Tag Archives: Mecca

A New Disney

There was an Italian, who has been famous for over 125 years, he is not the first or the only famous Italian. There was this guy who came up with Pizza, There was this other Italian who thought fast Ford cars were a joke and he created Ferrari, then there was this other Italian, who made tractors, disagreed with the previous Italian and created Lamborghini. It is actually none of those. It is Carlo Lorenzini who was born 190 years ago. You might not know the name, perhaps his alternative name? Carlo Collodi! If you are still in the dark, than remember the story of a wooden boy who wanted to become a real live boy. Steven Spielberg used the notion in AI, but the original remains the best, namely Pinocchio!

Yes, the story of a wooden boy going into the world, yet as a wooden boy he was not alone, there was a little Cricket accompanying him and he would be a lot more important than your average Cricket, Jiminy was his name. Today the story is even more relevant, you see, the name Yemini Cricket might be ringing bells, but the truth of the wooden boy is there. The question becomes, who is the wooden boy?

So when I read ‘US, Britain and UN demand Yemen ceasefire within days‘ (at http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/10/16/us-britain-and-un-demand-yemen-ceasefire-within-days),

Yet when I read “The United Nations envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said: “We are here to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, which will be declared in the next few hours.” Cheikh Ahmed said he had been in contact with the rebel Huthi militia’s lead negotiator and with Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s government“, my recollection does not go towards the classical story, it goes to a reference a little closer to the present (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFZrKOCdHFs), the laughter applies to both the sketch and reality. Aleppo is a great example, how 5 years and 400,000-450,000 fatalities later, no solution is there, but they are still flying to places like Switzerland to talk. I wonder when we add up all the costs, how much did the taxpayer pay for this play?

A number of civilian casualties that have now surpassed the total US Military casualties, of those who died during WW2. Doesn’t that look like a clear message that massive change was required a few years ago? I reckon all the players know that, yet, having long conversations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose only concern is to stall so that the population can be made extinct before the resolution passes, reads a lot more like the Friends edition of Pinocchio, than the original by Carlo Collodi, where we see the conscience that is Jiminy Cricket.

So as we see the beginning of the same slow train in Yemen, I have to wonder if creating a new version of Pinocchio with Yemini Cricket is the way to go. It educates politicians as well as bring some hard needed cash towards Hollywood (or Bollywood).

So why is this different?

To one degree it is not, towards the other degree it is very much so. The problem is that both Syria and Yemen could be on the same page, no degrees of separation. In this case there are two at least. You see, Yemen has limited ties to Russia, making it less complicated, what is the issue is that the Houthi’s are actively shooting missiles at the US Navy complicating matters a lot more. It only takes one direct hit, and Yemen would technically be in a state of war with the US. Now, normally, a bankrupt nation is not that much a bother, but Yemen is not an economic or military superpower, so going against America sounds like a PR approach to get them ‘involved’. What is an issue is that Yemen, the neighbour of Saudi Arabia could get lucky at some point, what happens after the hit will be an issue, because Americans tend to get cranky when you successfully blow up something American. Interesting is that there are now multiple sources claiming that Iran is now moving towards the Red sea. An interesting story as the Red sea is on the other side of the Persian Gulf and Iranian war ships have no actual business there (which could also apply to the Americans). The question becomes how is Saudi placed into all this? Here there are issues too. There is no stating if there is even any link but the changes and the Attention that members of the Saudi government are drawing attention to themselves become a factor (speculation from my side).

