The is is pure conjecture on my part but based on 1400 years of Islamic history and the influence of women, beginning with the story of Aisha( read After the Prophet by Lesley Hazelton) and her influence on the Prophet Mohammed continuing through the Ommayad and Abbasid empires, to the Ottoman Empire and beyond. The intrigues in the Harem were real and often bloody in consequence. The desire of women to live through the success of their sons- ensuring he became the Sultan or Caliph was monumental and ever present. So as the gurus of Middle East reporting concentrate on foreign contacts, the era ribal and ideological aspects of the attempted coup, I think my view is the correct one.
Queen Noor. Mother of x-crown prince, prince Hamzeh.
Recently it has been disclosed that the intrigue in the palace has taken on a dangerous phase. Apparently over 20 people, including a former minister close to the King Abdullah government, have been arrested to head off an imminent coup. It seems, despite royal refutations, that the former crown prince, Prince Hamzeh bin Hussein was in someway involved. Read my previous blog post above for a rundown on the Royal family and the mostly very ambitious women who have….in my opinion at least….brought about this crisis. Hamzeh, the son of King Hussein and the lovely, and very ambitious Queen Noor, was demoted from Crown Prince after being in that position for 4 years. King Abdullah , the son of King Hussein and his second wife, Princess Muna ( she being British was not considered genetically qualified to be designated queen, however, Queen Noor despite being an American, was the daughter of a Syrian American and therefore had the right bloodlines.) These things get complicated!!!
King Abdullah and his Palestinian wife, Rania, ( who has acquired a reputation as somewhat of a spendthrift) have gone through number of crises, particularly economic, and with half the population ( the Palestinians) considered 0f doubtful loyalty, and with dissension even among his core supporters within the tribes, king Abdullah has done better than many thought. He also has had to contend with a robust Muslim Brotherhood especially among the Muslim Brotherhood and he is not then smartest guy around. But he has had the support of the West and worked amicably with Israeli leaders.
The son of King Abdullah and Rania, Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah bin Hussein bin Talal, was designated the Crown Prince in 2009, replacing Hamzeh. The crown prince is not married. According to his instagram, he enjoys reading playing football, cooking, motorcycling and playing the Guitar.
It should be remembered that in a shocker, the late King Hussein replaced his brother, Prince Hassan, who had been the crown Prince for years, just days before he died with the present King Abdullah. Prince Hassan gracefully exited stage left although his Pakistani wife was reported as being very upset. I have to wonder how much Queen Noor had to do with that last minute decision. I would say quite a bit.
Always look for the influence of wives and especially mothers in the turmoil in the Middle East
additional info. Very good article on the coup attempt in Jordan by the analytical firm MEMRI. This is is the overt explanation and mine is what propelled it.
Below is part of the boilerplate from the United Nations web site on International women’s day.
“Women stand at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic. The crisis has highlighted both the centrality of their contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry.
It is also aligned with the priority theme of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, “Women in public life, equal participation in decision making“,and the flagship Generation Equality campaign, which calls for women’s right to decision-making in all areas of life, equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end all forms of violence against women and girls, and health-care services that respond to their needs…… ”
Jihan Sadat opined that the rage for wearing the hijab is similar to teenagers wearing jeans with holes in the knees. Fashion not religion?
Well……. my take on the women’s day is that the world center of hypocrisy, i.e. the United Nations….. is probably the last place to look for any authentic boost for women’s rights. For instance look who is on the Human Rights Council, (HRC) Bahrain, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Libya, Gabon, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Uzbekistan etc etc.
Works for covid too
There can be little doubt that the Middle East is near the bottom of any authentic comparison of women’s rights and their reach for equality….at least in terms of the Western concept of equality . This is an important point because the Fundamentalist Islamic clerics will say you are, in effect, comparing apples and oranges. They would say our Islamic world cannot be juxtaposed next to the western world. We do not want to be part of the materialistic, immoral, corrupt Western world. For instance—-this is something I heard often in the Arab World…..our women happily trade your idea of freedom for the safety and security of the Islamic world. Not quite true actually. Many Muslim women, for instance, wear the Islamic women’s headdress to avoid harassment by predatory males. In Cairo, there are separate cars on the underground for females because even the headdress and the long dress (abaya) and is not quite enough to stop the groping.
I see these in northern Virginia quite often even before the China virus
head to foot.popular with the Mullahs of Iran
with this the ladies can check out the guys without being detected
If you do believe there are certain universal rights of man/womenkind applicable everywhere then one has to examine why the usually deplorable condition of women continues to exist in the Arab Muslim world ( Ill stick to the Arab Islamic world because I’m not comfortable writing about Indonesia and South Asia.) I see a number of factors.
What I am writing about here is not applicable across the board and varies from country to country, and class by class. But I will say that these factors exist in some degree across the board, in every Islamic country and every country.
a bit of fashion on this one
Most Muslim women are brainwashed from birth to accept an inferior status in life.It is part of the essence of their religion. Many examples are in the Quran. One example; Surah iv “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women)... Non Muslim women…. especially those not of the book.( Christians, Jews)… (but in reality any not meeting the Ibn Tamiya status of a true Muslim women ) taken in war are considered as spoils of war. One example the horrendous fate of the Yezidi women taken captive by the predators of the ISIS. The frequent rejoinder to that…frequently used to sugar coat this during the Obama administration and apparently again by the Biden officials…. is that these ISIS were not “real Muslims.” The 9/11 terrorists were all termed this way as are all Islamic terrorist actions, or alternately with “mental problems.”
These arguments were shredded by he Kuwaiti official Saad bin Tafla Ajami in an article (“We Are All ISIS”) reproduced in Elham Manea’s book The Perils of non Violent Islamism. Ajami reminded the readers that…” ISIS did not come from another planet. It is not a product of the infidel West or a bygone orient.No! the truth that we cannot deny is that ISIS learned from our schools, prayed in our mosques, listened to our media and our religious platforms, read from our books, and references, and followed fatwas (religious edicts) we produced.” Nir Rosen, wrote a number of books (and articles in radical left wing periodicals like Mother Jones, and the Socialist Worker) about the insurgents fighting Americans troops in Iraq. He spent a lot of time with Iraqi Islamists, and recorded their attitude succinctly in terms of scrupulously observing the doctrine of the Quran: they were not “bad” Muslims…. but were actually the best and most righteous..certainly in their view.
It’s rather comical how Western self-appointed secular liberal “experts” have become the judges of who qualifies as a good Muslim. As the author, Yasmine Mohammed, wrote in her book Unveiled, her decision to write was prompted by the appearance of Ben Affleck on the Bill Maher show denouncing the racist appellations being applied to Muslims while at the same time he was promoting and starring in movies denigrating Christianity- A very common feature of Hollywood these days.
Iranian head to feet style preferred by the mullahs But no lipstic
In her book Yasmine details how her family constantly laid the guilt trip on her, …shaming the family, her destination to hell being a certainty, controlling her life decisions, using the Western liberal social environment to steal money from the taxpayers.etc. etc. Example: marrying a widowed second wife with a child using an Islamic cleric to marry them, and then drawing government money sent to his wife as a single mother.
Firstly, the Islamic women who are sucked into the vortex of Islamism-despite the inbred misogyny of Islamism- are a consequence of their imprinted inferior status but also by their desire to be something besides a baby factory and appendage to their husband. The Islamists promise them a honored place in society. More over the vast corruption endemic in the Arab world has diminished any semblance of a positive attitude toward a Western parliamentary democracy in the minds of almost everyone. This attitude is reinforced by the sleaze Hollywood churns out and Western professors who go to teach in Muslim countries and reinforce the view of the United States as repository of deplorable Islamophobes.
Some years ago there were quasi free elections in Bahrain with a few women running for office. The Western observers were surprised when most women voted for Islamist fundamentalists. Seemingly it didn’t make sense. Well, it does if you are a woman who has been indoctrinated to do as you are told by your brothers and fathers, and firmly believe you are carrying out the duties and role in life allotted to you by God. If you believe, as a woman, you are congenitally incapable of being involved in affairs of the State and that women who put themselves out there in the public eye are sluts …well why would you vote for a woman?
Secondly nothing is more destructive to the status of women in the Arab/Muslim world than the shame factor. As the sociologists put it, this is a shame society in which your self respect is governed by your reputation among your neighbors. And the most severe damage to your reputation is a transgression of sexual mores by a woman of your family. In the argument of Nature vs Nurture, the Arab Muslims are definitely in the nature camp. Your bloodlines and genes determine who you are. Thus a women who allegedly violates sexual norms, or appears to, casts shame not only on herself, but more importantly on the entire family. Men are much less ,if at all, blemished by sexual license. This anxiety of sexual impurity has led to the barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FMG), supposedly to lessen the temptation of young women to engage in illicit sex. It is far more widespread among the middle class, especially in Egypt, that most would care to admit.
