The Ukraine and Kuwait

As the media twists and turns over the the Ukraine crisis, President Biden poured oil on the fire by  reviving an  Ambassador April Glaspie moment.    Both insinuated We have no dog in these fights. Saddam took it as a green light to invade Kuwait . By announcing to the world that “Russia will move into the Ukraine,” with a sort resigned tone, Biden  sent a pitiful message of weakness. He made it clear Putin  can basically do as he pleases. Putin must be reveling in the demonstrated weakness of the West and specifically the United States.  So many times the United States has verbally given the farm away by ill-considered announcements, starting with Dean Acheson’s telling the world that Korea was not in our strategic defense orbit,  another green light for the North Koreans to invade. And then the  April Glaspie debacle to embolden  Saddam. In both cases the basic problem is that we are always trying to placate our enemies and striving  for better relations with our antagonists. The US wanted better relations with Saddam and now we want better relations with Russia. The obstacle is that neither Saddam  was nor Putin is interested. Having a diabolical enemy (the West) to keep the  deprived masses diverted and entertained is always helpful.

 

In reality  there is no  need for Putin to invade. He has made his point.  Ukraine knows that is what counts——military power. Hopefully President understands Ukraine is alone. No wonder there is panic in the Ukraine. The babble about sanctions imposed on Russia are of little consequence to an imperial power like Russia. It is fairly certain that old Europe will not  buy into meaningful  sanctions on Russia. Russia, by cutting off crucial gas  and oil supples to Europe, would bring them to their knees. The EU is Russia’s largest trade partner. The comfy living standards of the nanny states would require much  more political will that the European leaders possess. Churchill is no longer with us.

Should the EU agree to  whole hearted sanctions it would indeed hurt Russia but the possibility of the European statist welfare states doing that and undergoing the severe privations that would require  are nil. Most of the leadership in old Europe are fairly well representative of the people they govern and  the inspiring words of Churchill …”You must put your head in the lion’s mouth if the performance is to be a success.”

We hear much about about supporting Ukraine.  The Biden team repeats it often. What does that mean? To the Ukrainians and most people facing a war machine it means military support. But alas, in this case it does not mean that. That is stupid talk. The Ukrainians should  remember that when the Russians invaded and re-absorbed the Crimea into their empire the best the  US could do  was offer aid in the form of blankets and non offensive comfort items. Again we are offering defensive equipment. How do you separate defensive from offensive weapons? I can think of pill boxes and Hedgehog fixtures…if we could transport them. A rifle as any other weapon  can be used in offense as well as defense The Ukrainians know this. It is a meaningless gesture.

When pundits talk about using  NATO ( American) force in the Ukraine  it is ridiculous. As a teaching point as Obama use to say, consider that the Iraqis invaded Kuwait on  2 August and we did not launch ground operations  until 29 February. The passive Iraqis sat on their rear ends doing nothing for almost 7 months. It took us that long to get the necessary troops in position- after a 30 day uncontested air war  against a third rate opponent.

What about logistics, overflight rights, ports to be used, clearance to move supplies through squeamish “neutral” countries?  Remember the problem  the Turks presented when they blocked an American division moving through their country in 2003.

Bottom line.  Ukraine is on its own as   the Eastern European revolts in 1956, begun with a hope of Western intervention,  but ending with more Russian control that ever. The Ukrainians should not harbor hopes.

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The Invasion of Kuwait.

“Within two years from 1988 to 1990, Iraq went from being a virtual U.S.  ally to become the first Arab state to fight a war against the United States.” ( Barry Rubin, The Road to War.) In those two  years  the US went from appeasement to war against Iraq.How did this come about?  The first and Primary factor was the fall of the shah of Iran and a virulently anti-American Islamist reign seizing power in Tehran.  Iran was the primary pillar of American strategy in maintaining stability in the Gulf and continuing  the oil flow to the West.  Iraq under Saddam was a bitter pill to swallow as an ally of the US, but realpolitik demanded a change and in deference to this,  pundits and diplomats found nice things to write about Iraq.  President Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski  believed Iraq and the US had the same objective, “a secure Persian Gulf.” An article in the Wall Street Journal  claimed “The  rhetoric (from Iraq) should not obscure the fact that Iraq, more than any other Middle East nation except Israel, is embracing Western values and technology.”  The authors cited such things as “chic French fashions” among Iraqi women as one of the indicators of this trend.  The corporation I was working for at the time sent over a team to assist the Iraqis in improving their air defense communications. We were  set to sell armored personnel carriers ( m-13’s) as ambulances and a number of other types of military equipment deemed to be non offensive.  Many US companies  were eager to get back into the Iraqi market. Headlines in one business periodical headlined, “new scramble for $8 billion in contracts.” Iraq then, as Iran today, found many international companies panting to get into the their market. Iraqi-American relations were resumed in 1983  after a visit to Iraq by Donald Rumsfeld who presented Saddam with a gift from President Reagan, a pair of gold spurs.

Saddam congratulates the troops on their one day conquest of Kuwait

But then one of the many of Saddam’s miscalculations occurred.  On 16 March 1988, Iraq  used chemical weapons on the Kurds in Halajah. And it so happened that an Iranian correspondent was on the scene to record and photograph the whole sordid affair. In the United States  some of the Middle East “experts” were quick to blame Iran.  The department of Defense floated the story that it was an Iranian attack and the State Department amplified it. The UN Security Conference issue a lame admonition that avoided blaming anyone. As Joost Hiltermann in his excellent book , A Poisonous Affair lamented, the Halabjah atrocity was quickly forgotten midst the two Gulf wars that  followed. Indeed a prominent writer at the US Army War College and some in the intelligence community could not accept that Iraq was to blame for the attack.

Dead father and baby,> victims of Saddam’s a chemical attack on th Kurdish city of Hilabjah

It is true, however, that Iran used chemical weapons as well but not as extensively, and not on their own citizens.

Iraq became very important to the agricultural  sector of the US, as over 30% of Iraq’s Iraqs needs were covered by US exports.  George Bush also indicated the Israeli destruction of Iraq’s nuclear facility in 1981  was “not in keeping with international standards.” During the Iran-Iraq war the US gave satellite photos of Iranian operations and positions to the Iraqis. Meanwhile the US was engaged in the tanker war with Iran which was much to Iraq’s benefit. Iraq did little to return the favors. Instrumental in  the Iraqi charm offensive however was Nizaar Hamdoon, the Iraqi ambassador to the US. He and his attractive wife threw lavish parties for the opinion -makers in the US and managed to convince many that Iraq was undergoing a western oriented metamorphosis.  The US-Iraqi relationship was so tight that when an Iranian airliner was mistakenly shot down by an American naval ship, The Iranian Ayatollah Khomenie,  concluded the Iranians were unable to fight both the US and Iraq, which he assumed to be tight allies, and agreed to a cease fire which the Iraqis had desperately sought. At this time  Some in Washington were toying with the idea  of Iraq be coming our  Gulf policeman.

Saddam wanted all of the very productive Rumalia oilfield most of which was in Iraq but Saddam wanted it all. The Iraqi government accused the Kuwaitis of sucking oil from Iraq by virtual of horizontal drilling. Hevalso wanted the two Islamns of Bubiyan and Warban. they guarded the Iraqi port of Umm qasr.

The Iraqis were amazed and somewhat bitter about the level of luxury the Kuwaitis lived in while they lived miserably during the Iran-Iraq. The Iraqis left Kuwait  in shambles.

 

The Iraqi chemical attack on Halajah attack was, however, fatal for the American-Iraqi honeymoon. The contracts faded away and the obvious was finally realized, the only “friends” we had in the Gulf were the rich but weak Arab gulf states. The prize was too tempting for the Saddam to overlook.  He began, within his close circle of advisors, planning for the conquest of Kuwait and its absorption into Iraq as the 19th province.  The defense minister and most army leaders did not know anything about the proposed invasion. It was all within the  closed Saddam circle and Republican guard commanders.

There were discussions among Saddam coterie whether to occupy just the oil fields between Iraq and Kuwait or all of the country. Saddam made the decision to go whole hog and take it all.  There had been two previous half hearted attempts to annex Kuwait, once under King Ghazi  in 1937 and the second  under President Abdl al Karim Qassim in 1961.  The British brought troops from Bahrain and the UK to deter the attack in 1961. Over the years most Iraqis considered Kuwait as part of Iraq and after the Iraq-Iraq war the Iraqis were broke and desperately needed cash. Their cash cow during the  war with Iran was Kuwait. In the Iraq view they had fought the majuus  (Persians) as the spearhead of the entire Arab nations. They had suffered the horrendous casualties and the other Arab states had offered nothing but money. Not only that but the Kuwaiti rulers indicated that wanted the money loaned  returned by Iraq, and they refused to maintain the same level of payments to Iraq after the war.

Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon. He feted the leading lights of Washington. He claimed retrospectively ( as many did) that he an opponent of Saddam. He died in New York in 2003.

Their were other reasons as well. Iraq has a problem with access to the Persian Gulf.  They lack suitable ports. For years the Iraqis have sought to lease the islands ( Warba and Bubiyan) belonging to Kuwait  at the northern end  of the Gulf to facilitate  shipment of Iraqi oil out and receive much of their needed agricultural products from the world. The Shatt-il Arab waterway, being between Iraq and Iran, was always a bone of contention between them and was closed during the  eight year war…. and in any event the super tankers could  not navigate up the river anyway. In addition since the demise of Abdul Nasser, Saddam saw himself as the leader of the Arab world, and needed the economic, monetary  and most of all, military clout to assume the mantle of leadership.  A quick conquest of Kuwait filled all the requirements.

So historical, financial and mythological rationale  impelled Saddam to execute the dream of  “regaining Kuwait as part of Iraq.” Saddam and his advisors discounted American intervention. A number of times Saddam and his echo chamber of close confidantes talked about the war weariness of Americans from the Vietnam war, and basically without saying directly, indicated he thought the Americans were paper tigers. Saddam, like Stalin, his role model, could smell weakness  and smelled it from the American diplomats and officialdom. The Europeans were mostly interested in keeping the oil flowing, whether by Iraqis or Kuwaitis,  was immaterial and keep their contracts with Iraqis intact.  The bottom line was that Saddam did not anticipate any forceful actions by the West to counter  his invasion

Apparently the Iraqis had no intention to invade Saudi Arabia…at least not right away. Had Bush known that it was problematic that he would have pushed the Desert Shield buildup.

In any event the Kuwaitis like the rest of the world was caught by surprise by the Iraqi invasion. They thought using the Bedouin  method of negotiations ,e.g. delay, obfuscate,  drink gallons of tea, exchange pleasantries, promise to meet again and  basically  do nothing, would bury the issue..  The negotiations dragged on for months.

The  Iraqis, meaning Saddam. became impatient and viewing the world   through his myopic  lens was sure Kuwait was low hanging fruit. At the same time he was engaged in a fierce verbal  attack on Israel. Whether intended or not it was very clever. They made a lot of noise about attacking Israel, and as a result moving around their units seemed to be part of planned defense against an anticipated Israeli counter strike. Saddam’s belligerent  speeches about destroying Israel was eaten up by the masses in the Arab world and  Saddam  was buoyed by the reaction. He was acclaimed  by many was the new Saladin, especially among the Palestinians. Many in the Arab world  were contemptuous of the Gulf Arabs and their arrogant use of wealth. At the time of the invasion I had two  Kuwaiti officers  in my class at the JFK Special Warfare School and they were totally astounded. Arab rulers conspired against one another, promoted rebellions and assassinations but never actually crossed the border of a fellow Arab country with conventional forces.