One part is from the Australian Financial Review (at http://www.afr.com/news/world/middle-east/saudi-prince-mohammed-bin-salmans-shatters-decades-of-tradition-20161017-gs3yt5), where we see the title ‘Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s shatters decades of tradition‘, is not giving us the ‘goods’. The first quote is “He has slashed the state budget, frozen government contracts and reduced the pay of civil employees, all part of drastic austerity measures as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is buffeted by low oil prices“, which would be quite acceptable in one view, at least it appears that one government in this world is dealing with its budget issues, although not in the most ‘desirable’ way, when a nation is so dependent on oil, there might not be too many options. The second quote is “While vacationing in the south of France, Prince Mohammed spotted a 134-metre yacht. He dispatched an aide to buy the ship, the Serene, then owned by Russian vodka tycoon Yuri Shefler. The deal was done within hours, at a price of approximately €500 million (roughly $720 million today)“, which implies the opposite. The question is not the cut-backs or spending spree, the issue is neither quote, it is the quote I will give now “Many young Saudis admire him as an energetic representative of their generation who has addressed some of the country’s problems with uncommon bluntness. The kingdom’s media have built his image as a hardworking, businesslike leader less concerned than his predecessors with the trappings of royalty” as well as “Others see him as a power-hungry upstart who is risking instability by changing too much, too fast“. So is the prince a go-getter or power-hungry? I cannot tell as this is all based on third degree of information, what matters is how the view and the actions will reflect the counteractions of the US and Iran in regard to Yemen. The moment the conflict results in a direct attack on Saudi grounds, what then? Iranian warships in the Red Sea would only complicate that, making a harsh response from the Saudi Military even more destabilising.

In my view there are two sides within Saudi Arabia, yet how they should be seen is another matter. I do not claim to have a proper view. I have questions. You see Mecca is an Islamic Holy city (the most important one) and it is part of Saudi Arabia, so as Saudi Arabia is the caretaker of this holy site, the involvement if Iran is more than just a small issue. Whatever they decide to escalate could have large repercussions all over the Middle East. The Sovereign State of Saudi Arabia has every right to defend it in every way possible, so Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman is also Minister of Defence and the youngest one in the world, which as a stat sounds nice, yet it also means that in light of other decisions, he is ready to do that what the US has been unable to do, declare war on its enemy by actually acting against them! Not that the US needed to declare war, but in light of Syria, doing anything actively would have been nice, an absence of resolution that His Royal Highness Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud is less likely to show.

What is a problem is the fact that the complications are more and more likely as days go by and that is the one spark that this powder keg does not need. Iran cannot be denied access to international waters, which will not lessen the impact. One of the elements in all this is seen in the second quote regarding the ‘power hungry’ side of it. You see, the AFR article is also mentioning “Mohammed bin Nayef, the interior minister and longtime counter-terrorism czar“, which is now an element in all this. You see, whatever happens next is all surrounding the need for intelligence. So whatever issues there are between His Royal Highness Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and His Royal Highness Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud gives wake to the Disney sequel, a tale of two princes. A new approach to the classic Dickens story where the plight of two members of the Royal family of Al Saud are protecting the Sovereign state of Saudi Arabia as well as the safety and security of all Muslims that are in and nearby Mecca. Even as the papers are expecting a ceasefire, the issue is that stalling is equally a tactic here. There is no way of telling why Iran is involving its warships in that region, other than trying to complicate matters and demanding a seat at the table of decision, which would only change the time table in the worst of ways. What the Deutsche Welle did give was the quote “the Saudi-led coalition has blamed an airstrike that killed over 140 people at a funeral ceremony in Yemen on “erroneous information” received from a “party” affiliated with the country’s embattled government“, it matters, because it gives light to the essential issue that the two princes need to rely on quality intelligence, sources that can be scrutinised. And in this matter, mentioning the yacht was to iterate that spending that money on a satellite over the area might not have been the worst personal idea I am having. And let’s face it, any prince that can claim that he has his own satellite wins the discussion with any other prince relying on yacht and status. So many have a yacht, but how many of these rich individuals (very wealthy people in general) would own their own satellite? Especially if it becomes a source of intelligence.

Of course there is a lot more to owning one’s own satellite, but I hope we can all agree that intelligence will be key in whatever escalates over the next week. My issue is that too many players have their own agenda, yet would those agenda’s be truly 100% be focussed on whatever is best for Yemen and/or Saudi Arabia? You see, oil prices are down now, but why and for how long? What happens when prices go through the roof again? What happens then? Suddenly all these political issues are all linked to the price of Oil and the profit it brings?