Thirdly another problem is the imbecilic attitude of the Western intellectual elite, and ego driven celebrities like Ben Affleck, who act as facilitators for Islamist misogyny and religious /ethnic hatreds. It is the liberal/ leftist form of racism. Their attitude is…….. well who are we to question their culture? Apparently the Islamists are people from Mars and not governed by any universal laws of common humanity. Somehow the Islamists have become the new radical chic.
Fourthly Islamism has become fashionable among the illuminati and cognoscenti. As part of the “informed class” you distance yourself away from the hoi polloi by a more “balanced” view of the embedded Islamist hatreds by blaming the usual culprits, colonialism, imperialism, the Palestinian problem on Western malevolence. While roundly condemning the foibles and injustices of Christianity, these same “intellectuals” have only tepid objections to Islamist mass slaughter. Their view is like the view depicted in the movie “Killing Fields” to wit; It was American bombing that drove the Cambodian Communists crazy and led to the genocide of the people. Like wise in the Middle East it is the Palestine issue, invasion of Iraq etc etc. that led to continuing murderous outrages by Islamists perpetrated in the West and Israel, and of course against their own people.
how to be fashionable and wear a hijab. But not in most Arab/muslim countries
Fifthly, The Western civilization and Christian world presently provides a very poor alternative to the Islamist world. A Western “woke” generation that disparages their history and civilization hardly provides an optimistic and positive example. Christianity, in the words of one priest, has evolved from the ten commandments to the ten suggestions. Spiritual commitments have devolved into occasional feel good appearances at soup kitchens. The slide of United States society toward toward a rootless, amoral, hedonistic, and narcissistic culture has been well documented by Christopher Lasch in the Revolt of the Elites, and The Culture of Narcissism. Nothing can offer more graphic testimony to that than the assembly line abortion industry, which softened natural human distaste for killing children by subsuming it into “social justice”. You can be ostracized for using a “hateful term” but lauded for exterminating your unborn child. Why would this be an acceptable to Muslim women wishing to have a more spiritual life than the dry tedious, and overwhelming weight of Islamic prescriptions and proscriptions? Just one example of this is the massive Islamic regulations on toilet etiquette or initiation of sex. Most of the burden falls on women.
whats’ your sign
My first and very impressionable incident that stuck in my memory regarding gender equality, happened in 1968 in the Gulf. I was out with Trucial Oman scouts on a patrol and we stopped in a bedu village. One of the British SAS troops with us gave an apple to a cute little girl. Promptly the father slapped the girl and took the apple away and gave it to her brother. Things have changed around the edges of gender issues, but not in substance nor among the last majority of the people.
Two other books to read other than the two I have previously mentioned are Beyond The Veil by Fatima Mernisi and In the Land of the Invisible Women by Qanta A. Ahmad
A version of the article below was published some time ago in the Jewish World Review. I was prompted to write something by the visit of Pope Francis to Iraq and historic meeting with the Shi’a Marja , and Grand Ayatollah, Sayyid al Husseini Al Sistani, who in the eyes of most Iraqi Shi’a, is the highest ranking Ayatollah in the world wide Shi’a community. He was born an Iranian but has always been seen as the Iraqi claim to the highest Shi’a cleric. He also espouses the “quietist” version of Shi’a Islam, e.g. religious leaders should stay out of politics as opposed to the variety of Shiism espoused by the Iranian clerics.
It is illustrative of the basic Christian problem in the Islamic world that in Iraq, the vast majority of the Iraqi Christians who turned out to see the Pope are Chaldeans, who accept the authority of the Catholic Church and the Pope of Rome. the many other Christians of Iraq, called the Assyrians, follow the eastern Christian rite. They are Nestorians. They are mostly village people compared to the more sophisticated and urban Chaldeans. They have had a particularly sad history at the hands of the Iraqi government, politician-generals like Bakr Sidqi al Askari, who became a national hero by massacring Assyrian civilians in the thirties.
I was discussing the sad plight of the Christians of the Middle East a few months ago with a Lebanese friend who recited a familiar reason for the near extinction of the Christian communities of the Middle East. The basic reason, he insisted, was the Church teaching on “turning the other cheek.” In the face of militant Islam of the Arab expansionist era, the aggressive Muslims overwhelmed passive Christian communities, who assumed dhimmi status, that of a second class citizen. Accordingly, they gradually assimilated or emigrated to non – Muslim lands. As the story goes, the battle of Yarmuk presaged the fate of the Christian Byzantine Empire and from there on, Islamic success brought more successes with many Christian communities switching sides at critical times. For example 12000 Christian warriors switched sides at the battle of Yarmuk, a Islamic victory which set in motion the eventual diminution of Christians to Dhimmi status. ( according to google “protected status,” but in reality second class citizens with restricted political and social rights).
Below we see the splits that rendered the Christian church apart, mostly on debates on the nature of Christ…. fully human, fully divine or God in There persons. many heresies ripped apart Christianity, gnosticism, monasticism, and Arianism. Hillaire Belloc saw Islam as a Christian heresy
The slides below are from a class I presented at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School
The ill fated Crusades, ostensibly to regain the holy land from Islam, exemplified the basic deadly dichotomy of Christian East and West . “ Mutinous soldiers” of the fourth crusade (1204), ostensibly on the way to regain the holy land from Muslims, attacked and sacked Constantinople, the Christian capitol of the Byzantine Empire. The lands of the longest lasting empire in history were divided up among the victors and subsequently the Byzantine Empire was too weak to withstand the unceasing expansionism of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. The destruction of Constantinople by Christians of the West really defines the basic weakness of Christianity of both West and East; they were always divided and at each others throat. The Christians have always been adept at trying to ascertain how many angels dance on the head of a pin. It was said that the bishops of Constantinople were debating this issue as the Muslim warriors were at the gates of the City. The separation of the East and West church in 1054 came about principally over the issue of leadership, but the Western Church began to view the Eastern Church as idolatrous, providing a veneer of religious motivation for the sack of Constantinople. After that the Christian community began to splinter into many communities, at times persecuting one another. An example of this was the Greek Byzantine persecution of the adherents of the Latin Church driven into the mountains of Lebanon, now known as Maronites.
In the modern era I observed up close the disintegration of the Christian communities and their pathetic efforts to survive in a world in which they are, at best, only tolerated. In every surge of Islamic fervor, such as the brutal Islamic State expulsion of Christians, they have been subject to depredations.
One would think that the Christian communities, driven apart by divisive opinions on the nature of Christ, with complex and often obscure inscrutable theological arguments, would band together to maintain their survival, but they do not and never have. Moreover they tend not to feel any commonality with other non-Christian minorities in the Islamic world, such as the Jewish, Yezidi, and Sabeans, and have fought bloody wars with the Druze minority.
I found that many Eastern Christians had antipathy to Judaism and Jews similar to that of the Muslims. This is, at least partially, a result of the often fruitless, but totally understandable, attempts of the Christian clergy to curry favor within their Muslim communities by finding some commonality. An egregious example of this happened in 2010 Baghdad when a number of Chaldean Catholic churches were attacked, and the Church leaders blamed Zionists. This sort of pathetic attempts to avoid blaming Muslim extremists only makes them seem weaker and somewhat ridiculous. It was Ibn Khaldun who wrote that subjugated people under the yoke of tyranny tend to acquire characteristics of “ insincerity and trickery.” So it has become for Christians in the Arab world.
It was wonderful to see the Pope’s visit to Iraq but I do not think much will change and the Middle East will continue to empty of its original Christian peoples. Islamist triumphalists will continue to drive the few remaining Christians from their ancient homelands.
Two recent books, The Perils of Non Violent Islamism by Elham Manea and Unveiled by Yasmine Mohammed detail the perfidious betrayal of Christians in the Middle East by Western liberals and Leftists. It is a suffocating story of arrogance and ignorance.
In Lebanon, the bloody civil war described by the media as a war between Christians and Muslims, but in fact, most Armenian Christians and Greek Orthodox avoided taking part. At the end of the Lebanese civil war the Maronites were reduced to killing each other. This war revealed another cleavage in the Christian community; an ethnic division added to the religious one, as Greek Orthodox consider themselves Arabs while the Egyptian Copts, Armenians, and Maronites do not.
Two other factors have also diminished the Christian communities of the Arab world. One is the proclivity to seek the protection of despots as shelter against Muslim hostility. Thus Christian communities have supported Saddam, Assad, and Mubarak. Of course when they go down, enmity for the Christians increase.
Secondly the Western powers have manipulated the Christians of the Middle East for their own purposes. The British used the Assyrian Christians in Iraq as an auxiliary force to maintain themselves in power, with tragic consequences for the Assyrian people as the British lost control. In the Levant the French sought to maintain a Maronite state to secure their empire after WWI but then greedily included the heavily Muslim Bekaa valley as part of Lebanon, which has had the sad result for the Christians losing their controlling status in Lebanon. Western Protestant missionaries came to the East, not to convert Muslims, but convert Eastern Christians to Protestantism, adding another dimension to their disunity. Today as their numbers continue to dwindle., the secular West has essentially lost interest in the plight of the Christians in the Near East.