 

 

The  business as usual  attitude among the American elite policy- makers and   intelligence community was one of the reasons for the totally flat -footed response to the invasion of Kuwait. Another was the overall Washington assessment that Iraq was bluffing.  Hussein was simply an egomaniac blowhard. Another was the still prevalent view of a Soviet invasion of Iran to the Gulf for Arabian oil as the primary threat. As a consequence our ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie told Hussein in her first and only meeting with Saddam that “ …we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts like your border dispute with Kuwait.” To some extent she was the  scapegoat  for the Washington intelligence and policy-makers inattention to a looming crisis. She was given no specific instructions from the State Department to address the issue, albeit her fawning denunciation of American anti-Saddam media to placate Saddam was cringeworthy.

 

As second reason for the lassie faire attitude toward Iraq was that the intelligence community and our diplomats totally misunderstood the character and personality of Saddam Hussein. He was generally regarded as a preening bully, a shaqawa…..as the Iraqis would say. Some saw him as simply a buffoon with an evil disposition. The foremost  Israeli analyst of Iraqi military affairs  Uriel Dann, saw it clearly.

“He does not forgive and forget. His enemies brought him to perdition and then let him off, being weak fools as he had always known, though their weakness and foolishness turned out differently than he had foreseen. He will strive  to exact  revenge so long as there is life in his body. He will smirk and conciliate and retreat and whine and apply for generosity and fairness.”

Baghdad, Iraq, Saddam’s family pictures, date unknown.
Saddam, center, with his wife Sajida, daughters and grand-children during a barbecue party

So on 2 August  at dawn  eight Iraqi divisions invaded Kuwait, led by the  best Republican guard divisions they had, spearheaded by the Hammurabi  Republican Guard division assisted by special commando units, They had planned on a  five day operation  but it took only one. The resistance, except for the Kuwaiti 35st Armored Brigade, was negligible.  The Kuwaits were panic stricken  and the major obstacle to the Iraqi advance was the  civilian traffic clogging  the roads.

NSC Advisor Scowcroft, Colin Powell,and Sec StateJames Baker were reluctant to but into the defense of Kuwait. SECDF Dick Cheney pushed President Bush to stand fast.

The Iraqi occupation of Iraq was a brutal savage affair. Saddam made it clear, Kuwaitis were not first class Iraqi citizens and were to be treated created as lepers. Following the example of the Russians in East Germany after the war, Kuwait was stripped of its wealth and first class  infrastructure.

The full horror of the Iraqi occupation deserves another post but after the Republican Guard invasion force pulled out occupation duties were taken by the so call “popular army” which was a recently revived organization of Ba’athi party members. As many Iraqis saw them they were neither popular or an army. They were simply criminals with a taste for loot and rapine.

 

 

 

 

 

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How to defeat a coup d’Etat

In the sixties there was Among the Middle East gurus a certainty that the monarchs of the Arab world were close to extinction. King Farouk of Egypt went down in 1952. King Idris of Libya in 1969, King Feisal II of Iraq in 1958, and Imam Muhammad al Badr in 1962. But somehow the dynasties in the Arabian peninsula minus Yemen have survived and prospered. According to the experts the  day of monarchs was quickly  dying midst the sweep of Pan Arabism and the voice of Abdul Nasser and the “Voice of The Arabs” had Arabs from Morocco to Iraq tuned in on their transistor radios.” O Arabs! said the familiar voice (of Abdul Nasser), magically emerging from the air, “why do you not rise up against the British imperialists? Let us cast out the foreign dogs and all who are traitors to Arabism.”  (Farewell to Arabia by David Holden). I was in Saudi Arabia in 1968 and heard the cry of “hurriya,” everywhere among the young. I heard groups listening to Nasser berating the running dogs of imperialism, e.g., the Saudi royal family. I too had the impression that the al Saudi dynasty was on its last legs. But here we are a half century latter and the Arabian monarchs  are not only still in power but more entrenched than ever. And it is not just the oil money, which is the simplistic answer, although to be sure it has a lot to do with it.

 

How has this been possible? While I still have some doubts about the viability of the emirates and other small Gulf states such as the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, I have none about the Saudi state. It should actually be called the Saudi Empire as it was forged into a state by force of arms by one of the most brilliant leaders of the  20th century, Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa’ud  King of Saudi Arabia from 1932 to 1953.

He had the unique gifts of a great leader, a bigger than life persona. He could read people, especially his enemies and his fellow tribesmen. He understood their good points and especially their bad ones, particularly their fickleness and proneness to violence and endemic factionalism. He was able to control them largely due to the partnership of about 1795 between the Saudi family and that of the Wahhabi.  In return for the blessings of the spiritual  bonds of the Wahhabi the Sauds would take care of the state machinery. The Wahhabis  sought to return Islam back to its earlier roots, eradicating the latter Islamic assimilation of saints,  monuments to the dead, including the grave of Mohammad, which  was vandalized  after they occupied Mecca  in one of their many forays to proselytize the unbelievers…… and more importantly to loot.

the Ikhwan soldier -settlers and fierce warriors. Loot and religion

Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa’ud  used the Ikhwan to overrun the Husseini regime in the Hijaz region of the Arabia, and then after many decades of back and forth wars subdue  the powerful Rashidi tribes of northeastern Arabia. In. subduing the tribes he used the marriage tool as a weapon to bring the tribes under in control. After each victory a fair damsel of the recent enemy tribe was produced  for Abdul Aziz  to marry. Thereby assimilated the blood of the other tribes, producing a blood bond.He never had more than the allotted  wives at any given time., one always being in the  ejection seat for divorce. According to H.C. Armstrong  ( Lord of Arabia) he had over 100 wives, on one occasion, after a serious wound in battle, had  his chosen  bride brought to his tent to prove his prowess  to worried and  fearful followers that he was still fit to fight. The manner in which these girls were all brought to Ibn Saudi is not mentioned by his hagiographic  biographers, H.C. Armstrong and H. St. John Philby’s two books (  Saudi Arabia,  Arabian Jubilee), but in her book , Madawi Al Rasheed, ( Politics in an Arabian Oasis: The Rashidis of Saudi Arabia) makes it clear that  after being vanquished the Rashidi women were coerced into marriage with the Sa’uds.

st John Philby in his Arab getup, confidant of Ibn Saud and wasta for American oil companies. also papa of Kim Philby notorious Soviet spy

He also understood the great powers and  what was possible and what not. He had understood that ruling the nomadic tribes was an impossibility, so at one point he instituted the Ikhwan system,  creating a network of villages to settle nomads and create at the same time settler warriors. They were his spearhead troops and  the  ultimate in Wahhabi  radical beliefs. They became Muslims first and Arabs second , even replacing the kaffiya head dress for the more Islamic wraparound head dress.They were his elite against the feckless Husseinis and the tough Rashidis, and later against the Yemenis of the Asir province in the south. Later, full of themselves the triumphant Ikhwanis went off the reservation into British Iraq and laid  waste  to the south, especially to the Shi’a who are considered infidels by the Wahhabis. Ibn Sa’ud understood he was not in the same league with the British empire and sought to punish the Ikhwan but they rebelled against him. The warlord put together an army of loyal tribesmen and Hijazis, and using modern weapons and motor vehicles,  captured from the British supplied Husseinis,  and destroyed the Ikhwan.  Only their spirit of radical Islam and intolerance lives on. So Ibn Sa’ud set the stage for his successors and they have, for the most part, carried it on well as the Kingdom still lives.

There are a number of factors which have  contributed to this long running show.

  1. The number of relations, i.e., princesses and Princes, and related family members to the  Al Saudi family, estimated between 15000 and 30000 princes and princesses. Direct descendants get a fixed amount of up to  $ 270, 000 a month, Ibn Saudi had more than 40 sons and even more daughters. When princes and princesses marry  that receive about 0ne to three million to build their cottages. And children and grand children receive lower amounts but in all about two billion dollars is is the total of royal largess. But put in perspective,  it is less than one percent of the Gross Budget. Think of it in terms of the pork barrel items put in congressional, spending bills to pay off individual and corporate financial backers.
  2. Using Saudi family members and relatives to fill government, diplomatic and military leadership roles. For instance there are 13  provinces   within the Saudi Kingdom.  All are filled by the central government in Riyadh and are are members of the Saudi family. In addition 22 Government ministries are mostly headed by Saudi family kin.In addition to the royal stipends  they receive ministerial pay and benefits….and no doubt the normal corrupt practices of  most minsters in the Arab world. Why would they wish  bite the hand that feeds it?
  3. A bloated and generally incompetent bureaucracy, with Saudi senior civil servants  who  generally depend on lower level bureaucrats, some being non Saudis. This bureaucracy is unlikely to overturn a government that provides well for them and families. In fact through the Arab world, the massive bureaucracies  and their paychecks are a major tool used by the rulers to keep the people quiet. As we should be aware this has Arab implications of a “deep state.” But in this case their livelihood depends of the ruling house. Change is always frightening and perhaps devastating to people who live at the whims of the absolute ruler. Despite many “Saudization”  programs many of the technocrats are foreigners who couldn’t are less who runs the kingdom as long as they receive their lavish paychecks.At the bottom of the totem pole are the massive numbers of  laboring  people, mostly foreigners, Pakistanis, Filipinos, etc. who do the dirty work. They are happy to have a job and some money to send back to their families back home.  A fairly well informed security service keeps tabs on potential domestic intrigues.
  4. A ruling family that gotten ahead of the clamors for more new stuff…e.g., some liberating reforms, more individual freedom, etc. Since the  innovation of women announcers on radio, the establishment of TV networks, the conservative Wahhabi  oppositional influence in Saudi Arabia has been contained, often bursting out on foreign soil such as the 9/11 attack on the United States. * But make no mistake , their influence and power is latent but still there and the only possibility to overturn the Saudi monarchy.  The rulers from Ibn Saudi to the present king Mohammed bin Salman al Said,  also known among the “informed class”  as MbS. He has initiated a number of reforms, mostly for cosmetic purposes but some of consequence.  His astute political views were captured in a Wikileaks message from the  US Saudi embassy in which the king said,” pace and extent of reforms depend on social and and cultural reasons-reforms cannot   be imposed by the Saudi Government,  or their will be negative reactions and changes have to be introduced in a timely and sensitive manner.” This pretty much as been the view adhered to  by the Saudi rulers since Abdul Aziz  Ibn Saud. Normally the political gurus would say that when absolute rulers begin to liberalize, things quickly get out of hand and the masses , once the boot is off their neck, feel no restraint. The Saudis have avoided that.
  5. They keep the oil flowing. Saudi oil has 15% of the worlds proven oil reserves and is the world’s largest oil exporter.  At 12 million barrels a day it is at the top of oil producers. The US also produces about 12 million barrels a day, however Saudi oil is preferably because it costs less to produce and is of a higher quality, hence less expensive to refine. In the US we use about 20 million barrels per day. As a side note, the fantasists  who believe in electric cars, and reducing fossil fuels etc.,  should not hold their breath.  The idea of a”Yugo” electric car will never be appealing to Americans. The prospect of a radical nationalist or Islamist rule coming to power  in Saudi Arabia is a frightening prospect to the West, despite the  “odious” aspects of Saudi Arabian culture which  adversely affects the sensibilities of the Western elite.  So the West collectively holds their noses and worries about Saudi stability.
  6. The religious element. Despite moving ahead on some reforms and” progressive ” programs the Saud’s cling to their Wahhabi antecedents and  promote it  world wide while offering tidbits of Westernization to Western politicians who are only too eager to accept the offerings. The fact that some  Saudi diplomats were involved with the (9/11) plot should not be a surprise.  Not should it be that the ruling house  was  not aware of the conspiracy. That is the consequence of trying to ride two horses  simultaneously, radical Islam and political statism.
  7. To me the most interesting aspect of how the Saudi rulers maintain power is their intricate system of  balance of forces and decentralizing military power. Like most Arab governments the Saudis maintain two armies to balance one another.  Also like most Arab countries, one is considered more reliable to maintain. the regime in power. In Saudi Arabia this is the Saudi Arabia National Guard ( SANG) made up primarily of men from the Nejd, ancestral home of the Saudis and the Ikhwan. They have been trained since the a seventies by  the United States,  specifically the Vinnell Corporation of Herndon Virginia. They were originally known as the “White army.” They are the praetorian  guard of the Saudis and were originally trained by the British. They are a regular military force of about 125,000 backed up by a militia forces of “on call” tribesmen of the Nejd. They are not under the Ministry of Defense but rather under a separate command  commanded by a member of the Royal family, Abdullah bin Bandar al Saud. He was appointed by the king Al Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud( AKA  MBS). They have modern but mostly light equipment being  basically a stability and personal army of the king.

