Blowback from the AlJazeera Video?

A friend in a position to know these things recently wrote and informed me that the   video al Jazeera ( My TV Interview with Al Jazeera put together on the Egyptian army in which I participated is one of the reasons the Egypt along with most Gulf states have broken ties with Qatar. Of course it was a very minor one…like the straw that broke the camels back. The main reason of course is the Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Arab leaders mostly all recognize, unlike many Western politicians, that the Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist movement in sheep’s clothing., In the West it is al Qaeda in suits and ties.

Qatar is like Monte Carlo, a Middle East principality, with the difference that it has immense amounts of oil money, which it uses liberally to promote movements and organizations, which tickle the fancy of the Ruling family. The family has been in power since the early 19th century. Originally a Sheikhdom under the Al Thani family and a Wahhabi pirate state, it became a British protectorate following the demise of the Ottoman Empire. It has been lauded by the UN for its human rights development but a more descriptive fact about the State is that 80% of its inhabitants are not citizens, and with the exception of a few Western expats, few derive much from the oil and gas wealth. Most are little more than indentured servants.

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Queen mother of Qatar. When she speaks people listen and look !!

Al Jazeera that originally was seen by the Western media as some sort of Arab media breakthrough, a independent media source, and it has done some good journalism. I consider the piece on the Egyptian army (in reality on the Arab armies) to have been done very well with an obvious point of view.   But one has to understand like most Arab media, it is just part of the State-run media. The irony is that although Arab armies are part of the State repressive system they usually enjoy popular appeal by the public. I did receive a number of text messages from active or former Egyptian soldiers expressing their appreciation for airing the video.

ISLAMIC SCHOLAR AL-QARADAWI POSES IN LONDON.

Sheikh Qarawadi Firebrand Islamic televangelist preaching  Islamic Sunni supremacy  and spreading the Muslim Brotherhood message. Close to the present Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani

There is no doubt that Qatar has funded terrorism and Sunni supremacy organizations for years, and its wealthy citizens continue to do so. Including Hamas in the Gaza strip, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and of course the Muslim Brotherhood centers all over the world.   It also tends to cozy up to Iran, which of course infuriates most Arabs, and especially Saudi Arabia. It also hosts a huge American airbase, part of the Arab proclivity to have two opposing ideologies/ interests reside in harmony among them. Something we have a problem with, being unable to come to grips with this nuanced mentality.

Qatar map

Qatar:   proof that Size doesn’t count

On the video itself the military problems and issues depicted in the film are prevalent throughout the Arab world, In all their armies, Syria, Iraq, the North African states, and particularly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, despite the vast amounts of money these Gulf States have poured into the military they are unable to punch themselves out of a wet paper bag. But as I have written it l keeps our weapons assembly lines running.

I remember being in Qatar for about a week returning from Iraq during the 2004 holiday season, and the glass world of fancy malls with artificial Christmas trees. I found it to be a boring place, a world of illusionary reality, like a Matt Damon movie set. The large British community seemed to enjoy their lives there with plenty of beer, nice restaurants, and lot of hash house harriers, beer busts etc. Just not my cup of tea.

But the break with  the Arab states is more theatre  than real. So stand by for the next episode

 

 

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The Security Assistance Agreement with Saudi Arabia 

Foreign aid has never been popular among Americans and the military component of it even less. When that military aid is destined for Saudi Arabia, it elicits general disapproval from both endangered American of the political spectrum. The history of U.S. arms transfers to Saudi Arabia has nearly always been accompanied by vitriolic debate. Since 9/11 and knowledge of the hijackers’ origins, and the less than enthusiastic Saudi support for our efforts in Iraq, it is legitimate and reasonable to ask how this furthers our national interests.
As one who served in the U.S. Army security assistance arena (Arms transfers) for a number of years in the Middle East, my view is from the ground level. From my observations there are basically ten reasons why the 100 + billion dollar arms sale to Saudi and the Gulf States – and all similar sales are of vital importance.

  1. First and foremost it must be recognized that these arms transfers are not intended to build a first class fighting machine in Saudi Arabia. Those who have served in the Kingdom know how culturally resistant the Saudis are to the societal changes required to produce a military tradition of excellence. It is simplistic but understandable that the Administration would tout it as a conventional military build-up against an aggressive Iran. It is equally simplistic to say this is merely a “bribe” to get Saudi support for better support of the U.S. policies in Iraq. In actuality it is a strategic psychological weapon.  When we precipitously withdrew from Iraq under President Obama, and concluded a “nuclear agreement” with Iran it  basically gave an irredentist Iran a free pass to create havoc all over the Middle East. obviously the Gulf rulers  had doubts  about U.S. staying power in the Gulf region.  In particular It was  natural that the Saudis would be very nervous as to our overall intentions in the Persian Gulf region. This  arms agreement is a signal that we intend to be involved, and also a signal to Iran that days of appeasement to Iranian provocations is over. Our priority enemy in the Middle East is not ISIS, It is Iran as they press their ambitions for a new Persian empire.