Nothing so illustrates the disunity of the Christians more than the state of the most sacred of Christian sites, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Six Christian denominations claim residence, but unable to agree on who should maintain the key and open the Church, the Church elders depend on two Muslim families to do so.
The Mullah Islamist regime lives and breathes on hate..hate for the West, especially Americans. It is indicative of the imbecilic policy of the Obama-Biden regime that this is not understood.
Recently we learned that the Biden regime launched an “attack” on Iraqi surrogate militia in Syra. It was political theatre…nothing more than a domestic political act. The Iraqi government , totally infested with Iranian agents, was told before the raid that it would occur …when, where, and how. The damage, if any, was minimal. This sort of mosquito bite strategy only encourages Iranian adventurism and imperialism. The London based Syrian for Human Rights, claimed …based on local reports…that 22 people were killed. This is nonsense. The compliant and state-run Biden press saw this as a “carefully calibrated , defensive measure” presumably in retaliation for the Iranian controlled Iraqi militia rocketing of an Irbil American base, killing a civilian contractor, and wounding several other personnel. This was one of three attacks on American bases since Biden became president.
WaNG AND Family
Wang is a Chinese-American and naturalized citizen, who was sent to China with a university grant and was arrested by the Iranian authorities for “spying.” He spent 4o months in prison under content interrogation by the Iranian security thugs. He was released on a prisoner swap for the Iranian agent, Massoud Suliemani, who was working on Gods Knows what at the Mayo Clinic.
Iranian “scientist” Masood Soleimani
The Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2021
What I Learned in an Iranian Prison
U.S. foreign policy isn’t to blame for the mullahs’ deep-rooted hatred of America and Americans.
By Wang Xiyue
Iran, Europe and many American progressives are pressuring the Biden administration to revive the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Official groupthink has coalesced around a singularly misguided belief: The U.S. has so badly mistreated Iran in the past that it must engage and appease the Islamic Republic now. I understand this view because I was once taught to believe it. This mindset is what convinced me in 2016 that I could safely do research for my dissertation in Iran. My optimism was misplaced. Not long after I arrived, I was imprisoned by Iran’s brutal regime and held hostage for more than three years.
When I went to Iran, I shared the prevailing academic view of the Middle East. I had absorbed the oft-repeated lesson that political Islam arose in response to Western colonialism and imperialism, and that the West—particularly America’s Middle East behavior—was chiefly responsible for the region’s chaos. My professors taught that the U.S. had treated Iran with a mixture of Orientalist condescension and imperialist aggression since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979. I believed America’s role in the 1953 coup that removed Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh explained everything that had gone wrong in Iran. Convinced that the mullahs’ hostility toward the U.S. was exaggerated, I often dismissed allegations of the regime’s malign behavior as American propaganda.
Since it was obvious that American foreign policy itself was the problem, and that the regime would happily normalize relations once the U.S. pivoted away from disrespect, I assumed I’d be left alone in Iran if I remained apolitical and focused on historical research. Imagine my shock when the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence arrested me on false espionage charges in August 2016, shortly after the implementation of the JCPOA—during what appeared to be a period of rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran. I was thrown into solitary confinement, forced to confess things my interrogator knew I had not done, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
My interrogator made clear that my sole “crime” was being an American. He told me I was to be used as a pawn in exchange for U.S.-held Iranian prisoners and the release of frozen Iranian assets. (I was released in a 2019 prisoner swap.)
My terrible 40-month imprisonment was a period of intense re-education about the relationship between Iran and the U.S. The Islamic Republic is an ambitious power, but not a constructive one. It’s a spoiler, projecting influence by exporting revolution and terrorism via its proxies in the Middle East. Domestically, the mullahs have failed to deliver on their political and economic promises to the Iranian people, on whom they maintain their grip through oppression.
Nothing I’d learned during my years in the ivory towers of academia had prepared me for the reality I encountered in an Iranian prison. I learned what many Iranians already know: The regime’s hostility toward the U.S. isn’t reactive, but proactive, rooted in a fierce anti-Americanism enmeshed in its anti-imperialist ideology. As I witnessed firsthand, Tehran isn’t interested in normalizing relations with Washington. It survives and thrives on its self-perpetuated hostility against the West; a posture that has been integral to the regime’s identity.
The regime didn’t regard President Obama’s engagement as a goodwill gesture, but rather as an “iron fist under a velvet glove.” Iran’s revolutionary regime retains power through conspiracy and intrigue, and views everything through that lens. The notion that it will be difficult for the U.S. to regain Iran’s trust after quitting the JCPOA is incorrect. The Iranian regime has never trusted the U.S., and never will.
When I was being interrogated in Evin Prison in summer 2016, my interrogator boasted that he and his hard-line colleagues were eager to see Donald Trump elected, not because the regime viewed him as the type of pragmatic leader they could deal with, but because it would justify a more confrontational stance against the Great Satan.
The menace of the Islamic Republic can’t be appeased. It must be countered and restrained. Only the U.S. has the capacity to lead such an endeavor. For 42 years Iran has demonstrated that it changes its behavior only in response to strength in the form of American-led international pressure. If the Biden administration returns to the JCPOA without extracting concessions from Tehran beyond the nuclear threat, it will relinquish all U.S. leverage over the regime.
Diplomacy can’t succeed without leverage. Only by showing strength of will can President Biden hope for genuine progress in containing the Iranian threat to peace.
Mr. Wang is a doctoral candidate in history at Princeton and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Al Arabaya, an affiliate of Al Jazeera presented a very good video entitled Into the Arms of Soldiers, a book written by David Kirkpatrick, a New York Times correspondent, shown a few days ago. In the video I participated in a moderate amount and as usual much of what I had to say was not in the program. This is normal of course, Al Jazeera has its own gospel to peddle just like The Washington Post and New York Times, and in its own way it probably less dishonest than either the WaPO or NYT. It is a mouthpiece of the Qatari Royal Family and a very professional one. It is favorable disposed toward the Muslim Brotherhood and viscerally opposed to the regime of general Al Sisi in Egypt. It was highly enthused by the revolution which deposed Hosni Mubarak but very unhappy with the military “coup” or second revolution ( depending on your viewpoint) which deposed the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi almost a year later. The program is at
I appear at 7.3, 11.23 ands 17.39 to dispense my wisdom. Basically the words I was allowed to say were important, but not what I thought was most important. In the program I depicted, quite accurately, the Obama administration policy toward Egypt as incoherent and disastrous for the overall image of the United States in the Middle East. The various would be managers of our policy toward the Mubarak, Morsi and al Sisi regimes all had Lone Ranger ideas toward Egypt and the Middle East. Obama was asleep at the wheel and there was no firm leadership to conduct a sensible policy toward the Middle East.
Obama in one of his first trips overseas was to Egypt to presumably “reset” our policy toward the Middle East. According to an Egyptian writer Tareq Heggy, Obama was received as a “rock star” by the Egyptian audience. As the months worn on, however, the adulation turned to contempt, especially because of his wishy-washy policies toward Syria and Egypt, and later his subservience to Iranian pretensions. Ben Rhodes, the aspiring novelist, celebrity wannabe, and deputy National security advisor under Obama, parading as a foreign policy expert, was in accord with Obama’s view of the future They saw the Muslim Brotherhood as the dawn of a new Middle East, which with proper guidance would be “people we can work with.” Clinton, Kerry and General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff who also viewed himself as an expert in Middle East affairs, all had conflicting views.
This was part of the overwhelming hubris of Obama and his advisors in dealing with the Middle East, in which they saw themselves as experts but were in reality clueless. His expeditious and senseless evacuation of troops from Iraq, leading to the near triumph of the ISIS, was only one facet of his hapless policy toward the Arab World.
The points I wanted to make were these;
The military leadership involved in industry, commerce, or politics always has a grave deleterious effect on the capabilities and effectiveness of the military. The Egyptian army has shown in its campaigns against the Islamists in Sinai, that its effectiveness has suffered a great deal
The army is not the only problem. The extremely powerful intelligence community of Egypt first created by President Nasser, has the dossier on every business, military, political, and religious figure in Egypt. To a large extent they form the backbone of the deep state that overturned Mubarak after he became a burden, and put al Sisi in power.
The book Into the Hands of Soldiers, by Kirkpatrick, was a good reporting narrative, but it lacked an analysis of the military. A Far better and evenly balanced book was Inside Egypt by John Bradley. The best analysis of why the 2011 revolution failed is depicted by Samuel Tadros, Reflections on the Revolution in Egypt.
Other books I suggested but were not in the presentation are.