Saudi National Guard ( SANG)

The  second military force is the Saudi Arabia Land Forces ( SALF) Also trained ny the United States organization (USMTMSA)  but under  a separate US military command (CENTCOM) . The Saudis have repeatedly refused to have the training mission for both the SANG and SALF under one command.  They are drawn from all over Saudi Arabia but mostly from the Hijaz province which has never been a happy province under the Sauds. The people considering themselves civilized compared to the tribes people and  Islamists of the Nejd province. They have been trained by there US since 1953. It consists of over half a million troops and they have mostly modern equipement but while the National guard is regarded as mediocre at best, the SALF is even less capable as the war in Yemen has evidenced. The SALF base camps are mostly located far  from the Saudi Government center of Riyadh…. all part of the coup  de etat prevention  system of the Saudi regime. There are eleven divisions of internal security  which ostensibly come under the minister of interior but there are others that work directly from the king.  Sixteen counties contribute equipment to the Saudis and there are a number of different foreign training missions in Saudi Arabia  besides the Americans which is insure that the Saudis are not entirely wedded to the US.

Saudi Land Forces (SALF)

 

Finally to see how this decentralization works consider this. Say an artillery unit needs  to get on the road  for a training mission. Road clearance comes from the  Provincial  governor while  the authority to go on the mission comes from the Minister of Defense, but they also need to get the approval off the Saudi Army Area Commander who owns the real estate  and  ammunition bunkers  from which  the unit needs  to draw ammo. The idea that all these commanders, with many being members of the royal family, will act in unity to overthrow the regime is pretty hard to imagine.

    • Also the deadly attack of the Grand Mosque in Mecca  by Ikhwan believers outdoing the Wahhabis in in Islamist purity. . It happened in 1979 when radical insurgents some from the national guard seized the Mosque filled with pilgrims.  Using tear gas and “advised” by French commandoes it took two weeks to root them out. The leader Juhayman al Oteibi and 66 followers were captured and later beheaded. But their insurrection did push the Saudi King Khaled to reverse several reforms fearing more Islamist attacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Importance of Knowing Ourselves . Lessons of History

 

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun. Tsu

This quote by is often seen but rarely applied except in a cosmetic manner. It would seem that  the first, and perhaps primary problem, is that we go to war, as do most nations do, not knowing themselves.Generally over estimating ons self is the primary problem.

Thousands of  American  bureaucrats and “experts” make a  nice living analyzing and writing about the minds of our potential enemies. Not very many are defining our own  character. Unfortunately  our modern history indicates we have not done  well assessing ourselves or the enemy, especially trying to pry into the minds of the Asians, in particular the Middle Easterners. Their logic seems so mysterious and hard to decipher. The “inscrutable” Asians, for example,  the Japanese, totally baffled our analysts prior to WWII. Some of the US  analyses were stereotypical and in some cases  laughably  ridiculous:  A few examples; Japanese pilots are poor because they mostly wear glasses and lack individualism. They are a people who excel collectively but not individually.   The Japanese could not produce quality equipment…etc. etc. The fact of the matter is that the Japanese Zero and their pilots outclassed anything we could put in the air until after two years of the war. The saying among our pilots early in the war was…”if you are out alone and you meet a Japanese Zero, run because you are outnumbered.”  While our submariners  were cursing our ineffective torpedos, the Japanese torpedos were the best produced in the war ( the Long Lane e). Usually in relation to these assessments based on national character the first issue surfaced is racism. But as usual it is a catchall word to cover a multitude of sins and rarely addresses issues. Racism has been pummeled into meaningless platitudes in the labyrinth of ideology and politics.

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1939: World War II. Mitsubishi “Zero”, Japanese fighter. One of the best and most versatile fighter of WWII

We often read or hear about American beating their chests asking for forgiveness for “systemic  racism”..the proverbial “ugly American”  to the point  of ad nauseam. But in fact  we are no worse and probably better  as a society than most. The Japanese considered us as inferior people, a people of merchants not warriors.  As one Japanese planner, Colonel Tsuji Masanobu wrote, “our candid ideas at the time were that Americans were merchants and would not  fight long in an unprofitable war.” They believed the  all the bad news emanating from our news media presenting Americans as a divided  weak selfish society of individuals. Many  of the top Japanese leaders were admirers of fascism and the superior race theories of the Nazis. Nor was the Japanese just certain of their superiority to the Europeans, but also to other Asians, especially the Chinese who were considered untermenschen ( sub human). In fact at the end of the war, the Japanese turned over many thousands of  European prisoners ( brutalized but still alive),  but despite capturing many thousands of Chinese soldiers only 79 were left to turn over.

Politician and general Hideki Togo was convinced that Japanese racial and spiritual superiority could neutralize America’s material superiority. Japan was neither the first nor the last of America’s enemies to stress the superiority of the human element of war and to underestimate the resolve of Americans at war. The Japanese were fully aware of their industrial weakness vis-à-vis the United States; they had long believed, however, that the unique qualities of their race, includ- ing a superior national will, discipline, and warfight- ing prowess, could defeat the strong but soft Ameri- cans. “The Japanese regarded us as a decadent nation in which pacifism and isolationism practically ruled the policy of our government,”

From my time in Korea and Vietnam I saw the unfortunate fate of children from Black American fathers. They were not adoptable. From my years in the Middle East I saw a  level of racism in the Islamic Arab society  beyond  anything I saw in my childhood in the South. Blackness in the Arab society is equated with their history as slaves… genealogy not color. But color does matter.  Mohammed Naguib, the first president of Egypt after the abdication of King Farouk had a Sudanese mother, and this was a point against him. The dark complexion of Sadat did not go over well the parents of his wife to be ….. As one Egyptian writer observed in a rare moment of candor, an Obama could never be president of Egypt.

see https://theconversation.com/uncovering-anti-blackness-in-the-arab-world-162060

Our embroilment in Korea and Vietnam was railed against  by the experts as contrary to the rule of never getting involved in a land war in Asia…a prime reason , according to these experts,  was that  human life is not valued in the Asian mentality and their thought processes are too difficult to ascertain. Some assumed they could, but these gurus failed miserably or in some cases were simply not listened to. Of course the “whiz kids and “best and brightest” took on prosecuting the Vietnam war, confident that we would not fall into the trap of the arrogant French…but of course we did. As frequently referred to by the historians we viewed the Vietnamese in a mirror image of ourselves. The “experts” believed that we could bomb the Vietnamese  into submission based on the belief that  their pain threshold would be the same as ours….or what the experts, not really understanding their own people, assumed ours would be.  No doubt this also depicts the US elitist view of the common Americans..the “deplorables”  of recent usage. The mirror image of this is thatI have found that especially we tend to evaluate the culture of Middle Easterners as presented by their elite many of whom  were educated in the West. They have a foot in both societies and are comfortable in neither.

ROOSEVELT had very little respect for the “Japs” as he called them. Despite Pearl Harbor and the Philippines the majority of the US war effort went to the European theatre

 

We have not done well in fighting insurgencies in the last few decades- an understatement to be sure-  which was encapsulated by Colonel Harry Summers in telling my class at JFKSWCS that the American soldier is culturally incapable of fighting a counterinsurgency war. Brigadier General  Zeb Bradford, as a student as the Army War College wrote that the search and destroy method of warfare was needed because “US army is inherently ill-suited for producing substantial numbers of soldiers capable counter- guerrilla  warfare.” Although that is not a popular view in this era of trendy counter-insurgent warfare he was, and is, right. Our society “conditioned to a high standard of living” produces few of the guerrilla mentality to fight that sort of war. This was starkly proven in the Iraqi war in which we initially fought a conventional Iraqi forces and routed them but when it turned into an insurgency we were at a loss. We were able to contain the insurgence when we, convinced ( with the help of Islamist /Ba’thi malfeasance ) the Sunni  tribes  to turn against them. In Afghanistan, we initially  quickly overcame the Taliban but as it evolved into  became an insurgency  the same problems appeared for the same reason.

We did not understand the Afghan enemy or what we imagined were our Afghan friends. Despite the counterinsurgency manual (FM 3-24) written ostensibly for troops, but more useful as a PHD thesis, hundreds of  admonitions of ” gotta do better” in cultural studies,   many years of endless amounts of articles, treatises, books, ….We were still far in the deficit on “getting inside the decision making cycle.” I am an agnostic that we ever can, nor can they in ours. We all fight within our cultural conditioning.

It is typical however that we  believe we are so flexible we can attune ourselves to the opponents method of warfare.  For instance in the Wavel Room below.. On the web as the collection of British contemporary military thinking..

Wargaming the enemies wargaming.

This maxim sounds easy, but it is difficult to do. Notwithstanding, it is the surest way to visit the enemy’s mind and think as the he thinks in order to outthink him. Obviously, ‘intellectually challenging’ best describes this aphorism. Think how the enemy thinks about how you think is complicated by its very nature because the maxim asks for a suspension of reality and to think like the opponent. The requirement is—enter his mind and think like he thinks you think.

Bin Laden thought very little of the American national character….buying into the philosophy of Sayyid Qutb, that America is” unjust, criminal and tyrannical..”.. and weak as well!

You rarely know what your wife if thinking  let alone some  far off alien from a totally different cultural environment. It’s probably a nice intellectual exercise and of value if one has interpreted historical examples correctly  (also a difficult call) but unless you have immersed in that culture,  having lived in it,  it is a rather fatuous  exercise.

Dr.Jerrold Post a CIA analyst did very good analysis of the Saddam’s character an d personality. But it seems it was not of very much help in the prosecution of the war.

How many war  games have the army developed featuring a counter-insurgency war? I played in many but never one in which the enemy were insurgents. It is one reason the military leadership always prefers conventional war enemies, Russians, Chinese, etc.

How do you wargame against militias?

What I would suggest is that our military intellectuals orient more on how we think, our culture, our way of war, what we do well…….. and less well. What is possible for us in what kind of war, the environment to be fought in, the will of the leadership, and the understanding among our troops of why we are fighting. Of course we will seldom choose when and where we will fight but in that case at least  insure that the leadership does not lie about the progress of the war or the difficulties involved. In fact rather than try to fight their kind of war, i.e. insurgency, on their terms, force them to fight on  our terms. If you have a suggestion on that please notify DOD.