I do not claim to have these answers, but the fact that too many sources are not asking the questions that require asking is troubling, yet the AFR article gives us a lot more, even more than I bargained for, which is comforting to say the least. What becomes a matter of discussion is the one quote that shows the elements “People who have met Mohammed bin Salman said he insisted that Saudi Arabia must be more assertive in shaping events in the Middle East and confronting Iran’s influence in the region – whether in Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Lebanon“, giving the links that require addressing and the prince is not afraid to do just that, however it take two to dance rings around Iran and taking away its influence in the Middle East. As I see it, Riyadh will have to make changes to some degree. Counter-Intelligence will be key in dealing with Iran and the impression I get when I see a quote like “has deep ties to Washington and the support of many of the older royals” shows the speculative possibility of the older ‘let us see how this plays out‘ against the younger ‘let us get this party started through action‘. It is not about the balance, but about what works best. In that regard both princes might have to make changes a lot faster than they are comfortable with, because if the news is correct, the Iranian ships and submarines will soon be active in the Red Sea, but active to what extent is something that remains speculative, whatever they do, the fact that it includes Iranian submarine presence (as reported but not confirmed), will also raise tensions with Israel.

As I see it, the biggest issue is Iran and what they are trying to get out of it. Putting themselves in the middle of a conflict where they are now trying to imply that it is all about them (especially as they are in the Red Sea), yet is their presence less valid than that of the US? It seems to me that we are creating a new Vietnam, just not with the Russians involved (like Syria). So there are two solutions to consider. One is that the US is replaced by for example the Commonwealth, or France, which takes away the Iranian-US issues. That is, if Saudi Arabia would be willing to consider that move. No matter what, the navy that does that, could find themselves in an armed conflict with Iran, so it better be a competent and modern Navy which leaves not that many options. The Netherlands, the UK, France, South Korea and India. Giving the option to either South Korea or India would benefit, as Iran cannot spin some NATO link story. In addition Iran cannot afford to piss of too many additional nations as either could make short work of the ego of Iran as these navies decide to sink Iranian war vessels like rubber dinghies, because they pushed one button too many.

No matter what happens, Saudi Arabia must do what it can to keep safe and the Yemeni issue is one that tests many sides of those who see and witness it, because there is a dilemma in conscience. A revolution that got out of hand, a set government overthrown with its own agenda. When we see the Houthi’s slogan “God is great, death to the US, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam“, can we really show any kind of support or sympathy?

The most important part to realise is that we need to set aside our version of what is acceptable, we have seen the US and Europe at large impose their version of ‘civility’, whilst bending over, grabbing their ankles and let the financial industry quite literally get away with murder in many ways. We impose rules and expectations, whilst having no clue how to manage a budget or how to stem greed to the point of strangulation. In all this, we have given up the high ground in several fronts, so we are no lecturer with any level of confidence. It is my opinion, that the Middle East can only be decently governed by someone in the Middle East. I personally believe that Saudi Arabia should be at the centre of it, there is no doubt that it would beneficial that a coalition that would include Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, but I am not knowledgeable enough to see whether it is just them, or that other players should be seriously considered. What does matter is that both General Intelligence Directorate (GID, aka Mukhabarat) and Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate would be important in ascertaining Iran’s hostile actions and if need be counter them. From my academic point of view is the challenge that the SIGNT of the three would pose to get one coherent reporting and analytical solution on Iranian intelligence. One that would definitely benefit all three nations. Yet perhaps that will evolve into a third Disney project, which could be the next big thing. It’s all just a thought, but think it over for yourself and ask yourself the question you did not hear voiced, this is important, because this stage could get ugly in a hurry and possibly before Christmas this year.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Media, Military, Politics, Religion