Militarizing the Nation by Zeinab Abu-Magd
Once upon a Revolution by Thanassis Cambanis
The Egyptian Military in Popular Culture, by Dalia Said Mostafa
A History of the Egyptian Intelligence Service by Owen Sirrs
Soldiers, Spies, and Statesmen: Egypts Road to Revolt by Hazem Kandil
For quite some time the Palestinian issue has been relegated to a secondary importance as the ISIS, the Arab Spring, the wars in Syria and Iraq, and basic instability throughout the Arab World has edged it out of the International attention. This has been a basic departure from the mind- numbing torrent of news, opinions, analyses, that characterized the Palestinian issue for decades, as the Fedayeen guerrilla fighter, or terrorist, was gracing the covers of European and American publications. It was an era in which it became an axiom that “freedom fighters” were destined to win, in that journalists conflated the struggle in Palestine to that being waged against colonialists throughout Africa and corrupt dictatorships of South America. The Franz Fanons and Che Guevaras of the world were lauded as the men of the future. The sentimentality in which the Western intellectuals, aided by a generally ignorant media- confusing fashion for facts- viewed the guerrilla wars throughout the world, generally distorted the reality of these wars. Often led, as they were, by upper class elitists who scrupulously avoided any combat themselves, they fitted in with the zeitgeist of the era. They were won, not by insurgent superior proficiency in strategy , tactics, or will to win, but more often through the weaknesses and lack of will of the colonial, and despotic regimes. The British, Spanish, French, and Portuguese simply decided the colonial possessions were not worth the cost in casualties or money.
Now the issue is re- emerging as the Palestinian authorities in Gaza and the Palestinian “state” in the West Bank are trying to mend fences and present a more united front to bargain (or war) against the Israelis. To be sure there has been no diminution of feeling or desire among the Palestinians for an independent state, and as the opinion surveys always show, there is little enthusiasm for a Palestinian Arab state alongside a Jewish state. So the existentialism of the struggle, Muslim versus Jewish, continues unabated, despite the pathetic attempts of every American administration to broker some sort of lasting “peace.” Many Israelis see the famous Oslo agreements as the crux of todays problem, giving away too much of Israeli concerns, and Palestinian activists see it as only a veneer covering the objective of a united Arab Palestinian state, built on the ruins of a Zionist state.
Realistic analysts of the struggle try to inject reality, generally to deaf ears, depicting the picture of a political and cultural environment in which Palestinians and Israelis live in separate worlds. There is no real common ground, despite occasional human interest stories to the contrary. At a conference a few years ago, a young Palestinian scholar pointed out that every square yard of the contested land has a Jewish name and a Muslim Arab name. They have no common vocabulary, even if some Israelis speak Arabic and some Arabs speak Hebrew. In certain urban area areas, Israelis and Palestinians live cheek by jowl but have minimal, if any neighborly communication. They avoid each other like the plague.
Since the early days of the Jewish – Arab conflict, the Palestinians have always been divided into clans , political factions, and hitching their fortunes to fickle or unstable bigger Allies, like the USSR, Iraq, or Nasser’s Egypt. An early clan rivalry, the Nashabhibi-Hussaini battle divided the Palestinians just as the Gaza – Palestinian National Authority (PNA) conflict does today.
The two Palestinian enclaves have been divided since 1948 war of Israeli independence. They have been separated for a half century. While the Gaza enclave has been virtually isolated with only minimal contact with an unfriendly Egyptian government, most recently virtually fenced off from any contact at all, the PNA segment has been more exposed to Western influence through the Israelis, and a number of international agencies and a more westernized Jordan.
Despite their physical separation the PNA regime governed Gaza until the battle of Gaza in 2007 in which the corrupt PNA government was bloodily ejected by the HAMAS and Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ). HAMAS is a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot and the PIJ is an even more radical offspring of the Islamist movement. Since that time Islamic law has been the governing legal environment of Gaza- a sort of Sunni version of the Shi’a rule in Iran. The ejection of the PNA was the inevitable result of the endemic corruption of the Palestinian Liberation Organization ( PLO) under Yasir Arafat. In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas was elected president for a five year term but it has turned into a “president for Life ” job as reconciliation efforts always failed.
Under the benevolent auspices of the new ottoman Sultan of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan, this past fall, the two enclaves were encouraged to mend fences and as a result new elections have been set up with the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)on 22 May 2021, and the presidency on 31 July 2021. The PLC like most Arab parliaments have very little power, which is mostly placed in the presidency.
Hamas will win the presidency and probably the PLC as well as the Palestinian folks are fed up with the corruption and incompetence off the PNA. Public opinion surveys quite definitely say that compromise with Israel is a non starter and almost half say they want war again. But of course, they say many things which fit into the mode of Palestinian politically correct language. Almost all say they must return to 1948 borders ( West Bank) which was in the hands of Jordan ( they have subsequently washed their hands of ruling Palestine again).
So What will this mean in practical terms? Very little for a number of reasons; political, cultural ,and outside influences.
Political. As one of my favorite writers, Malcolm Muggeridge observed, “I have never really been able to understand how anyone can believe in the possibility of compromise in the matters of power , which is an absolutist passion.” An integral factor in the eternal conflict of the Arabs, which Rapheal Patai ( The Arab Mind) described as their dualism and proneness to conflict, is evident in Palestinian history. An important factor here is the Palestinian Security Forces ( PSF). This internal security force is lauded by the liberal observers as a force for peace in the occupied PNA areas. However, this notion is severely tested by the fact that in Ifitadah II, (Palestinian Uprisingsagainst the Israelis in beginning in 2000) the primary force used by the Palestinians was the PSF. Since that time the PSF has been primarily a domestic security force to keep President Mahmoud Abbas in power, killing and detaining sympathizers of the Islamist regime in Gaza. The US has had a prominent role in training and financing the PSF in the belief that this favored the peace between Israel and Palestine. In that 15 years has passed without another bloody intifada, there is a good argument for this role of PSF. However it bodes poorly for any integration of Gaza and the PNA. It has been a force tied to the fortunes of the PNA and for the last 13 years has been mostly employed in eliminating rivals to Mahmoud Abbas. How they will accept an Islamist president from Gaza is a very critical question. My opinion is they will not! I base that on the two years I did briefings for American trainers ( mostly ex-law enforcement people) going to monitor training given to the PSF. The PSF, with about ten battalions including a “presidential guard battalion” is a force for the PNA, by the PNA, and of the PNA.
Culturally. From biblical times were has been a cultural and to some degree ethnic difference between the Arabs of Gaza and those of the West Bank ( or Galilee , Judea, and Samaria as the Israelis choose to call it) . Some research points to a definite difference in origins of the two groups of Palestinians. The West Bank Palestinians were referred to as “mountain Arabs,” the original inhabitants of the region while the Arabs of the Gaza were referred to as “coastal Plains Arabs,” who are a collection of clans that at some point emigrated into the Gaza Strip from other parts of the Middle East. Hence , according to these scholars, they have a weaker social structure and less cohesiveness than those of the West Bank. Obviously, the half century of isolation from the West Bank and and the pervasiveness of Islamist thinking in the education system has had an imprint of considerable importance on society.
Internationally. The Islamist regime of Gaza has been a favorite of the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood regime of Erdogan but at the same time, The Iranians have made inroads into the Sunni Arab Gazan military forces. Admiration for the Iranian successes …real or imagined…have had an impressive effect on Arab imagination, spurred by the Qassem Solemani effect. The West will be primarily pushing to keep the PNA breathing and hopefully keeping the peace , however tenuous it may be, with Israel. So as usual, the Palestinians will use and be used by contending outside Arab and international interests.
After months of sporadic clashes between the Jordanian Arab Army and the fedayeen, the inevitable showdown was hastened by the Popular Front for Palestine (PFLP) hijacking the aircraft and flying into Dawson Field which was promptly renamed the al Thawra (revolutionary) airfield by the Fedayeen (6 September 1970) the Palestinians, by holding the hostages, had control of the airfield with the Jordan Arab Army (JAA) forming an outer circle around the airfield. Ambassador Brown arrived at the embassy and we were instructed to gather there.
The Defense Attache Office was in an outlying building about 100 yards away and the area was controlled by the fedayeen. Eventually one by one we sprinted from the DAO building to the Embassy and remained there throughout the siege crisis. At the embassy we had a squad of Bedouin soldiers from the Ministry of Interior. They were stalwart loyal troops. When they heard the Jordanian National anthem played on the radio they got to their feet and stood at attention. They were continually shot at by snipers in addition to occasional mortar rounds. One was hit in the leg and we brought him inside the embassy. Amidst his loud lamentations and prayers, the Embassy Security Officer patched him up, and later an an armored personnel carrier got through to pick him up and he was transported to the army hospital.
We had a contingent of Marine guards, but they generally were stationed inside the embassy. The marines performed a valuable service giving us a sense of security as well as a myriad of other duties. As our isolated time in the Embassy went on we discovered the problem of water. Food was plentiful. We had plenty of C-rations and canned food but not much water. The water system, which only worked sporadically in the best of times, was supplemented by water trucks that came and filled the water tank on the roof. The water trucks no longer arrived and the water tank on the roof was riddled with bullet holes and fragmentation damage from the mortars that hit the building…thanks to the stone structure did very little damage.