Have a great 2022…InshaAllah

 

 

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Democracy in Egypt. A Useless Endeavor

President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi made a seemingly important announcement in October.  He lifted the 40 year  state of  emergency enacted originally to control the population  during an era of seemingly endless  currents of turmoil and  internal discord. This law or various versions of it) had been in effect since 1981. But in effect lifting the law will have  little practical effect. A few days after is announcement the government approved new amendments to the “national terrorism law” which gave greater powers to al Sisi to take measures to “measures necessary to preserve security and public order.” It was pretty much a propaganda move and the Egyptians know this but it was welcomed nervertheless.

General Abdul Fattah al Sisi

Of course the usual Washington  based foreign affairs think tanks organizations and news sources such as the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, the Middle East eye, Al Jazeera and of  course the New York Times, Washington Post, the Guardian, pour forth the usual  leftist/liberal fulminations against al Sisi. He overthrew their favorite , the bumbling, incompetent and Muslim Brotherhood  favorite, Mohamed Morsi. Strange how the lefties found an al Morsi, a figurehead of a movement that would extinguish all aspects  of individual freedom, preferable to  military authoritarians like al Sisi. Somehow it is more fashionable to be on the Muslim Brotherhood team these days, a real turnabout from the days when  Colonel Abdul Nasser was hanging members of the Muslim Brotherhood  and was being cheered by the same people who castigated Sadat and now Al Sisi as dictators. Of course in those days Pan Arabism was all the rage and Nasser was the hero of the Middle East  scholarly gurus. A book to read if you need to hear the “other side,” is Into the Hands of Soldiers by David D. Kirkpatrick, the New Times correspondent.  Its has some good reporting on the actual events of the “Arab Spring”  during the removal of President Mubarak from office. But as one might expect  from the New York Times, he clumsily lumps domestic political biases together with their  foreign  reporting. It  seems the primary problem with Al Sisi was that President Trump liked him.

Mohamed Al Morsi and bo uddy Turkish President Erdogan

The usual liberal trope is always the same…Al Sisi overthrew the first “democratically elected president’ in Egypt’s  history. The premise in itself  is arguable but whether true of not, the Islamists, in a single year, managed to turn off the majority of the very conservative Muslim  Egyptian population with ridiculous spurious edicts  based on early Islamic Hadiths of dubious authenticity. It was like an Islamic discussion of how many angels dance on the head of a pin. The Egyptians, who tend to be cynical about government anyway, were  not amused.  Then Egyptian proverb is  instructive;” rely on your hidden gold, your child descending from your loins, and your calf from your cow.”

 

In fact an Al Sisi is the only type leader who can govern Egypt . Democracy, as intended, is a very fragile  institution, and  is only a figure of speech in the middle east.  Moreover, as we all know, it is under assault in the West by a new generation of marxists in sandals, (as George Orwell called them in his day.) It takes centuries of forbearance and wisdom to create a democracy and only a few years to destroy it. The history and culture of Egypt does not evidence any “breakout” of democracy in this century.

King Mykerinus and queen

The evolution of Egyptian culture, their way of life… did not begin with the Islamic invasion of Egypt in———-. It reached back to the earliest of pharaonic years.

 

Perhaps it is best described by Cyril Aldred in his book The Egyptians. A masterful book to read and keep on your coffee table with great illustrations of  pharonic Egyptian art  work.

“Egyptians look for balance and equilibrium and their physical environment fosters this. Egypt provided the physical milieu in which this balance could be easily secured, for its natural conditions are almost changeless.It escapes earthquakes…. It has climate but no weather. Each day the sun rises in all its glory, traverses the heavens unobscured, and sets in splendor.Each year the Nile rises with predictable regularity and rejuvenates the tired land. ” As he wrote, even the later invasions of Egypt by alien peoples did not significantly alter the customs of the people. For example  Islam did not change Egypt, it simply overlaid  the culture that existed for millenniums. Traditions  from the pharaonic times are still imprinted in the people, layer  by layer, particularly in the exampleof the God kings, the pharaohs . Arab rulers and presidents of today maintain this aura.  They are there by God’s will and hence nothing can improve on Gods work.There can be no improvement only a recurring rhythm of life, not a progression.  Hence the Egyptian proverb “Everything is destined and therefore it is one’s lot in life.” and the other  one of resignation to the toils of life, Adonnia himal..”life is burdensome.”

But the Egyptians have a great way of contending with autocratic government and a bloated unresponsive bureaucracy. They make up an endless supply of jokes and simple ways of outsmarting the crushing government monolith.  Sayyid Qutb wrote an extraordinarily poignant book about living in an Egyptian village called Village Child. Qutb, the intellectual giant of the Muslim Brotherhood, before he became an islamist fanatic was an accomplished writer . In his book he wrote about the inventiveness and cohesion of the villages standing against or evading government dictates. A medical mission comes to the village and demands from each boy a feces and urine specimen by the end of the day. They are not told why. Fear grips them especially those whose who had already “gone” and where unable to produce the specimen. They fear their bellies being cut open to extract the specimen etc. Arguments ensue whether the container should be returned full or half way. Deciding it must be full, those in need of specimens were provided extra from their neighbors or in desperation went to the village latrines to collect specimens. In this way the medical mission departed with 100% specimens. In the end it made no difference. They never heard from the mission again.

sayyid Qutb Excuted by the Nasser the regime.

One of the more critical aspects of information  surrounding  the Morsi-Al Sisi issue is the absolute ignorance about Egypt  and especially the Muslim Brotherhood within the scholarly Middle East community and the US State department.  A Wikileaks dump of many emails from the US embassy in Cairo illustrated the bewilderment of the officials as to what the Muslim Brotherhood stood for.Were they moderates or not? Unmistakably however, it is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood  was considered the wave of the future by much of the  Middle East foreign affairs influencers. In fact  General James Clapper, one of the more clueless of our intelligence officials, told the house intelligence committee that the Muslim Brotherhood was “…a heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence…” He disregarded the one of the quotes of Sayyid Qutb that the root of all evil was secularism. Many of these folks saw the Muslim Brotherhood as a bulwark against ISIS type terrorism. In fact as illustrated by the Egyptian people in setting the stage for al Sisi to oust Al Morsi they know and understand the Brotherhood far better than the so called Western “experts.”

Two books to read from definitive answer on the Muslim Brotherhood issue are  Barry Rubin’s book The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement and  The Neglected Duty by Johannes J. G. Jansen. As Jansen wrote  many organizations hide their affiliation  with  the Muslim Brotherhood  relying  on the “gullibility and credulity of Western observers” to see them as essentially moderate and spiritual organizations.Jansen, an Islamic scholar believes that the alleged “Islamophobia” is a desired goal by the Muslim Brotherhood, As he quotes the Qur’an “prepare whatever means you can…that will fill the enemies hearts  with fear.”

The equanimity and stability  that the Egyptians have  historically yearned for  has been provided for by Al Sisi…… as a new poll by the Washington Institute of Near East Policy found.  See “Egyptians Value United Staes and China equally, but dislike  both Iran and Israel.” by David Pollock on the Fikra Forum  Washingtoninstitute.org The Egyptians by and large are content with the Al Sisi regime as they are with tov critic regimes.

Lord Herbert Kitchener Proconsul of Egypt

 

Perhaps the words of Lord Kitchener, proconsul of Egypt, 1911-1914 should be studied more closely. “Whatever  the value  of a party system may be in the Western political life, it is evident that its application to an intensely democratic community, the essential basis of which those social life is  social brotherhood of man, combined with respect for learning and experience of age, is an unnatural proceeding , fraught with inevitable division and weakness. ”

In this paragraph he adroitly condemned the Western democratic systems, admired certain aspects of Egyptian social life and stated the  inapplicability of Western political values to Egypt.  As all the British men of learning concerning Egypt concurred , Egypt must have a “strong man”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SECSTATE Antony Blinken Turns the Other Cheek and America gets Slapped

Sec State Antony Blinken in February  0f this year took the Houthies ( sometimes called the Ansarallah) off the terrorist list  and two days after this move the same State Department became “deeply troubled” by the attacks on Saudi  Arabia  launched by the same organization .  In fact the Houthies were so grateful to the Biden administration  for taking them off the terrorist list that this week they invaded the US embassy and took a number of local staff as captives.

Me in center with white collared shirt posing with South Yemeni students 1989

 

So who are the Houthies? Basically they are the people of the mountainous northern part of Yemen. The name comes from the dominant Houthi tribe that have been in opposition to the Yemeni “government” for decades with intermittent periods of peace. They are  Zai’idi  Shi’a, sometimes called the “fivers,” because they believe that the last Imam was Zaid Ibn Ali, grandson of Husayn Ibn Ali and son of the fourth Imam Ali Ibn Husain. The majority of the Shi’a in Iraq and Iran are called twelvers because they believe in the last Imam (the twelfth), Imam Al-Mahdi who lives in occultation and will return as the promised Mahdi. The twelvers constitute about 90% of all Shias world -wide. The Zaidis are about 25% of the Yemen population. The rest are Sunni of the Shafei school.

Saudis firing in support of the Hadi government. Pretty much a lost cause.

Intasar Hammadi, Yemen actress and model arrested by Houthies for whatever comes to mind.

First off to understand the situation one has to remember that the State of Yemen  has been  divided  the past 174 years- with the exception of a few years of unhappy  shotgun marriage –  into south and north entities. There have been innumerable coups, revolts, and two serious civil wars, presidential assassinations.ongoing tribal wars, primarily in the north. The British landed there in Aden in  1893 and  did not give it up-under fire- until 1967. Today Yemen is “officially” united under President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.  While the temporary capitol is in Aden, he hangs out in Saudi where he feels much safer.

Mansur Hadi President of the Yemen that does not exist exist except in minds of Western diplomats. His temporary capitol is in Aden and he lives in Saudi Arabia.

The current situation is as shown on this map.  To explain further ; the Western “internationally recognized” Al Hadi government  controls the white area, The green area is controlled by the STC, group,a rebel group backed by the UAE, the brown by the Iranian supported Houthies, and parts of the Hadramaut are loosely controlled by various Islamist groups, Jihadis, E.G. Al Qaeda and the ISIS. In fact the Hadramaut was one of the early recruiting centers for Bin Laden and al Qaeda.

The so called government of the Hadi regime governs very little mostly desert

The Middle East “experts” always assumed that the interminable wars in Yemen were a result of political, ideological and tribal disputes, not religion.  They  wrote that  the fivers were the closest to the “mainstream” Sunni beliefs and thus disputes between the shi’a and Sunni were unlikely. Western analysts are always disinclined to attribute any violence to religious motives. It makes them uncomfortable.

However with the “resurgence of Islam,” which was in fact a Sunni resurgence of the more conservative and radical movements in Islam, Shi’a were seen as apostates. This drove the Shi’a in many parts of the Middle East to become more militant as a counter-reaction. So one can say that the forever war in Yemen does include ideology, politics, and  tribalism but also religion.

there million Yemenis are internally displaced more than 10% of total population.

The Islamic Shi’a regime of Iran  has made itself the savior of Shi’ism all over the world, including  the Houthi faction in the Yemeni civil war.   Western diplomats  frequently use the term “alleged ” supporter of the Houthies, which is convenient to avoid doing anything to annoy the Iranians in the pursuit  of the hopefully reconstituted JCPOA ( the Nuclear agreement).  This Iranian support of the Houthies is part of the  Iranian quest for a Neo-Persian empire as evidenced in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq (The Fertile Crescent).  In this quest they concentrate on the Shi’a ( or groups Shi’a  related like the Alawis of Syria), and in some cases, Sunni entities that fit their plan , such as the Hamas of Gaza.