A dangerous escalation

This is a worrying moment, not just for me, but for everyone around, it should be a moment to worry. I am not talking about the Greeks (they have been extinct before), or FIFA (others are on the ball now). No it is a little more serious at present. You see last night rebels shot a scud at Saudi Arabia, which now ups the ante for all players and all allies involved. So as we see the BBC News (at http://m.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33033842), we also see “In a separate development, the Houthi’s have agreed to attend peace talks in Geneva“, which might be redundant now as a Scud has been fired. We can look at all the fact on how inaccurate these missiles are, but the straight complication is not just that a missile was fired, the question becomes what else do these Houthi’s have access to and at some point, We tend to get confused on what matters, I am not stating that certain elements do not matter (like humanitarian aid), but in the light of escalations, humanitarian aid seems to take a backdrop to it all. The issue of escalation will take another turn when Saudi would be forced to act in protection of its citizens. There are a few options and one of them could be the temporary annexation of Yemen as the House of Saud, in allegiance of deposed president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi takes a ground offensive. At that point, whatever cries for help the Houthi’s then voice, they might not receive too much support. As we look at the humanitarian part, have the involved support groups taken a census of how many of these civilian are Houthis? In addition, when this escalated further, what will be the consequences for Oman? You see, it is not just the players that are an issue, with the growing allegiance of Al Qaeda in Yemen, with the growth of Islamic State, we will see additional escalation both within Yemen, towards Saudi Arabia as well as towards the direction of Oman. What path will be taken is hard for me to tell without better intelligence on the events (there is a limit to the information that the BBC has in its possession). Beyond that is another danger that is now brewing for Saudi Arabia. No matter how they feel regarding the actions against Yemen, it has an effect in the refugee camps in Jordan, Islamic State is more and more active in recruiting the youthful adults there, with over 630,000 refugees, there is every chance that Islamic State has growing numbers not in the hundreds, but in excess of a few thousand. The additional actions of ISIS in Egypt, gives worry on the dangers for Saudi Arabia. Whether scuds are the least accurate missiles or not, it will take one missile from Eritrea to hit close enough to Mecca to make this tinderbox explode. ISIS has never made a secret regarding the capture of Mecca, the question is would they be willing to destroy it? It is an actual question, I do not know the answer. But in the time that several ‘anti-ISIS’ parties were sitting on their hands, escalations are now likely to be all over the filed, which could give Saudi Arabia the premise that they could soon be under attack from more than one side. What do you think will happen then? So, as Yemen has upped the ante with a failed missile attack, we will soon see a different theatre of War. You might think that this is the same as every other attack, but it is not. Reasoning is the following quote from Reuters “Yemen’s dominant Houthi group and its army allies fired a Scud missile at Saudi Arabia“, it is the ‘army allies’, whether valid or not, this now implies that the combatant forces of Yemen are now part of this. I used the work imply for a reason. You see, there is no guarantee that this is truly the case, it could be a collection of sympathising defectors, but Saudi Arabia does not need to take this into consideration, do they? Will it get worse? Most likely yes, but in all honesty, I expected these troops to make more active hostilities against Israel instead of escalating towards Saudi Arabia now. This thought was partially shaped by the incursions and the maintaining of presence of Islamic State in Sinai, with options towards Saudi Arabia, the Islamic State corridor becomes an economic worry for several players, least of all Israel. One source gave me “Muslim Brotherhood also offered to facilitate the entry of ISIS elements to the Egyptian territory, through the western and southern borders of Egypt, in return of ISIS helping Muslim Brotherhood to reach power again in Egypt till they control all country’s joints” I think it goes further than that, I think that there is a growing group of more radicalised members of the Muslim Brotherhood, joining the Islamic State in Sinai and from there move towards Israel and likely (based on the latest information) act against Saudi Arabia too. There is not enough evidence on how likely and how strong these actions would be, but this implies that Saudi Arabia is at least in indirect danger here, this means that Saudi Arabia has to connect with three sides. This also means that the escalations against the Islamic State members in Yemen would require a much harsher turn soon enough. The question will soon become one that America and its NATO allies must answer in more than one way. How much support will their ally Saudi Arabia receive, how much non-interference will be gained from the alliance as humanitarian aid in Yemen could be regarded as politically inconvenient. The only bright spot is that most Islamic State fighters tend to be extremely ad-hoc, so if one of them decides to make a name for himself in Israel, the Israeli air force might be forced to cut down the lifespan of Islamic