We needed water not just for drinking but also cooking and most of all keeping the commodes working. so the Marines went out at night and foraged through the houses in the neighborhood homes, mostly unoccupied as the people fled the area, to get cans of water. In one case they ran into some fedayeen occupying a house. Oddly there was no confrontation. One marine (We were all in civilian clothing) calmly told them they needed the water, and the Fedayeen said they had no quarrel with Americans only the Jordanian Army. That was only partially true, of course. The PFLP, PDFLP and PFLP-GC targeted Americans.
At this time a curious incident occurred. A deserter from the US Army in Europe showed up at the embassy to renounce his citizenship. He was Palestinian American and wanted to fight for the Fedayeen. I later heard, after the war, he wanted to undo his action but Im not sure he was able to do so.
The problem of sorting out who was who among the Fedayeen was a vital part of staying alive. My driver saved me a number of times by avoiding PFLP or PDFLP checkpoints. They normally flew the flag of their organization at the checkpoints. Both organizations were headed by Christians and were by far the most extreme organizations following a radical marxist line. The Fateh, the main organization within the PLO, was normally semi-disciplined and after some bullshit interrogation, hurling American slang insults…. to impress the girls standing around……normally let us pass. One Sergeant assigned to the embassy was taken by the PFLP and kept in a tiger cage for a few days. He was later released under the terms of one of the umpteen peace pacts between King Hussein and Arafat.
Digression. After the JAA took control Amman it was found that my driver had given the Fedayeen sketches of the DAO office. He was fired but some months after, as I came out of my house, he was literally on his knees begging for his job back. He had a family and lived in a refugee camp totally controlled by the Fedayeen. What would any person have done in his situation? I asked the security folks in the embassy to rehire him but they refused.
On 16 September the JAA moved against the Fedayeen. One can read a number of reasons why the King finally acquiesced to the demands of the army, as for months he had been submitting to the demands of the Fedayeen, even dismissing relatives and favorites in the military to meet Fedayeen ultimatums. I know our CIA chief pushed him to move against the Fedayeen, and the army down to last private were staining at the leash to take on the Fedayeen, making it obvious they were going to move against them with the King or without him.
The CIA chief was receiving very little information or instructions from Langley, and as usual the State was having discussions, conferences, round tables and doing nothing. Finally on the morning of the 16th of September the roar of artillery and explosions were deafening. The JAA went on the offensive shelling the Fedayeen strongholds which were, of course, in the middle of civilian neighborhoods.There were no plans to evacuate the civilians from the Fedayeen neighborhoods and the Fedayeen were happy to keep them there as bait for the journalists seeking cover JAA “atrocities.” To be sure there was bad blood and no doubt neither side paid much attention to the laws of war. My friends in the JAA armor told me that they would pull down the trousers of captured Fedayeen and set them of the rear engines of their tanks. People were killed on the basis of their accent…the bedouin dialect being detectable from the west bank Palestinian. One example of the intense animosity between the PLO and the JAA was the fact that toward the end of the PLO insurrection, surviving Fedayeen. waded across the Jordan River to surrender to the Israelis rather than the JAA
From our perch on Jebel Luweideh we clearly see the advance of the JAA up the Palestinian stronghold on Ashrafiah. They were being stoutly resisted by the Fedayeen and the m-48 tanks were being hit by RPG’s and getting knocked out. Amman is a city of stone and even the 106 Recoilless Rifles rounds were bouncing off the stone houses.
The JAA, composed mostly of East bank Jordanians, were untrained in urban warfare and resorted to indiscriminate shelling and the use of the twin barrel Bofors 40 mm guns mounted in tandem on an APC to pour fire into the refugee camp. However this was not a camp of tents. The camp had been there so long it had evolved into a stone house community, and despite the shelling not a lot of visible damage was apparent. There were considerable civilian casualties however and the journalists hyped the action to a frenzy in news print .”Amman on fire with Bedouin soldiers raping and looting” read Newsweek. Journalists, as usual, were getting most of their information at the bar at the Intercontinental hotel. The JAA and the Government of Jordan (GOJ )was incompetent on press relations and the journalists got all their information from the Fedayeen spokesmen.. some of whom were very slick and Western educated. We, being holed up in the embassy without any phone service, were out of the picture.
The operation lasted 10 days and as the mortaring and sniping at the Embassy went on, we were issued M1A Carbines. Not everyone took them but I must say the feel of the rifle and a pocket full of ammo made me feel more confident. A few days into the siege one of the secretaries and I were looking out the window ( all were shattered by then) when a round hit just a few inches from the ledge, spraying cinders into the secretary’s face and mine. The cinders were in my eyes and a made few small cuts on my face. As I write this I am thinking that had I been in Vietnam I would have received a John Kerry Purple Heart.
On 20 September , The Syrians invaded north Jordan support of the Palestinians using armor with hastily repainted PLO colors and flags. It was aimed at supporting a “free State” created in Irbid. Meanwhile there was an Iraqi Division-size force sitting in the desert east of Amman. It was expected that they too would join the Palestinians. Things were looking very poor for Jordan. At this point, with American support questionable and the British and European governments wimping their way towards an understanding with the Palestinians…..and many Israelis saying “no problem….Jordan can become the Palestinian state they want,” Golda Meier indomitable as always, however refused. She had met the PLK ( Plucky Little King.. as the Brits referred to him) on an Island in the Gulf of Aqaba earlier in 1969. According to Jack O’Connell in his book King’s Counsel, they had a great social gathering.
Among the things us military folks and the Marines were doing in the embassy was destroying all documents. One of the “burn before reading” messages I saw was a message from King Hussein to Golda Meier channeled through American communications asking for support. There was a full paragraph of personal endearments and warm words in the typical Arab florid style. I do not know the response, but as its happened, It seems that King Hussein, rightly or wrongly, was confident of Israeli support and loosed his Air Force on the Syrians, knocking out many tanks (according to Ihsan (Sam) Shordom), a fellow I knew well, and the RJAF top ace. He called it a “Turkey Shoot.” The Syrians did not put up their air force, grounded by fratricidal Syrian politics and a well founded fear that the Israelis would shoot them down. The Syrians retreated in ignominy, and Hafez Assad the Syrian Air Force chief who had disobeyed orders of the Syrian Government to put up their Air Force, used the Syrian humiliation to become the President of Syria.
Note: Despite claims the Jordanians had destroyed up to Syrian 75 armored vehicles when I went up to the Irbid area I couldn’t find any knocked out armor but was told the Jordanians allowed the Syrians to drag them back across the border.
Digression. One can read all sorts of palaver and wringing of hands in the Western capitols on what was to be done to save Jordan or whether it was worth it. The Airborne Bde. was alerted in Italy for deployment to save Americans in Jordan ,: there were shipment of arms to Tel Aviv and Evacuation plans for being discussed for the Americans left in Amman. etc. In fact at that time I knew very little or do not remember much about this.I was getting tons of messages requesting info on topographic features, port facilities, hyway characteristics. I was lucky in that I had been in Jordan a couple of times before and had at least a general idea of what was needed. The recipients of my information were more grateful that they should have been. Actually the intel folks who labored in Arlington Hall, gathering details were in my experience the super Intel people. For example, Little old ladies spent all their time analyzing and putting together detailed info on the hyways in Jordan….no long treatises on the likely future of some obscure Fedayeen organization.
Finally the US got into the act and we were told to ask the GOJ what they needed. The list we receivedcould have outfitted the Soviet army for a decade. What they got was a lot of small and medium arms and tons of ammunition. It had to be flown in of course and the regular Amman airport was still of questionable safety. So the new Air Force MAP ( Military Assistance Program), LTC Ted, a salt of the earth guy, and myself were flown by a RJAF helicopter to several sites in the desert. There colonel Ted using a pocket knife stuck it in the ground to see if the salt flat would support a heavily loaded C-141. Finally he decided the best place would be to use the the Dawson Airfield, renamed the Thawra airfield by the Fedayeen and which we remained the Raja’iyya ( reactionary) airfield.
.Also as it turned out the Iraqis -for much debated reasons – were observed to be withdrawing their troops from Jordan and as the Jordanian army was overrunning Fedayeen bases and units—-and only tepid support from President Nasser of Egypt, forthcoming, Arafat decided to come to terms.. So under the weary eye of President Nasser in Cairo, Hussein and Arafat basically agreed to a pact which ended Palestinian hopes of overthrowing the Hashemite regime. Next day 28 September Nasser died. I had not heard the news but went I went out of the embassy to test the new peaceful atmosphere, I saw all these black flags flying from the homes. Mostly from the homes of Palestinians since most East bank Jordanians had little sadness for his death.