HISTORY
Yemen was one of the oldest centers of civilization in the Near East. Between the 12th century BC and the 6th century AD, it was part of the Minaean, Sabaean, and Himyarite kingdoms, which controlled the lucrative spice trade, and later came under Ethiopian and Persian rule. In the 7th century, Islamic caliphs began to exert control over the area. After this caliphate broke up, the former north Yemen came under control of Imams of various dynasties usually of the Zaidi sect, who established a theocratic political structure that survived until modern times. (Imam is a religious term. The Shi’ites apply it to the prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali, his sons Hassan and Hussein, and subsequent lineal descendants, whom they consider to have been divinely ordained unclassified successors of the prophet.)

Egyptian Sunni caliphs occupied much of north Yemen throughout the 11th century. By the 16th century and again in the 19th century, north Yemen was part of the Ottoman Empire, and in some periods its Imams exerted control over south Yemen.

starvation in Yemen

 

 

Former North Yemen
Ottoman control was largely confined to cities with the Imam’s suzerainty over tribal areas formally recognized. Turkish forces withdrew in 1918, and Imam Yahya strengthened his control over north Yemen. Yemen became a member of the Arab league in 1945 and the United Nations in 1947.

Imam Yahya died during an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1948 and was succeeded by his son Ahmad, who ruled until his death in September 1962. Imam Ahmad’s reign was marked by growing repression, renewed friction with the United Kingdom over the British presence in the south, and growing pressures to support the Arab nationalist objectives of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser.  Shortly after assuming power in 1962, Ahmad’s son, Badr, was deposed by revolutionary forces, which took control of Sanaa and created the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR). The only included North Yemen as the Brtissh still controlled Aden and the Hadramut

The revolt  ( actually it was more of a coup d etat by the Army)  against the Imam and with Egyptian support installed Colonel Abdul al-Sallah as the new president. In fact Nasser with his Arab world  imperial aspirations  sent over 50,000 troops to Yemen to fight the Royalists as the Imam’s  supporters were called. The Zai’dies  constituted  the bulk  of the  royalists and  were supported by Saudi Arabia as the war by proxy between Egypt and Saudi Arabia heated up. The Egyptian  adventurism was a disaster for Egypt – often called Egypt’s Vietnam. The Egyptian peasant soldiers were lost in the very forbidding topography and culture of Yemen.  The royalists fought an insurgent type war against the Egyptian conventional forces.  See Edgar O’Ballance  The War in the Yemen.

 

An Arabic language instructor I had in Washington had served as an army psychiatrist with the  troops in Yemen and told me there were large numbers of Egyptian troops who could not cope with climate and mountains, and were sent home. Conflict continued periodically until 1967 when Egyptian troops were withdrawn. By 1968, following a final royalist siege of Sanaa, most of the opposing leaders reconciled; Saudi Arabia recognized the Republic in 1970. In 1990 the the  Yemen Arab Republic was formalized which, united north and South Yemen, however it was never and still is not a peaceful reunion.

Former South Yemen( A good book on this Tom Little ; South Arabia : Arena of Conflict)
British influence increased in the south and eastern portion of Yemen after the British captured the port of Aden in 1839. It was ruled as part of British India until 1937, when Aden was made a crown colony with the remaining land designated as east Aden and west Aden protectorates. By 1965, most of the tribal states within the protectorates and the Aden colony proper had joined to form the British-sponsored federation of south Arabia.

In 1965, two rival nationalist groups–the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY) and the National Liberation Front (NLF)–turned to terrorism in their struggle to control the country. In 1967, in the face of uncontrollable violence, British troops began withdrawing, federation rule collapsed, and NLF elements took control after eliminating their FLOSY rivals. South Arabia, including Aden, was declared independent on November 30, 1967, and was renamed the People’s Republic of South Yemen. In June 1969, a radical wing of the Marxist NLF gained power and changed the country’s name on December 1, 1970, to the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). In the PDRY, all political parties were amalgamated into the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), which became the only legal party. The PDRY established close ties with the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and radical Palestinians. see Glen Balfour Paul  The End of the Empire in the Middle East;

Republic of Yemen ( United Yemen)
In 1972, the governments of the PDRY and the YAR declared that they approved a future union. However, little progress was made toward unification, and relations were often strained. In 1979, simmering tensions led to fighting, which was only resolved after Arab League mediation. The northern and southern heads of state reaffirmed the goal of unity during a summit meeting in Kuwait in March 1979. However, that same year the PDRY began sponsoring an insurgency against the YAR. In April 1980, PDRY President Abdul Fattah Ismail resigned and went into exile. His successor, Ali Nasir Muhammad, took a less interventionist stance toward both the YAR and neighboring Oman. On January 13, 1986, a violent struggle began in Aden between Ali Nasir Muhammad and the returned Abdul Fattah Ismail and their supporters. Fighting lasted for more than a month and resulted in thousands of casualties, Ali Nasir’s ouster, and Ismail’s death. Some 60,000 persons, including Ali Nasir and his supporters, fled to the YAR. ( North Yemen)

In May 1988, the YAR and PDRY governments came to an understanding that considerably reduced tensions including agreement to renew discussions concerning unification, to establish a joint oil exploration area along their undefined border, to demilitarize the border, and to allow Yemenis unrestricted border passage on the basis of only a national identification card. Basically however the north and south  Yemen were culturally far  apart. Aden had for 174 years  been a British possession and in the 20th century the  city was very  cosmopolitan and with a number of non Arab residents, including a large Indian population and 5000 Europeans.

In November 1989, the leaders of the YAR (Ali Abdullah Saleh) and the PDRY (Ali Salim Al-Bidh) agreed on a draft unity constitution originally drawn up in 1981. The Republic of Yemen (ROY) was declared on May 22, 1990. Ali Abdullah Saleh became President, and Ali Salim Al-Bidh became Vice President. Despite this, clashes intensified until civil war broke out in early May 1994. The war began when an Northern   armored brigade  and an a southern  armored brigade. on one another in a military motor pool.

Almost all of the actual fighting in the 1994 civil war occurred in the southern part of the country despite air and missile attacks against cities and major installations in the north. Southerners sought support from neighboring states and received billions of dollars of equipment and financial assistance. The United States strongly supported Yemeni unity, but repeatedly called for a cease-fire and a return to the negotiating table. Various attempts, including by a UN special envoy, were unsuccessful in bringing about a cease-fire.

Houthie execution of prisoners…of whomever is considered to be an enemy of the Houhties on that particular day

Southern leaders declared secession and the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Yemen (DRY) on May 21, 1994, but the DRY was not recognized by the international community. Ali Nasir Muhammad supporters greatly assisted military operations against the secessionists and Aden was captured on July 7, 1994. Other resistance quickly collapsed and thousands of southern leaders and military went into exile.

The Importance of Yemen

Yemen sits astride the babel Mandeb which is the  gateway to the Suez Canal . It is a relatively narrow entrance and exit from Asia to Europe. It can w easily be closed or made so dangerous that oil transport companies cannot pay the insurance. The Sumed pipeline which runs from Egypt to the Mediterranean  is not an alternative because the tankers must still use the Bab el Mandeb passage.

Only About 10% of oil being shipped goes through Canal. Seems not a problem? wait to see what happens at the gas station when that happens!!!

Sumed pipeline Not an alternative to the canal.

The second reason Yemen is Important is also related to oil. The Houthies  now have a considerable inventory of long range drones and the expertise to use them…thanks to their Iranian instructors. In September 2019 the Houthies  launched  number of attacks on the ARAMCO oil systems in the Saudi Arabia on the Persian Gulf as a not so gentle reminder  of their capabilities– a signal from Iran to the Persian Gulf Arab oil producers. They have the capabilities to devastate the world oil market. In so far as the US is concerned with the Biden Administration hell bent on reducing oil  and coal supplies, with the  fanciful chimera of electrical power, we will be in  deep cloaca.

Iran Ian-Houthie attack on then Saudi oil fav cities in September 2019. There was no response by the US or Saudi Arabia.

Thirdly as we are now finding out Yemen is the perfect breeding ground  for terrorism. Extreme climate, terrain , remote, hostile to foreigners, and devoid of a natural environment to support invaders.

USS Cole suicide attack in 2000 by AQI

Fourthly Yemen is the most  needy country in the world in humanitarian needs. Ridden with corruption, tribal and sectarian warfare, 80% of the population requires humanitarian aid. Food, water, medical care, infrastructure, all  are urgently needed and little is arriving. Ninety percent of the food must be imported.  Ironically ninety percent  of the inadequate and diminishing water supply is used for agriculture which is primarily used to grow Qat.. a “mild” narcotic planet  which Yemenis spend hours chewing every day. It is a sort  of a stimulant which produces excitement, loss of appetite, and c short-lived euphoria. Coming down from their high the Yemenis become irritable and unapproachable .  At least that was my experience in my two trips to Yemen.

Qat party. they drink lots of strong coffee and smoke the watere pipes for hours, then go home and sleep it off.

 

Oh yes. We haven’t forgotten the local employees of the American Embassy languishing in Yemeni dungeons. The State department is “negotiating” for their release.

AQI attack on Aden

Forget about any military incursion. We should have  learned from  the French in Vietnam,  the British in Iraq, the Russians in Afghanistan, and the Egyptians in Yemen, as well the rescue of the American hostages in Iran. This happens when our enemies see us as weak.

 

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Conspiracy theories abound after assassination attempt on Iraqi PM

The  Iraqi Shi’a militias went wild after the  assassination attempt on PM Kadhimi….. or an incident assumed to be so……. in exclaiming their innocence.  The first assumption to understand is that most of the Shi’a  militia groups in the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) are beholden to and paid by their Iranian overseers. Nothing of this sort would be attempted without Iranian approval and promotion. On twitter many explanations  to exculpate the militias were offered. Among them were;  that the militia does not have drones. Of course the Iraqi army and security services are totally infiltrated  and saturated with Iranian Shi’a  supporters. Getting  drones from the army inventory would not be difficult. Another was that the antimissile systems located at the US Embassy would have shot them down. Of course the missiles were not targeted on the Embassy. Some Western “experts”  wondered why Kadhimi was targeted since he is so weak and pulled and pushed by militias in every direction anyway, and is not a threat to their objectives. In the Arab world the strong horse is admired, and the weak one brutalized. Kadhimi is seen as a sop to Western interests and hence a target to be punched about.

Qais Al Khazali leader of the Iranian surrogate and most violent of the PMU groups, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq. He was instrumental in the murder of five US soldiers in 20 January 2007. Captured by the Brits in 2007. He was released in a captive exchange in 2010.

The theme promoted by the PMU propaganda outlets, which are well funded by the Iranians, is the it was a CIA engineered event to gain sympathy for Prime Minister  Kadhimi.   An excerpt of the propaganda indicated in one of the MEMRI reports below:

“One poster claimed that the drone attack on Al-Kadhimi’s home came “only one day” after clashes between Iraqi security forces and supporters of Iran-backed militias took place, describing the events as “crimes committed against peaceful civilian protesters in Tahrir Square, where Iraqi security forces fired live ammunition on protesters, killing four martyrs and wounding 125 others.” The posters also alleged that security forces “set fire to the [protesters’] tents.”

Supporters of the Iran-backed militias have been demonstrating for weeks near Baghdad’s Green Zone, voicing their rejection of the results of the recent parliamentary elections, in which some pro-Iran parties lost many seats.

