dominated by the ruling party, has shown one sign of life. A quarter million pigs are to be liquidated. This may worsen sectarian problems inside Egypt between Muslims and the minority Copts who probably operate most of the pig farms. In true Middle Eastern fashion, all the pigs in question are out of power, of course. So, a viral strain of flu starts in some pig farm in the Mexican state of Vera Cruz, but spreads through humans....is spreading only through humans, and Egypt's assembly votes to kill a bunch of pigs- all out of power pigs. Since the pigs are now neutral, they are not spreading the flu, why not leave them alone and go for the real culprits? Why not start executing people who are the real carriers? And why not start with political imbeciles who make stupid decisions about killing pigs for a disease spread by humans? I mean kill them politically, not physically, of course.
Speaking of a swine flu i
There are rumors, for now mostly spread by me, that the fully-appointed Saudi advisory council started a move to recommend killing all pigs in Saudi Arabia. It is quite plausible. Then someone mentioned that there are not supposed to be any four-legged pigs in the kingdom.

I wonder how the Iranians are dealing with the swine flu and with swines in general? I imagine they have four-legged pigs in the country even though the mullahs, like their Saudi counterparts, frown upon the jambon, even the Virginia honeyed jambon. So far Ahmadinejad has kept his cool (tres Obamaesque): not a word in public about pigs or swine. It seems suspicious to me, this silence of his. On the one hand he can't possibly say anything good about pigs, the four-legged kind. On the other, he can't say anything too bad about pigs either, because he doesn't want to be seen to openly agree with the Israelis, especially the religious extremists that dominate the current Likud coalition, on anything. That might offend his current Hamas fundamentalist friends who he remembers were originally close friends, nay the creation, of the Saudis before they took power and refused to toe the line. It is tough being pig-headed.

Speaking of a swine plot ii: "Did you see how Obama went to Mexico and right after that they got this terrible killer flu? He brings disaster to everything he touches..." Rush Limbaugh, biter and demoralized on the radio. Speaking of fat, stupid pigs.... I wonder what has Glenn Beck opined recently on this issue? I hear that he thinks it is somehow related to illegal immigration (what about Lou Dobbs?), although Sean Hannity seems to think it may be part of a plot to sneak in health care reform and universal coverage for all Americans, even those who do not deserve it. Others have expressed fear that it might help Obama turn the United States into a European country of the type where bitter people don't necessarily cling to their semi-automatic guns. This is especially relevant these days for people in places like small-town western Pennsylvania: for what would they do without their guns when the pandemic crosses the Ohio, the Monangahela, and the Alleghenny?


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