A few weeks later, the “Amman agreement” was signed which ended the Palestinian state within a state. and their arms were to be handed over to the GOJ. As the military attache it was my job and see if this was actually being carried out. That was a spooky job since I was driving alone in a rented Volkswagen…….. thankfully without diplomatic plates. Going into parts of Amman I had been warned by my JAA friends to never enter, was to say the least, stressful.Driving around the urban jungle, such as downtown Amman, known enemy territory and especially when you know you are not welcome, is downright unsettling.. I received quite a few scowls and distasteful grimaces but the armed fedayeen were gone to ground.
But I did actually observe that some arms collection was taking place, although I had doubts that many were collected. In fact the clashes between the JAA and various groups of Fedayeen continued until June 1971 in the Ajlun area. My next mission was to ascertain if in fact the Iraqis were withdrawing. That was easy, as I drove out toward the Iraqi encampments, I could follow the line of their withdrawal by the numerous broken down vehicles pointing eastward for many miles. The withdrawal of the Iraqis took then wind out of the Palestinian sails.
Emerging from the embassy was like emerging from Hitler’s bunker and seeing that the General Walter Wenks XII army had reached Berlin and driven the Russians all the way back to the Caucasus. The fresh air and the smell of musakhan, my favorite Palestinian dish wafted in the breeze. After a year of sporadic violence, in which children were constantly being picked up from school as soon as the shooting began, Amman sprang to life. Jordanians were a people who did not depend on government largesse, and families worked together to set up shop and get on with their lives.
The US army sent in a MASH unit to handle Jordanian, Palestinian, and civilian casualties, and the USAF sent in a surgical unit as well. They set up in. an amazingly short time and was the best thing we did for Jordan. It made me proud what the military can do if freed of political indecision.
The C-141 airlift was coming in the Dawson field, and renamed by us embassy military folks as Rajaiy’ya (reactionary) airfield was given a high tech radio and a frequency to contact the aircraft going in but I was only able to contact one and I realized I had nothing tell him.
After a time families began to return and mine came in from Beirut. Also I received a new boss. Col M was a strait forward armor officer, not quite comfortable as attache in a culture that was mysterious to him. However he was a very professional and a good boss. He listened to what we had to say. He began to inject some order into the Defense Attache Office, after months of free wheeling activity. My own activities were somewhat curtailed, such as several hours day at the cite sportive, swimming, playing squash, a game I loved, and tennis which I did not… and talking and listening to what the word on the street was.
I spent many hours in the desert with Sayil, Mejid, Adil, Nayil, and several other Bedouin and Circassian officers, most of whom were in the armored car regiment that surrounded the palace or were special forces.We went out drank beer, and fired various weapons to argue about their capabilities, the G-3, the M-14, the AK-47. The M-16 had not arrived there yet. Nayil from As Salt loved Tom Jones music and played it constantly in his car. He also enjoyed firing his AK 47 from his balcony sending the war weary citizens scurrying for cover.I never quite used to the Jordanian officers drinking scotch shooting and then replacing their pistols in the holster with the hammer to the rear.. But of course InShAllah.. all will be well.
I finally convinced my boss that an hour in the office is a wasted hour. , An attache has to be out driving around, talking to people, going hunting in the Azraq marshes….. and most beneficial going to parties and giving parties. There seems an American cultural trait that if one has fun in his work he can’t be doing a good job. He finally agreed with some reservations. The colonel who was a bachelor was not comfortable at social occasions and gave me his representational money, which combined with mine, enabled me to put on some really extravaganza parties, made more attractive to the young Jordanian officers by the presence of the winsome Greek girls who were airline hostesses for Jordanian Air Lines. The abundance of beer and scotch, with boxes of American cigarettes were great inducements. Plus we had a fantastic Palestinian cook, Ali, a celebrity cook who once worked for the Belgian Ambassador. He began to mingle with guests as Jordanian ladies tried to hire him away from us. The family loved the guy, who lived in a refugee camp and had eight daughters. He never seemed to hear the cannon announcing the time for Iftar during Ramadan and when he asked my daughters they always assured him they had heard it. Of course half way through his meal it sounded.
The Bedouin officers did not come to these parties, being cautious about drinking alcohol in front of non tribal officers. Most of the officers who attended were Air Force and more sophisticated combat service support types. Sometimes the Junior Pakistani officers from their training team came but they would not touch alcohol. Their commander General Zia al Haq, who later became the president of Pakistan ( and was later assassinated in a plane crash) never attended the parties but I spent quite a bit of time with him. I found him to be more British than the British.; Immaculately groomed, articulate, and a great leader. I use to play (badly) tennis with him and enjoyed his company. I never recognized the man so vilified later in the Western press. At one point in the civil war, Zia took command of a Jordanian division, when the Jordanian commander abandoned his post. (There were a number of Palestinian desertions during the war, but less than anticipated.)
Well after a year, we settled down to a more usual function of embassy personnel. There were lots of parades, conferences,. diplomatic functions to attend. I remember one in particular when the military attaches were taken out to the desert for some exhibition and Tahseen Shordom , a good drinking buddy of mine, and the Circassian commander of the Special Forces invited me to rappel off a cliff. Thanks to my Ranger training I did so but with a typical Arab addition…. Tahseen firing his ak-47 hitting on either side of me as I rappelled down. I was worried about ricochets but tried not to show it.
My fellow military attaches were a mixed lot. The French attache built up my ego by bringing his report, to be sent to Paris , to be vetted by me. The Taiwan attache retired and opened a restaurant. The Russian Attache was a drunk and routinely pinched the rear end of comely Attache wives. His assistant spoke Arabic very well but seemed to suffer from angst that I spoke it better. I didn’t. But the Jordanians always told him I did. The Iraqis were sullen, uncommunicative assholes. It doesn’t pain a bit to know they were probably executed in one of the numerous coups.The Iranian was nice but obviously not happy in his assignment. The Indian was a Colonel Bogie type and like many British educated Indians knew everything about everything. I remember he once dashed triumphantly into my office with a piece of paper detailing the tail numbers of Pakistani F-104’s shot down by the Indians in the 1971 war. They were aircraft we had given to the Jordanians with the stipulation that were not to be conveyed to any other country. Yo Hum so what else is new? The British were …… British. Envious that Glubb Pasha had been replaced by us amateur Americans. I like their style. I’m a bit of an anglophile…despite the disdain in which they seem to view us.
I did enjoy the parties thrown by Princess Muna, the King’s second wife, a very nice British lady in which dodge ball was the primary event, but I did care much for the silly British games. One in particular was the parties thrown by the British air attache ( without Jordanians) in which the wives were standing on chairs and their blindfolded husbands would go down the line feeling the ladies legs to see if they could identify their wife. Generally the American wives were too prudish or sober (or both) to take part.
Well…. all good things come to an end and it came time to go back to the real army. Anyway the routine of diplomatic receptions and attending official functions was a comedown from my previous more exciting experiences, but I did learn a few more things , one from the British military attache. It was always a chore coming up with what to say to the people coming through a reception line, and I learned from the British colonel that it is immaterial to speak anything intelligible when greeting the guests. He just smiled and with a boisterous voice and a hearty and congenial disposition spoke some unknown tongue…HOWHEWAHOWNICEHEWHO.
I cannot to say I added much to the Jordanian triumph although I was able to make the PLO hit list along with Jack O’Connell. In retrospect, I relate my time there to the hilarious story of Malcolm Muggeridge in some obscure African Portuguese colony during WWII as an agent in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Despite his justifiably humble recounting of his service there, he was amused to find in the German intelligence files after the war, how the Germans had him identified as a master spy with agents over all of Africa. I wonder what the Russkies wrote about me? A master linguist and James Bond super spy?
Anyway when I revisited Jordan several times, years later, it was not the same. One old friend had just been released from jail for allegedly having compromising photos of Queen Alia before she became the wife of the King. He looked like a ghost. We had met Alia… Pre-Queen days…. at a picnic one time and she was indeed a vivacious, “forward thinking” and attractive woman. Another friend was in prison for trying to sell information to the Libyans. Amman now had glassy shopping malls, American fast foods, Islamists had replaced the marxists as the primary pain in the ass, and the young gallants had nargillas (water pipes) mounted in their Mercedes. Many of the young ladies in miniskirts common in the seventies, were now pretending to be holier than A’isha the Prophets (PBUN) favorite wife. As Thomas Wolfe wrote, You Can’t go Home Again.
Oh BTW… Why the “legal spy.” At a reception General Sharif Zayd Bin Shaker, Commander of the JAA introducing embassy staff to guests pointed me out and told then I was the “legal spy.”
Well it all began in about July of 1970. I had received orders to report to the Defense Intelligence Agency for a new assignment in Washington, but before we departed we prepared for one more trip- to Israel wrapping up my wonderful tour at the American University of Beirut after 2 1/2 years in the Arab Studies MA program and my Foreign Area Specialty assignment. We… my wife and I… left our little darlings with Therese, a very young, very excellent maid, baby sitter, and Lebanese guide into the intricate labyrinth of Lebanon. We flew to Cyprus and then to Tel Aviv. We had to use a piece of insert paper in our passport for entrance into Israel. When we exited Israel they would stamp the piece of paper and take it…therefore no Israeli stamp in our visa…part of the make believe world the Arabs live in.