The poster claimed that Al-Kahdimi had given the order to shoot the protesters, and that “there is an American desire to hide this crime” and save Al-Kadhimi by “portraying him as a victim.”

MEMRI is an exellent source of getting the news unfiltered, especially  from the Middle East.

Actually the proposition that the CIA would do something so bold and imaginative is beyond belief.  The CIA has been throughly reduced to wokism timidity.The thought that Robert Burns, currently   the CIA director, would approve an action  of this sort is ludicrous. He is one of the architects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ( JCPOA) , The nuc “deal” with Iran. Anyone who believes that an  agreement with the Iranian regime is worth more than the paper is written on should not be in a position of security for the United States. Why the Biden regime keeps pursuing this dead deal despite continued Iranian provocations  is bewildering and humiliating for this country. The idea that the folks at the top  have more information, and therefore us folks at the bottom of the totem pole should assume they know best should have been discarded long ago, after Vietnam, after Iraq, and after Afghanistan. See Dereliction of Duty by H.R. MacMaster

Director of the CIA, William Burns. a Long time State Department diplomat. a great fan of John Kerry, see his gushy hagiographic compliments heaped on the Vietnam traitor in his book, The Back Channel

 

Policy and ideology drives our strategies, not intelligence, even if it were good ( dubious). Many tragic examples are obvious.The public was told for years the  Vietnam victory was right around the corner  because that was the policy narrative. See George W. Allen, None So Blind. We departed Iraq, not because it was stable, but because Obama’s political  fortunes were best served by doing do. Afghanistan, like Vietnam, based on the strategies and tactics we used was a losing proposition.With  better strategy could we have done better?  Maybe….. or it might have just dragged the war on longer).  The generals for years,  from day one, claimed all was going well in Vietnam and Afghanistan. See B. Daniel Bolger,  “Why We Lost in Iraq and Afghanistan,”  an article in Harpers, September 2014. Some, no doubt, had reservations but most  did not speak  loud and clear publicly.  Were these optimistic announcements based on reality, on the ground assessments, or just toeing the politically correct line? Now belatedly we know the truth. As anyone been held accountable? No, McNamara has offered contrition for Vietnam but no one for Iraq or Afghanistan.    How I wish we had had a President Lincoln to weed out the losers, but  Bush, Obama, Trump or Biden has not  done so.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose portrait is being held aloft by his Shiite supporters.

In Iraq, as so often happens in. this world,  the oppressed became the oppressor. The disenfranchised  Shi’a community under Saddam has now become the oppressors, particularly of the once dominant Sunni community, but they are disunited as usual and have in no way succeeded in establishing cordial relations with the Kurds, 25% of the Iraqi population.  By no means do all the Shi’a support the The Shi’a militias. The cosmopolitan urban Shi’a  middle class and the educated young do not support them, nor do the many followers of Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani, who commands wide respect among all Shi’a. But as always in the Arab world, the people  with the weapons control those who don’t. The Army is ineffective, shot through with militia sympathizers and members, and the Counter-Terrorism  Service, an excellent professional apolitical fighting force, once popularly known as the “Golden Division,” took heavy casualties in pushing the ISIS out of the north and has never been properly reconstituted.

 

The Iranians do not expect to be able to absorb Iraq into their empire but they do want to keep to keep it fragmented and weak. At times the Iranians have surreptitiously supported Sunni terror groups such as Al Qaeda , Iraqi Sunni aspirations, and the Kurds in Iraq. The primary  objective is to keep the sectarian pot boiling. As long as Iraqis are killing each other they  do not constitute a threat  to Iran.

This  attack in Iraq  is just one more acts of intimidation to anticipate and  humble any American moves to stymie Iranian ambitions in Iraq or elsewhere. So far this course of action has been successful.   Iranians can always hide behind their surrogates which,  makes it easier for the Biden team to avoid blaming the Iranians for their hostile acts and proceed with negotiations in the vain hope that somehow the American public consumed at present with domestic issues will applaud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Intelligence Failure in Afghanistan; Precursor to the Military Failure

The Wall Street Journal published An article entitled “Agencies Missed Fast Fall of Kabul” (29 OCT 2021). William Burns the CIA director,( one of the primary operatives in the poorly conceived Iranian JCPOA, nuclear deal with Iran) tried to put a good face on it saying that, “There’s a very sobering picture picture we painted of some very  troubling trend lines.”  Strikes me as somewhat like saying American intelligence might have missed the attack on Pearl Harbor but they had warned concerning “troubling Japanese trend lines”

Proud architect of defunct deal with Iran on Nuclear weapons. Now head of CIA

All four intelligence agencies missed the collapse of the Afghanistan  military.  The CIA  reports warned of a Taliban takeover within 2 years after the American departure. The DIA gave the Afghan government 12 months,  The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and  the state Department’s intelligence Bureau similarly miscalculated the longevity of the Afghan government.

“Directionally they were all correct that things were going to deteriorate, ” said a senior administration official.  Well that’s comforting!

Army Colonel Thomas Spahr, in charge of the intelligence assets drawdown stated,” As you pull back troops you are not able to have intelligence collection forward.”  When you dissect that  statement a couple of thoughts came to mind. Do you mean that when the troops left province X, there were no covert collection assets remaining?  That the  prior intelligence before was mostly gathered by troop patrols, local gossip, and what the interpreter-translators told them?” That the intelligence assets of the Afghan Government were useless or nonexistent? If so who in the US Government  was in charge of assisting develop Afghan security and Intelligence? What were the issues?  Who actually, if anyone , was following the morale, and fighting spirit of the Afghans as our units departed. There are so many questions ……and no answers with any credibility.

see https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/lessonslearned/SIGAR-19-39-LL.pdf for a fairly good review of the  Afghanistan  failure but not enough on the military advisory mission which in my opinion was poorly thought out,  and with no disrespect  intended to the advisers who their  best in an impossible environment, was a total flop.

I spent a few years in the intelligence field  in the military and a couple of years as a CIA contractor. I know one famous quip was that if you wanted anybody to read  your article or report you had to classify it…and the higher the better. So I wonder who was reading the reports of the advisors at the lowest Afghan military  level?  They are generally not classified. Those done by advisors at a higher level are generally useless, being politicize  by the prevailing politically correct narrative at the  time. But having been in the advisory business also for a few years, there is a danger there as well. In fact several problems.

Advisor in Vietnam

 

The first one  and one I experienced was that , “field advisors( in Vietnam)  felt they were held accountable for their counterparts mistakes.. In their eyes , their superiors viewed South Vietnamese shortcomings as failures of the advisor to do hisJob properly.” “The burden of establishing a mutually agreeable working relationship was on the advisor in scavenging for supplies and equipment,  in minimizing everyday problems, and emphasizing even insignificant  improvements and success.” Jeffery Clarke: Advice and Support; The Final Years.  This problem was, of course, magnified by the American love of useless metrics good for briefings to VIPs. Thus even advisor reports were ( and are)apt to be skewed by the advisors need to provide happy news for the good of his own career.

In Egypt advisor in background as always

Secondly the American advisors did not for most part eat, sleep, and fight with his Afghan counterparts as opposed to the Vietnam advisor at battalion level who did so.  In the last five years of the Afghan  conflict they were not even at that level. At the higher levels of the advisory mission  there was too much emphasis put on harmony and collegial relations and  not enough on what was actually happening on  the battlefield.  Therefore information on how things were going in the Afghan fighting units was simply not coming from our people on the ground. Assessing the will to fight is not easy for a foreigner  to gauge and certainly not at a division or corps level. The assessment of the people down on the ground with the Afghans was the most important  aspect of determining the Afghan army will to fight.   They were not forthcoming. Our intelligence was based on guesses  (again) despite their determining the “trend lines.”

 

training Egyptians on HAWK air defense systems

 

In the vast overpopulated empires of our intelligence community was there not someone to raise a question and interject “what if the Afghan army collapses?.” One the required book on intelligence,  ( Knowing Ones Enemies, Editor Ernest May)  Intelligence professional  Ricg hard Betts argued that intelligence agencies should always anticipate surprises. In fact weeks prior to the Kabul debacle,  provincial capitols were being taken by the Taliban with minimal resistance, falling like dominoes …was this not a solid clue to the cumbersome Defense Department and  our excessively bemedaled generals  that they should  get out of domestic politics,  and start  concentrating on getting our people out?

Dean Acheson our very able Secretary of State,  ( 1949-1953) wrote, “I have long noticed that military recommendations are usually premised  upon meticulous statement of assumptions that often as not are quite contrary to the facts.” Dean Acheson,  Present at the Creation.

Did these people read anything from the Vietnam war?  Just one quote from a South Vietnamese General on the collapse of the RVN  army would have been salutatory.

“From an of  army of 170,000 equipped with obsolete weapons, the Republic of Vietnam armed forces emerged as a strong modernly equipped force with over a million men under arms, second to none in the non-communist Asian countries. It is equally true unfortunately, that in the process this impressive force became overly dependent on U.S. money and equipment for its own sustenance and on U.S. air power for moral support. There is no doubt that the South Vietnamese soldier could fight , and he did fight well! But in the years he had learned  to take things easy, taking it for granted that needed supplies would never cease to flow and if  he were in any kind of trouble  “Big Brother”  would always be there to bail him out. Such was the psychological conditioning that helped the armed forces of South Vietnam maintain morale and comforted the population.”

 

The author  goes on to ask how could the RVN, already stretched to the breaking point replace the 7 Divisions, 4 brigades  and innumerable support units the Americans  were pulling out of Vietnam? The belated “Vietnamization” program was introduced with a massive introduction of America   equipment, much of which the RVN army had no time to integrate into their army or learn to use. The Communists got it all.

As he wrote, “no amount off training, equipment, or political exhortation could fill the void or ease the feeling of insecurity that set in.” General Can Van Vien;( RVN) The Final Collapse.☀︎

General Can Van Vien accepting congrats from General Westmoreland

 

Any similarity to Afghanistan?  Of course many blamed  the defeat on RVN lack of will to fight, just as  today many  politicians looking for excuses for their incompetence, blame the Afghans. We set them up for defeat.

Unfortunately, unlike in President Lincoln’s time, incompetence generals and officials are never fired. They just retire and rotate to  big money storefront corporate  positions.

Lincoln to General McClellan after he failed to cross the Potomac to pursue General LEE. MacClellan claimed his horses were tired. “Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anyone.” Again about McClellan. “He is an admirable engineer but he seems to have a special talent for a stationary engine.” He said repeatedly that the “army must be officered by fighting men. Tough hard fighting would win not by strategy.” The Union generals before Grant spent most of their time devising grand strategy which Lincoln saw as simply a way  to delay battle. T. Harry Williams. Lincoln and His Generals

☀︎I have found that the books and pamphlets  written by the Vietnamese, both north and south, are very informative in analyzing why we lost. How other see us is far more instructive than how we see ourselves. Hopefully we will see books written by Afghan officers  in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Israel; American Role in the Creation

 

the maze in the Creation of the state of Israel

 

 

Things were not going well for the British and French in the “Great War” in 1917. The Russian army had disintegrated thanks to the communists, the French army had mutinied in 1916 and was extremely war weary, the English were living on a caloric intake barely above starvation  level due to the German submarine warfare, the German units were streaming back from the Eastern front to  reinforce the German units on the Western front.     For the British getting the Americans in the war was the overriding  objective. But how to do so….. as President Wilson had promised his people that he would never become in involved in the European war? The British banked on a way to influence Wilson using the pro-Zionist ( Jewish nationalist) sympathies of trusted advisors to the President. The British establishment was generally anti-zionist and frankly Judaeophobic(1) with the exception of Lloyd George,  Winston Churchill, and Lord Balfour. However in their prejudice toward the Jews the British leadership  vastly overrated the power of world wide  Jewish community and  therefore believed they could influence Wilson through the Jewish connection.  “The Jews were thought  to dominate the Russian revolutionary movement and be among President Wilson’s most trusted advisors.” (Michael Cohen: The Arab Zionist Conflict.) 