State in Sinai, a chance that is not that high, whatever attacks Israel is more likely to come from Jordan, especially any attack on Eilat, which will cause other reasons of escalations all over the board. From here we must look at a BBC quote from last March. The quote is “Beyond Yemen, the Sanaa bombings underscore how the American strategy against Islamic State is lacking. The US is not degrading IS fast enough to stop its expansion, and it does not appear to have a plan for confronting IS branches in Sinai, Libya, West Africa, and now Yemen”, there are two problems with the quote. The first one is setting the quote like it should all be the US, or even about the US. This is not the case (only the premise), you see, Sinai is Egyptian turf and Egypt is not making headway here, for Sinai there is an additional complication that it cannot push its army into Sinai, because of the peace accord, which means that Islamic State can move all over buffer zone C, as long as they stay mostly out of sight. In Libya there are additional factors and Jordan is a sovereign state who is working together with the US, yet Islamic State remains a factor here. The biggest worry is that it will grow too large within the refugee community, which would escalate in many way that could cause a slaughter of many thousands of people at the drop of the wrong hat. At that point, the US will not have anywhere near the presence to act, and most likely neither will the Jordan forces. This gives us a map that becomes complicated. With Sheikh Omar Hadeed Brigade making new rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza, we must also question who is in control there, because if these attacks continue, Israel would be forced to escalate even further, especially since Ashdod was hit in a missile attack. This is where we get the issue with the quote “scuds are the least accurate missiles“, it only takes one hit for this tinderbox to be in flames and as such, we should be careful on relying on ANY peace talks at present. In my view Islamic state sees it as a weakness and whatever they do there is only to give time to prepare the next assault. So as there is a chance that both Israel and Saudi Arabia will find the risks too unacceptable and we will see how both Yemen and Gaza will fall under increased air attack. Whatever happens next will also determine how the playing parties will deal with the threats they face. In all this the greatest threat is towards the innocent refugees in Jordan as they are very likely to be in the middle of two factions, who do not care about these ‘refugees’, in all this we must face the dangers to both an Israeli and a Saudi Arabia escalation. In all this, I will not point at the US, here I point at the other NATO players who should have become active long ago, but political pressures stopped several actions. If NATO had acted stronger in the very beginning, Islamic State might not have had the support it ended up having. In May 2014, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross stated the following: “Though NATO did its job extraordinarily well, an intervention whose main purpose was saving lives may have ended up claiming more lives than it preserved; and the war certainly helped jihadist groups who are hostile to the United States and its allies while setting back U.S. regional interests“, I think that this is at the heart of a few events. The political elements who remained on the side of caution have inadvertently given strength to the situation that is now escalating. They are not the only factor, but they are a factor. That same reluctance in Syria is now cause for major problems and escalations. It is hard to see whether it would have worked out in Syria, especially with Russia in the opposing way, but we see now that there are a few more escalation on the map, escalations that would not have been there if the Syrian situation had been resolved a long time ago (no matter in which direction it was resolved). The last one is a personal view and personal assessment, which could of course be wrong. Now we get to the quote by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross. The quote was given a year ago, but the connection to now is clear when we consider the quote “He said the meeting would involve ‘consultations on implementing resolution 2216,’ which the Security Council passed in April, imposing an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels and demanded they relinquish seized territory”, which we get from the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/06/dozens-killed-in-yemen-saudi-border-raids-as-peace-talks-momentum-gathers) this sounds nice in theory, but since when has Islamic State taken any notice of an arms embargo? Or taken any notice of the Security Council in any way shape or form? These ‘talks’ which basically delays definitive action will have a similar effect, no matter what the Council states, if even one missile hits a target with casualties, the Saudi air force will respond harshly and talks will break down almost immediately. So will Yemen escalate out of proportions? I reckon that answer is less than a week away, but no matter in which direction it goes, if even one of the neighbouring parties takes any action, escalations might not be impossible to stop and what happens after that will cause a Middle Eastern escalation unlike one we have seen before, as it is entirely possible that Iran will get involved undoing loads of talks in mere hours. The question becomes, who makes the first mistake here? A mistake with dire consequences for all players involved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Military, Politics