In out visit to the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Army Attache there told me that my orders had been changed. The Army Attache in Jordan, Major Bob Perry had been murdered by a gang of Palestinian thugs in his home in front of his wife and kids.
So we returned to Beirut and shortly thereafter I departed for Jordan. When I arrived in Amman the wives had already been evacuated and the new embassy personnel came without spouses.
Amman and parts of Jordan were in chaos, King Hussein had lost control of the situation and Palestinian thugs of the 12 different wings of the Palestinian Liberation Organization were patrolling the streets, setting up roadblocks, harassing residents and foreigners. the message below lays out the situation. The US Embassy was also in disarray as the Ambassador had been declared persona non Grata and was not at the Embassy. The leadership at the Embassy…,. both State and military ……. did not inspire confidence..
The message from the Deputy at the Embassy pretty well lays out the situation. The Fedayeen were there Palestinian gangs roaming about creating chaos. The second memo was to Dr Kissinger concerning what we were too do about it, BTW The documents were declassified later.
I arrived in the Airport near Amman and went through two customs, one of the Government of Jordan (GOJ) and one of the PLO. A very strange situation and not reassuring. There upon to the Embassy then located in Jebel Luweibdeh , a middle class mostly Palestinian neighborhood. After desultory briefings and and briefs forecasting a coming calamity,, I went to my quarters in the up scale Jebel Amman. The home of the military attache..my boss. It was spacious and the Palestinian cook was a nice loyal fellow.l My boss in his hasty departure left behind his Saluki dog. He kept it on the roof. The cook would take it out for a walk with gunfire going every which a way. Once it got away and me and the cook chased it around the neighborhood midst the fire works as the Jordanian Army exchanged fire with the fedayeen every night. The Saluki, one of the fastest animals alive, was finally cornered and put back in his cage. We shipped it out on a military Aircraft a few days later,
Back in Beirut, since we had already given up our apartment near Hamra street, my wife with three kids, was walking the streets looking for l’Ajar, or a Louer, signs in the windows. There were no realtors one could turn to for help and as we military students at the Embassy were merely hanger ons, there was very little help there.Happily she found one on Rue Mexique in the Armenian district, with an accommodating concierge who was very protective.
In further narrative I will not mention all the names for obvious reasons but the chaos continued until the new Ambassador, L Dean Brown arrived. Short of stature, but a no nonsense, take charge kind of guy, he sent my boss and the Charge packing immediately and new life came back into the embassy. However he did not come until later. For a long time, we at the Embassy were subjected to searches by the Ashbal( teenage fedayeen) carrying AK- 47’s with the safety off sticking the weapon in our faces and asking the same stupid questions day after day as we traveled back and forth from Embassy to home. At this time American media has absorbed the Guerrilla Ethos and were enamored of the Palestinian terrorist in his tailored tight fitting tiger fatigues. Many Western journalists were in town to help build up their largely underserved reputation. On the rare occasion when anybody from the media asked our opinion it was never printed. Also I noticed many Scandinavian chicks arrived en mass to help the Palestinian refugees, primarily by shacking up with the cool well attired leaders . One found her way into my attache house courtesy of the administrative warrant officer who had moved in with me. When she appeared at breakfast I told the WO to send her back to the refugees she was ostensively there to help. The WO said he was getting information on the conditions on the refugee camps.
Anyway I am not writing this chronologically but as my dim memory recollects the events.
At this point I should mention the name of the guy who kept Jordan in the win column for the US. Jack O’Connell was the CIA station chief and had a close relationship with King Hussein and was a tough CIA type of the old school, quite different from the many dilettantes that hang around Langley these days. He had faith in the Jordanians and their army ( JAA) . When many at the top of the CIA, and of course the squishy State Dept., were advocating kissing up to the PLO, O’ Connell stayed the course. He said stick with the King.
As the new people came in to the Embassy I have to say that the State people were the top of the line. They spoke Arabic better than me and knew the culture. One I have to mention. Hume Horan, the political officer was a quintessential Arabist. He would enthrall Jordanians with his recital of Arab poetry and most of all he was a pragmatic Arabist, not one of those who act as facilitators for the inexplicably stupid things the Arab leaders often do, and not go gooey when the word “Arab” is mentioned.The secretaries were very courageous and stayed the course. They we’re older gracious ladies who blended well with the Jordanians.I especially admired the CIA admin lady who always spoke with authority with few words. Jack later married her.
Because of the special situation I was welcomed into into the top floor of the Embassy into the CIA inner sanctum without the usual security clearances required. They were a bunch of hard working folks and they knew what the Fedayeen were doing before their own rank and file did. They were the communication people and as the new Ambassador L Dean. Brown made it clear nothing went from the Embassy without his approval. The CIA often were lone riders, sending in their own opinions oblivious of the opinion of the Ambassador. In the Defense Attache course run by DIA, ( which happily I avoided) they taught the use of the one time code (OTC) which was to enable us military types to send sneaky cables without the Ambassador approval. I never knew how to use one.
The junior CIA guys were ex-military and terrific guys to work with. One was an ex-Naval officer, the other an ex-Marine. Since they were part of the covert side of C IA Im not sure I can use their names, even though one has passed on and the other I lost track of after he left the Agency. They had excellent contacts with the civilian and military Jordanians. We shared sources. I had great contacts with Jordanian Bedouin officers and I was happy to share the info. This is rarely true in my other experiences. To be clear I was not a secret agent. I never asked questions. I just let them talk. If I was sober enough—since they talked the most when in the midst of heavy drinking bouts in the desert– I made a few mental notes.
Of course the King and Chairman Arafat had made a number of pacts to stop the violence- so many in fact that it became a joke… I ran out of fingers and toes counting the peace agreements. But every day the violence got worse and there were several attempts on the life of the King. Just driving to and from the Embassy became an adventure. As the violence increased it became obvious a confrontation was coming. I sent a message to DIA relating what I observed when I was standing near a Bedouin soldier and a Palestinian Toyota came by with one fedayeen manning a 12.7 machine gun, the Palestinian manning it gave a smile to the Bedouin in a way to suggest a Kiss my ass attitude. The face of the Jordanian was one of contempt hatred, and a barely concealed urge to kill. So much for Arabism I thought.
Now in the military office we had me as the chief honcho, since my boss had been fired, and three military training officers and NCO’s.They were a gregarious bunch. Like most military training assistance officers, they were not career oriented and therefore much more fun to work with.
At this time I should mention this is not a narrative of the Jordanian civil war… it has been covered better in Clinton Bailey’s Jordanian Palestinian Challenge 1948-1983 and Avi Shlaim’s Lion Of Jordan The life of King Hussein.
Anyway the the final straw was when one of the Palestinian organizations hijacked four aircraft, forcing three to land at Dawson’s field, a salt flat dirt airstrip in the s desert formerly used as an RAF dispersal field. After terrorizing the passengers, taking about 50 hostage they blew up the planes. The stage was set and at that time our new ambassador, Dean Brown arrived in an Armored personnel carrier.
Recently I have seen several articles on the seeming decline in adherence to Islam by its followers in the Middle East. This may be true. Certainly the corruption within the clerical ranks of Islam would seem to justify this decline. We have been in an era in which many Islamic clerics have become politicians and verbal warriors, demanding death and hellfire for the “enemies of Islam.” On the other hand, the politicians have become clerics , spewing bile and invective toward their rivals and the West, in voicing selected religious terminology. Spiritually, especially in terms of deep reflection there seems to be a void here, but not being a Muslim I cannot vouch for that. In contrast to that however, how can we explain the number of Westerners from secular societies seeking rebirth and solace in adopting Islam.? Actually I find that easy to explain. Our materialistic society is admittedly rather empty. As Christianity has become a quaint antiquated fashion, generally paganized to make it acceptable to the elite, the thinking people wonder , “is this all there is is” ( apologies to Peggy Lee). Even or priests and preachers, water down the bold and sometimes strident strokes in the Good Book to soften the rough edges. No use making people feel uncomfortable.
The problem with this decline of Islam is that we have been through this a number of times before. The extraordinarily perceptive , Hilaire Belloc ( The Great Heresies, 1937), in the 1930’s wrote about this in era in which secular revolutionary ideas were becoming into vogue: communism, fascism, proto -democracy. Western pundits opined that Islam, a religion they saw as a religion of the peasants, and the uneducated, and was gradually -with increasing education- withering away. The Middle East was under Western colonial powers, evidencing the power of Western civilization over the Islamic.Belloc saw that was a mirage– another fashionable idea–passing for wisdom– of the elite that had no substance-as we often see today. Belloc wrote, “May not Islam rise again?”