Moreover there was a rumor that Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was about to announce his support for Jewish aspirations in Palestine. Therefore, ipso facto, the way to get the Americans in the war was to favor a” home” for the Jews in Palestine. There were many, many other factors involved of course, but this was the American connection to the famous or (infamous) Balfour declaration, announcing  British support for “home”for the Jews in Palestine.(2) In this the British centered on two Jews in the Wilson circle of confidants,  Chief Justice Louis Brandeis, and Henry Morganthau. How much this contributed to the Americans entering the war is probably minimal because the Germans in their usual blockheaded nature, torpedoed the passenger ship Lusitania,  resulting in many American civilian deaths, and were accused of agitating the Mexicans to declare war against the United States in the Zimmerman Affair.

Israel since the creation of the state in 1948  Israel has been the center of Middle Eastern news. Almost every revolution, war, or terrorist event is somehow tied to Israel.  Not that the issues are related in reality, but for simplicity sake ( and propaganda in many instances) somehow Israel pops up.  Journalists, their editors, news source owners, know that their readers want it condensed and uncomplicated,  the devil in the details is left out.

Thousands of books and articles have been produced on the  “Palestine issue” many spilling over into vitriol and utter nonsense. Few are truly that informative. In this blog I intend to concentrate on the seemingly important but actually minor role the United States played in the formation and establishment of the Israeli  state, ironic in view of the fact that in the Muslim world, Israel and the United States are seemingly irrevocably intertwined, certainly in the propaganda mills of the Arab, Iranian and radical Islamist world.

So what was our part in the creation of Israel?  To begin with the United States ( with the exception of securing  shipping lanes) had almost no interest in the Middle East. Among the first were trading and navigation treaties with the state of Oman going back two hundred years. Oman was the first Arab nation to recognize the United States and sent an envoy to Washington. In fact in typical Arab generosity the Sultan of Oman. gave gifts of a two lions, horses and exquisite jewelry  to the president who could not accept them. The jewelry is in the Smithsonian museum in DC. There was also a attempted gift of black slaves which was graciously refused. ( Slavery in the Arab peninsula was legal until the 1920’s.)

Before that the US was involved in the first Barbary wars. It lasted on and off for four years. It ended in 1805 when the American Agent Willian Eaton and a detachment of Marines and native Berbers marched 500 miles from Egypt to overturn the Barbary States ruler. In 1812 at the encouragement  of the British, then at war with the US, the Barbary pirates resumed attacking American merchant ships but in a short three-day war were put out of action by an American fleet.

In the 1830’s the primary interest in the Middle East was by protestant missionaries who sought to convert the Muslim inhabitants to Christianity, primarily in Syria and  Lebanon. They were totally unsuccessful but did manage to woo some Maronites and  Greek Orthodox  Christians to Presbyterianism.  As time went on they began to establish  schools which evolved into totally secular institutions such as my post graduate alma matter , the American University of Beirut.

No Americans were among the list of early Middle East explorers and American  knowledge 0f the region was minimal indeed. However the books by the early European  explorers such as the Germans, Carsten Niebuhr, and the British, George Sandlier, Sir Richard Burton, William Palgrave ,  and Lady Ann Blunt did stimulate interest in the region.

The most well known  American traveler to the Middle East in the mid 1860’s was Mark Twain,  who evidenced a distinct aversion to most of what he saw in Syria and Palestine. In his book Innocents Abroad, he wrote “Magdala is not a beautiful place. It is thoroughly Syrian and that is to say it was thoroughly ugly, and cramped, squalid, uncomfortable and filthy.” Describing Jerusalem, he wrote, “Rags, wretchedness, poverty, and dirt, those signs, and symbols that indicate the presence of Muslim rule more surely than the Crescent flag abound.” He particularly used his sarcastic humors to ridicule thie earlier  European. travelers to the areas who had described it in romantic, enthused phrases of  admiration. Obviously the popularity of Mark Twain’s book  did not encourage American public interest in the region.It took oil to do that. But that comes a bit later.

The American interest in the Middle East  and Palestine during and after WWI began to be focussed on Palestine due to President Wilson’s fourteen points. One of those points was that the the mandate powers must ascertain the wishes of their subjects. President Wilson insisted on a commission to go to Syria and Palestine and  get the peoples wishes. All the other main countries involved, Great Britain, France, Italy, and the Jewish Nationalists ( Zionists) opposed creating one. President Wilson, in addition to being an idealist was also an intractable man and sometimes guilty of megalomania. The commission ( Harry N. Howard: The King -Crane Commission) was  created, which became known as the King-Crane Commission.  Dr. Henry  King was a professor at Oberlin college, and Charles  Crane was a wealthy businessman. Neither knew much about the Arab world, however they had assigned to them Captain William Yale U.S. Army, who became far more important than his rank indicated. He spoke Arabic, had spent time as the American liaison officer with the famous Field Marshal the Viscount Allenby commanding the army that swept the Turks out of the Levant.  Coming from a wealthy New York elite establishment family he hobnobbed with the best and brightest, including Lawrence of Arabia, wrote letters to high officials, diplomats and academics, including Elizabeth Monroe  (Britain’s Moment in the Middle East; 1914-1956).  He was very perceptive, an excellent analyst, and  also an Arabophile.  In the end the  Commission’s report was generally anti-French, anti-British, and anti-zionist.  Captain Yale found that almost every Arab, Christian or Muslim was against further Jewish immigration to Palestine and most wanted a greater Syria, encompassing Palestine. Yale  also observed that there was no such thing as Palestinian nationalism. The report was buried but  since resurrection has become an  edifice in the Palestinian  argument in the eternal conflict….whose land is Palestine.  (Read James Parkes: Whose Land? and opposite somewhat polemical view, James Barr: Setting the Desert on Fire.

To digress a bit from the main subject here perhaps a quote from Elie Kedouri would get to the heart of the matter.  “Islam has generally looked upon the Jews as a subject commodity docile and unwarlike, to be treated with contemptuous tolerance, and whom it is quite unthinkable to consider as political equals.”   And as for  the Zionists, “they knew little about  the indigenous inhabitants inhabitants of Palestine, and looked down on them as backward, primitive and incompetent.” As Kedouri wrote, it was a matter of “mutual contempt.” It still is. ( Elie Kedouri: Arabic Political Memoirs).

Between the wars , the significant factor for American interest became oil. An American engineer, Karl Twitchell,  working for the same Charles Crane of the famous King- Crane Commission, looking for water found oil, first in Bahrain and then Eastern Arabia. With the help of St John Philby,(3) famous British orientalist, and big friend of King Abdul Aziz bin Saud of Saudi Arabia, parlayed the find into what was to become The Arabian-American Oil Company ( ARAMCO) now know as Saudi Arabian Oil Company. The American fascination with automobiles led to a near total dependance on Saudi oil, better grade, and cheaper to produce and refine. This became accentuated with  the entrance of the United States into WWII. (H. StJ. B. Philby: Arabian Jubilee).   With the war the renewed significance of sea lane choke points became critical. As the massive American supply of war materials to the Soviet Union began, the Persian corridor to the Soviets became the safest and most expeditious manner of supply. “Once fully operational the Persian Gulf trans-Iranian. route delivered more aid to the Soviet Union than the better known arctic route.” (Ashley Jackson: Persian Gulf  Command).  It may be remembered that the arctic route to Murmansk was a killing zone for German aircraft and many American merchant mariners died to deliver war materiel to the unappreciative Soviets.

The importance of Palestine to American interests in oil and the Persian corridor were the growing importance of Pan Arabism and Pan-Islamism. Both were inflamed by adroit German propaganda and exploits of a number of German “Lawrences”  who stirred up the Middle Eastern nationalists exploiting Islamic animosity toward Jews. The Palestinian issue was often central to this theme.  The Grand Mufti of Palestine, Haj Husseini, “fused Islamist Jew-hatred with the modern conspiracy theories of Nazi and European anti-Semitism.”  (Youssef Aboul -Enein and Basil Aboul -Enein: The Secret War for the Middle East.) The Mufti’s influence was paramount in the “Golden Square”  Iraqi army revolt against the British in Iraq.  Nazi influence was strong in Iran as well. The Shah of Iran was forced to abdicate because of alleged pro-German sympathies.

The result of the above was that the allies in order maintain the continued flow of oil and keep the sea lanes open became less amenable to Zionist aspirations.  This was true of the American policy makers as well.  King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud was courted by President Roosevelt and Colonel William Eddy, USMC( retired) a became a close confidant of the King.(4)The British and American Middle East scholars and experts constantly bewailed   the problem  of Palestine  as working against the Allied war effort.  Writing of a report she was  sending to the British government  the famous explorer and Arabist, Freya Stark, wrote “…..I feel I must add the usual wail to my report-namely the Palestine question lies at the root of all our problems.” (Freya Stark: Dust in the Lions Paw)

During the war, many in the American government were adamantly against the creation of a Jewish state, foremost among these were Edward R. Stettinius,a businessman of considerable talent rising to become a close confidant of Roosevelt, and James Forestall the Secretary of War. Stettinius become secretary of  State in December 1944. In his memoirs he recalls the strong support of Jewish congressmen and senators to establish a national state for the Jews. Fearful of disruption of oil supplies and another Arab-Jewish war Roosevelt  convinced the congressman to temporarily shelve the idea. Later in his memoirs he felt that Roosevelt believed that Palestine should be for the  Jews and not Arabs. Fed with a steady diet of dire warnings from his people in the state department and the intelligence community, Stettinius  was adamantly anti-zionist. James Forrestal our first secretary of defense was even more adamant in his rejection of Zionism. Forrestal wrote, ” America has lost prestige in the Arab world by our attitude on Israel.” James Fortestal: The Forrestal Dairies.One Arab source claimed that his lack of influence in the matter led to his suicide. That was not likely however. He had a history of depression and the Washington political war games was alien to his nature.  (Edward Stettinius Jr: The Diaries of Edward Stettnius Jr. 1943-1946.) The eminence grise  of the American  Foreign Service,  George F. Kennan  was even more emphatic about the Zionist state.  He wrote in his memoirs that this country’s greatest follies were, ” involving ourselves with Israel and tolerating the  nationalization of the oil fields…” George F. Kennan: The Kennan Diaries.

The final denouement of this  saga belongs to President Harry Truman.  He was besieged  and irritated by constant  Zionist  pressures to recognize the state of Israel, and on the other hand, dreadful warnings of catastrophe from the intelligence community, State Department, and military leadership, should he do so. Truman gave instructions he did not want to talk to anymore zionist leaders, especially Chaim Weizmann, who had been circling the  globe since world war I to build international support  for a Jewish state.  Truman had spoken to him previously and recognized his persuasive talents. Weizmann asked for another appointment but Truman ignored it. Into this picture steps Eddie Jacobson, a old friend of Trumans from his haberdashery days in Missouri requesting a talk.  Jacobson was a Jew but not a zionist. In the guise of just a friendly talk Truman  said ok.  Using Truman’s hagiographic  view of Andrew Jackson, and  pointing to a small statue of Jackson in the office, Jacobson maneuvered the discussion to get Truman to agree to another interview with Weizmann.   After the interview with Weizmann, Truman  was apparently convinced and told the American representative  to the UN to announce American favored an Israeli state.  The state department’s patricians were aghast. To quote Truman. “I was told that to some of the career men of the State Department  this announcement came as a surprise. It would not  have been if these men had faithfully supported my policy.” As he wrote, “The Department of State’s Near East  specialists  were, almost without exception, unfriendly to the idea of a Jewish State.”  ( The deep state is not new!!!) In a manner I would hope our presidents of this era would do he wrote, “…I wanted to make it plain that the president of United States makes foreign policy, and not some second or third echelon in the State Department. “(Memoirs of Harry S. Truman 1946-1952.)

Perhaps a quote from Sir Ronald Storrs on the problems of writing about the Palestinian Issue is appropriate here. “Being neither Jew ( British or foreign) nor Arab, but English, I am not wholly for either but for both. Two hours of  Arab grievances drive me into the Synagogue, while after an intensive course of Zionist propaganda I am prepared to embrace Islam.” However,  he, like every one connected to the Arab Bureau in Cairo, was generally anti Zionist. However it was later blamed for the all the problems besetting the British in the Middle East…probably unfairly.  Sir Ronald Storrs: The Memoirs of Sir Ronald Storrs. 

 

  1. Reading the Edwardian novels and memoirs of the era, anti-semitism was deeply embedded in the English gentry. They were tolerated and sometimes found in the government but alway looked upon with askance. Many of the Jews of England were strongly anti- Zionist fearing that if an Israel came about they would be deported to this desolate land.
  2.  Almost anything written about the creation of Israel will be refuted by someone. Lord Balfour later wrote that enticing the American  leaders by way of appealing to the American Jews ( Balfour declaration) was false.  He maybe right but there was no doubt others had that view.
  3. He was the father of the infamous Soviet spy Kim Philby
  4. Colonel Eddy was sent to Saudi Arabia as special envoy to King Abdul Aziz . He was born of missionary parents in Lebanon and grew up speaking Arabic. His knowledge of the Arab world was a rare commodity in the U.S. at that time and he was instrumental in the cordial relations between President Roosevelt and the Saudi King acting as the interpreter when the U.S. President  met the king on board the U.S. Quincy He was also instrumental in the formation of the CIA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Middle East redux?

There was a time when I eagerly looked for new books on the Middle East and followed the programs on the regions, trying to keep up with the twists and turns of Middle Eastern politics but those days are gone. As Martin Kramer,  in a recent blog wrote, If I wrote a book on the Middle East who would read it? Quite true. I cannot think of a recent book on the region which captured my attention or from which I learned something new. I have reviewed a few…most of which I would echo Malcolm Muggeridge’s quote that it is easier to review a book than read it. Most of them today are formulaic in context and poorly written…often in this post-modernist gobbledygook manner that defies comprehension. If I have  forgotten one I apologize, but while writing this I cannot think of one that seized my attention. Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami have departed the scene and so have most of the great scholars of Islam and the Arab world.  William Muir, David Mangolioth, Philip Hitti, Albert Hourani, Edward W. Lane,….Even the last couple of books by Bernard Lewis were quick rehashes of earlier more weighty studies.

Edward lane Nothing can compare with his Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians ( 1836)

 

Who still has interest in the middle east.?  With a few exceptions the Middle East scholarly community of this country has never been particularly high in learning or teaching, usually more involved in political and or ideological campaigns, particularly those of the Left, with the Arab-Israeli drama always getting the major share attention. This is in spite of the fact that it has never been one of the major issues which have afflicted the region prior to the establishment of the Jewish state.

 

The debacle of Afghanistan has been erased from public view by a public that is always anxious to move on to the next celebrity event and a state media adroitly circling their wagons to protect the ruling elite establishment.

Moreover, as is usual, most people are caught up in the currents of everyday day life, which is characteristic of Americans, with the added anxiety of the Wuhan virus and inflation, especially those of us on fixed incomes. Many like myself are far more worried about the precipitous decline of America as a nation under the woefully weak leadership in Washington than to worry very much about the Middle East.

 

The usual factors always presented to describe the importance of the Middle East have been the following;

 

1.Access to oil at a reasonable price.  For a number of years this has not been an issue to get attention.  Only about 10% of our oil is from the Persian Gulf and a negligible amount from elsewhere in the Middle East. However, many of our friendly states (difficult to write allies these days) do need Persian Gulf oil.

 

2.Strategic routes i.e. The Suez Canal, Bab Al Mandab, The Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, The Persian Gulf and the Hormuz straits. And to Israel the Gulf of Aqaba.

 

It is also argued that being in the Middle between Asia and Europe the Middle East has importance in terms of air traffic.   Here we are talking about the theories of A.T. Mahan, and H.J. Mackinder. Certainly, this had considerable bearing on the strategy of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. This bottleneck in resupply of various goods to the U.S reawakens the importance of sea-lanes to the economy of the U.S.  resupply to Israel ion time of war has always been an issue.

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM – FEBRUARY 02: The minaret and dome of the Birmingham Central Mosque dominate the skyline as Muslims arrive for friday prayers on 2 February, 2007, Birmingham, England. Around 3,500 attended prayers where religous leaders called for calm in the wake of the nine arrests during anti-terror raids across the city. Detectives are continuing to question nine men in an alleged attempt to conduct an “Iraqi” style kidnap of a British soldier. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  1. The birthplace of the three great religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But in the West, especially Europe, Christianity is a mostly a hollow shell and has little importance. In the US we are following suit. For decades if not centuries, persecution and eviction of Middle Eastern Christian communities has taken place, and with few exceptions, (since the crusades) Western “Christendom” has taken no notice. In fact I have seen in my time in the Middle East, Western correspondents have usually sided with the Islamists. This was particularly true in the Lebanese civil war. It was an earlier manifestation of wokism.For example, most have heard of the massacre of Palestinians at the Shatila and Sabra camps in Lebanon by Christian militia, but how many know of the massacre of Lebanese Christians in the city of Damour by Palestinians and their allies? Or how many know that the bloodier massacre of Sunni Palestinians at Shatila and Sabra camps was perpetrated by Lebanese Shi’a militia during the Civil war phrase known as the “War of the Camps?”

    Kibizing with my buddy Arafat at the London wax museum. As much as one person can he began the destruction of Lebanon

 

Judaism lives precariously in tiny Israel, surrounded by enemies, and Judaism in the West seems to have lost its appeal with many of the younger Jewish elite. In the U.S. they are frequently on the leading edge of every left wing fashionable woke cause , including boycotting Israel. The current weak leadership in Tel Aviv gives no sense of confidence that Israel, without US support, can maintain its leading edge in military prowess.  That support is very unlikely from the Biden administration. The Biden. Administration has been pressuring the Israelis to grant unreciprocated benefits to the Palestinians, for reasons that can only be attributed to the influence of the anti-Semitic “progressive” element of the Democratic party. In France and other European countries, Jews walk the streets in trepidation as the increasing numbers of hostile Muslims and domestic neo fascists look for opportunities to attack them.

What to do? what to do? if only Israel would disappear. Such a headache.

 

 

The Islamists have, in  Western nations, teamed with left-wing militants to keep Western countries roiling with discontent. This is particularly true in the US. It is ironic that the first heads to roll would be that of the leftists under Islamist rule.  A good book to read in this connection is Unveiled: How Western Liberals empower Radical Islam. By Yasmine Mohammed.

Linda Sarsour leading women’s march. Activist and Islamic mole

 

 

In my day as a student of Middle East history, the professors were older learned gentlemen, Hanna Batatu, Walid Khalidi, Zeine N. Zeine,  Joe Malone,  people who knew their subject  and expected students to learn.

Dr Joseph Malone My mentor at the American University of Beirut. The ideas expressed here are wholly mine

From that time and going to innumerable Middle East conferences over the past 30 years, my picture of many  neo Middle East “scholars” is a youngish fellow in skinny jeans,  wearing sandals with an open necked shirt, blue blazer covered with dandruff on both shoulders, and a 4 day growth of facial hair that he spends hours each day carefully cultivating. A sort of Hunter Biden look. He talks and acts like one of the students. His students go off to jobs in the State Department and DOD, thinking that colonialism, imperialism and Zionism are main problems in the Middle East. He thinks that the best book to read is Edward Said’s Orientalism, which has over the years, created of a cult of ideologically driven know-nothings.

Edward Said, Theatre Critic and founder of the Said Middle East scholarly cult “if it’s bad the Zionists did it.”

 

I was think of this the other day reminiscing about my early interest in the Middle East, beginning a cadet at  West Point. I was not in the top of my class so I had few chances for electives but one I chose was Middle Eastern History study taught by a Captain, whose I name I cannot recall. I was fascinated by the class and could not wait to get into the Foreign Area Specialist program.  After some years at battery level artillery assignments I did and I enjoyed my years in the Arab world immensely, even the language study in Beirut.  Unfortunately, the language study in the commercial school I attended in Washington   D.C. was a bad joke. I never learned the language as well as I should have. As I wrote in a previous blog, I had to endure the malignant personality of my Iraqi Ba’athi instructor. In Beirut I think I was enjoying myself too much in the Lebanese lifestyle, but I pride myself on being better than most working within the nuances of the complicated culture.

Beirut as it use to be destroyed by Islamist warlords and greedy politicians

I think now how the Middle East of my day has become just another wasteland of fanaticism and ignorance, a playground for power hungry clerics and incompetent equally power-hungry politicians with their vanities fed by the Western politicians who bow and scape to their threats and condescension. Another good book to read how the Middle East fell into the cesspit, read Kim Ghattas , book , Black Wave. It details the destructive momentum of the Iranian revolution and the rise of Islamist fanaticism in Saudi Arabia.  Westernization has destroyed any of the pillars of the traditional Islamic society introducing uncontrolled consumerism, presenting nothing acceptable to the inhabitants. Basically one can say that the only aspect of Western intrusion into the governance that has been accepted, are the more advanced methods of population manipulation and security measures.

 

Nevertheless, we cannot take or eyes off the region. There are two major factors that are of vital importance:

  1. The combustible elements of the Middle Eastern society cannot be contained within the Middle East. Islamism (political Islam) itself is an imperialistic doctrine, and as the philosopher and thinker, Roger Scruton (The West and the Rest) wrotefor some someone like Khomeini, human rights and secular government display the decadence of the Western civilization, which has failed to arm itself against those who intend to destroy it and hopes to appease them instead.” There are many waiting in the wings to take Khomeini’s place.
  2. The tide of migration of Muslims, the vast majority good decent people, continues, and one sympathizes with their plight but many will be potentially amenable to Islamist siren calls of Islamic triumphalism (especially when they realize that their safe haven is also an alien civilization, and the streets are not paved with gold.). A point to keep in mind is that these immigrants are not coming to the West because they yearn to become part of Western civilization and assimilate into the Western democratic secular culture. They are fleeing the hell hole the Middle East has become.   It is not that the Western lifestyle is more attractive. It is that their homelands have become uninhabitable. They are bringing their tribal and religious prejudices with them. In large numbers they neither assimilate nor integrate. Their pervasive cultural imprinting by morays of a Middle Eastern society is a barrier to accept a secular polity based on civil law rather than religious doctrine.

 

They come into a decaying Western civilization in which patriotism and religious beliefs have become objects of ridicule. The increasing balkanization of this country can hardly welcome another dividing element.

 

Spinoza wrote that a nation survives not because of good leadership but rather because it can endure poor leadership.

Let us pray he is right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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