Hilaire Belloc. famous quote by Belloc. “the Church is a perpetually defeated thing that always outlives her conquerers.”
He continued, ” In a sense the question is already answered because Islam never departed. It still commands the fixed loyalty and unquestioned adhesion of all the millions between The Atlantic and Indus, and further afield throughout scattered communities of further Asia. But I ask the question in the sense “will not perhaps the temporal power of Islam return and with it the menace of an armed Mohammedan world which will shake off the the domination of the Europeans – still nominally Christians- and reaper again as the prime enemy of of our civilization?”
Of course Bolloc took a dim view of Islam, calling it not a religion, but a heresy of Catholic Christianity. So the modernists of this age denigrate Belloc’s ideas, but it is undeniable he was right in the temporal sense. ISIS is the living proof of that.
But next came the Abdul Nasser era of the 50’s and 60’s and again the “Neo-Arabists,” as they are often termed by folks like me. They envisioned a new Arab world, run by “benevolent”military leaders, filled with socialist ideas of the East European programs, e.g., the industrial leap. Leaders like Nasser used Islam when necessary in his doctrinal, and military tracts, but made fun of the clerics in his speeches, such as when he ridiculed a cleric for demanding women wear the hijab. ( how things have changed!)
Bernard Lewis. I think I have every book he has written. Bete noire of the islamist (political Islam) apologists
In 1967, the preeminent American scholar of Islam , Bernard Lewis wrote an article in Commentary, ( Jan. 1967), “The Return. of Islam” in which he accurately forecast the next 50 years of strife in the Middle East and the collision of civilizations, aptly described by Samuel Huntington, in his Clash of Civilizations, ( another book that engenders modernist scholarly angst……. In fact I have learned that usually any book trashed by the princes of Middle East studies usually need a close look; ex: The Arab Mind. the best book -and most useful-on Arab culture written in the English language.
So why are Western pundits and “experts”on Islam ( most not all) so very wrong? Bernard Lewis defines it perfectly;
“We are prepared to allow religiously defined conflicts to accredited eccentrics like the Northern Irish, but to admit that an entire civilization can have religion as its primary loyalty is too much. Even to suggest such a thing is regarded as offensive by liberal opinion, always ready to take protective umbrage on behalf of those whom it regards as its wards. This is reflected in the present inability, political, journalistic, and scholarly alike, to recognize the importance of the factor of religion in the current affairs of the Muslim world and in the consequent recourse to the language of left-wing and right-wing, progressive and conservative, and the rest of the Western terminology, the use of which in explaining Muslim political phenomena is about as accurate and as enlightening as an account of a cricket match by a baseball correspondent.”
I might add, as we see everyday in our mediocre main stream media , Western elitist references to religion are usually accompanied by titters of disdain. To accept the power of religion would be to negate their entire belief system. ( whatever that may be). The other frequent error made as a result of the current zeitgeist, corrupting the academic Middle East community, is the romanticizing of Islam. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all have stern prescriptions and proscriptions and often a bloody history. Immersing them in a bowl of jelly may make them easier to digest but do not represent the reality.
Today this fatuous belief that Islam, meaning radical Islam, particularly that with nuclear power in their near future, like the Iranians, can be examined and understood in terms of economics, politics, “discursive” interfaith dialog, etc. is a recipe for disaster. The Idea that we can lessen our defenses against ISIS and the many other militant Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, will be a fatal path to follow.
The shooting war has ended, thanks to the merciful intervention of Russia to end what became a lop sided victory for the Azeris and a devastating humiliation for Armenia. Videos of the carnage shows that the Armenians left behind many dead and there was evidence of a rout in some places. Most of their armor has been destroyed or damaged and unlike the Azerbaijanis, having very little money, they cannot replace them. Some observers question whether they have any point in doing so as they are isolated in the world political environment, a history of war with the Islamic world, driven out of their homelands in Turkey, and getting only clucking noises of support from former “Christendom”, now totally secular and indifferent to Eastern Christianity. Russia allowed the war to continue for 44 days in order to ensure that Armenia, which had been trying to steer an independent course, is now totally dependent on Moscow.
Azeri Victory parade with Putin and President Aliyev of Azerbaijan watching.
The first lesson from this is that One of the worst things that can happen to an army is to have won a war against a rather hapless opponent. So it was in the Armenian victory over the Azeris in 1988-1994. in which the Armenians not only defended the Armenian enclave of Artsakh ( Nagorno -Karabakh )but also seized a sizable piece of Azeri territory which they have tenaciously held onto for 29 years. The Armenians assumed this exaggerated sense of military superiority and disparaged the fighting qualities of the Azeris. They believed that their deficit in manpower and equipment would be remedied by the valor of their soldiers. They fought bravely but uselessly. This is a frequent feature of all nations and peoples ( as well illustrated in the book Knowing Ones Enemies)
In the intervening period the the nation of Azerbaijan has gone through an extensive modernization period, especially the military, with the objective of regaining their territory. Look elsewhere for the rights and wrongs and moral high ground on this issue.Ill leave that to the international lawyers..however like most land disputes it is only settled by warfare. In the meantime Armenia rested on its military laurels, allowing the Azeris to get far ahead of them in military preparedness.The Azeris had a huge quantitative and qualitative advantage over Armenia, a factor which owed much to their oil . On the other hand Armenia exists primarily on largess provided by the Armenian diaspora throughout the world, and Russian loans.
Armenian troops departing Azeri rec conquered areas
The second lesson is that this war is what Samuel Huntington ( The Clash of Civilizations) termed a “fault line conflict,” which tends to be typified by extreme brutality, long lasting , ( with perhaps a time of peace but always returning to warfare) and usually terminated by the complete destruction of one side and ethnic cleansing. The war between the Azeris and Armenians has a long and very bloody history as evidenced by mass slaughter of civilians by both sides dating back to nineteenth century (see my previous blog on the conflict). The modernists, writing on these type of wars, shy away from any mention of culture or religion, evidencing “secular myopia” as Huntington termed it. In this war there are number of allegations of war crimes, killing prisoners, decapitation of the dead, cutting off ears, etc. It was a war over territory, and inevitably, identity.
Some have termed it a war of the drones, which is true to some extent it was. Azerbaijan was well supplied by Israel and Turkey with some of the latest in drones which wrecked a devastating toll on the Armenian armor with anti tank missiles. It was not a matter of comparing kind of tanks since both sides had Russian built T-72’s , T-80’s and some older models against Azeri T-72’s and the newer T-90’s.
As in the immediate aftermath of the 1973 Arab-Isreali war that the “experts” announced the end of armor as the sagger equipped Egyptians infantrymen knocked out many Israeli tanks. But the primary problem was that the Armenians were unprepared for combined arms warfare. Heroics cannot replace training, doctrine, strategy and common sense.Specifically they lacked mobile air defense weaponry which could make short work of the drones. Astute military analysts are advocating that the great powers carefully assess the lessons of this war as there is much to be learned.
In this war the Azeris reclaimed 80% of the land lost to the Armenians in the earlier war. Only the intervention of the Russians prevented the total absorption of Nagorno-Karabakh into Azerbaijan. President Ilhan Aliyev of Azerbaijan claimed that his forces destroyed one billion dollars worth of Armenian military equipment. It is a fact that the Western orientation of Azerbaijan was the locomotive for the modernization of Azerbaijan guided by the wise policies of Aliyev who opened lucrative relations with Israel and the West.
So what are the results?. Armenians are demoralized, rightly blaming their government for incompetence, particularly their bull headed president Nikol Pashinian. They are holding on to the more populated parts of Nagorno Karabakh by virtue of Russian “peacekeepers” deployed into the region. Turkey has solidified their relationship with Azerbaijan, another step toward Turkish presidents pan-Turkish scheme of allied turkic solidarity up to the Chinese border. They were tightly won even into the Azeri victory, even importing Syrian Arab surrogates to fight for Azerbaijan, alongside Turkish military training teams.
The Russians have secured a foothold in the ” soft underbelly” of Russia with peacekeepers basically guarding the remainder of the Nagorno-Karabakh
entity in place of Armenia. Azerbaijan has not given up its claim to all of the Armenian enclave, which means the conflict remains unresolved. Moreover Russia alone drove the peace settlement , bypassing completely the earlier Minsk settlement structure composed of France, the U.S. and Russia. The West was totally excluded from the latest treaty.
Armenian soldiers light candles remembering dead conmrades
It is much more complicated with Iran. No doubt their large Azeri population is ecstatic over their fellow Azeri victory in the war.The Azeri victory solidified Azeri ethic separatist inclinations. No doubt quiet a few Persians are happy too, happy that their fellow Shia scored a victory over the Christian Armenians, but the more pragmatic Iranian rulers, fear the idea of the Russians on their doorstep. Russian intervention in Iran dates back over two centuries. One Russian expert opined on twitter that the Russian moves were predicated on putting pressure on Iran.