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  1. We cannot afford to be seen a backing away from unspoken commitments to a country vital to our security. In a book entitled Thicker Than Oil. America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia, the author, Rachel Bronson, makes the point that our partnership with Saudi Arabia is based on far more than oil. Our track record for steadfastness has steadily declined since Vietnam, and more recently in Lebanon, Somalia and now Iraq. A disengaging America will invite the same international challenges as it did in the Seventies when we were viewed as the toothless tiger, taunted by terrorists and despots all over the world. It has true that Saudi Arabia is an exporter of ideological terrorism, That cannot be soft pedaled away. The export of Wahhabism, the father of ideological Islamist terrorism, has been part of the Saudi  Foreign policy  for decades, supporting radical Imams and clerics all over the world.  Even when curtailed by the Saudi government,  many rich  Saudis have contributed immense amounts of money to counter what they view as Shi’a infidels usurping the Sunni Islamic doctrine, and establishing an Islamist base in the Western world.  We. as Americans have to understand that we have to become more nuanced in the world. As Americans we like to paint   in terms of black and white, evil and good. In essence there are two Saudi Arabias. There is the ideological Saudi Arabia, exporter of ideological  Islamism, which we must continue to reign in and closely monitor, and the state of Saudi Arabia which we must support as an ally, not a friend, but an ally.

Arab:Perian Gulf

  1. As with every arms deal the equipment delivered is only one part of the process. The training and spare parts to use and maintain the equipment is a vital part of the arms delivery. Should the U.S. become unhappy with the foreign policies of the regime, the training and spare parts can be turned on and off,  to be used  as leverage. In other words, with every arms delivery to country X they become that much more dependent on us. It gives us a much greater amount of influence.
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Me shaking hands with King Hussein in 1971

4. With this arms flow of training and spare parts come U.S. advisors going to country         X  , as well as their officers coming here for training. This is one of the most cost-effective and unheralded parts of the entire security assistance program. This is a people-to-people program wherein some of the most talented and politically well-connected officers of country X attend classes here. In my many years working with international student officers both here and in country, it is very rare that an officer returns to his country with a jaundiced view of America. What they see is a real revelation, particularly to Arab officers, as they are constantly bombarded with vitriolic anti-American propaganda from their media and it is reinforced by the salacious Hollywood presentation of American life. In my own experience these close personal relations with the senior officers of country X pay huge dividends in times of crisis

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My great and good friend Captain Sayil Reshaday of the Jordanian Army, Graduate of our Armor School

.5. Arab culture is secretive by nature, and the regimes compound it with their hyper-sensitivity to anything remotely resembling gathering information. There is a clear divide between the job of the Defense Attaché in- country and those who work the security assistance programs. Nevertheless it is important that we know how our equipment (and other actions’ as well) is being used. The security assistance teams in country give us a measure of the transparency.. I recall quite vividly in 1971 when the Indian Attache stormed into my office in Amman, Jordan, handing me the tail numbers of shot-down F-104 Starfighters that we had delivered to Jordan and had been transferred to Pakistan by the Jordanian government.

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President of Egypt  General Al Sisi. Like Mubarak probably not too popular but he stands against the Islamist terror of the Muslim Brotherhood. Very important to US policy in the Middle East. He was a graduate of our US Army War College.

6.There is no doubt that in almost every Arab State the military is a double-edged sword. It protects the regime and at the same time it threatens it. The number of military coups (or attempted coups)  in the Arab countries are numerous. Iraq alone has had four successful and several unsuccessful.  One of the requirements of the regime  is to keep the officer corps happy. The perks of living and benefits is part of it, but another is to ensure that the generals receive the very best obtainable, in terms of armament. Some might sarcastically call them toys for the regime to show off. It is not far from the truth.  It is not a matter of whether they can use it. It is more a matter of the priority the regime can demonstrate they put on the military establishment. In effect, it is a tool to obtain stability.

Egyptian Air defense soldier with our HAWK missile system

Egyptian soldiers training with Hawk Missile system

training with Arabs

Top right; drinking tea with bedu and Trucial; Oman Scouts, Trucial Coast 1969. top left; Egyptian Ranger training 1982 Midle Left. Myself with Egyptian officers. bottom right; With Egyptian air defense during HAWK shoot. right middle;Jordian soldiers in Ghor valley Bottom left. Egyptian rangers on slide for life. A dog and pony show.

7.Domestically the arms industry is not just an important economic consideration; it is also a vital national security issue. When our services are not buying, our arms assembly lines would have to be shutdown were it not for foreign contracts. Few recognize what happens when an assembly line for a major item of equipment shuts down. Most, like the Abrams tank produced in Lima Ohio, have many dozens of subcontractors. Many are mom and pop shops to  produce  small but vital parts of the tank. When these close down the skilled workers move on and it takes months to revive a “cold” assembly line in a time of crisis.

8. The Saudis and Gulf states pay in hard cash, unlike many other allies such as Egypt which basically  buy using loans which essentially are never repaid..

9.In coalition warfare such as Desert Storm, and in the operations in Iraq today it is an immense advantage to have allies using U.S. equipment, understanding U.S. doctrine and our military culture. Nothing is more heartening to an American officer working with allies to realize that they understand our military lexicon and our way of war.

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Member of US trained “Golden Division”  The best unit in the Iraqi Army and a bulwark for the  Al Abadi Government against Iranian control of Shi’a militias.

10. If we do not sell to the Saudis, the British, French, Chinese and Russians, and a host of others are more than happy to fill the void. What have we gained by that?

11.  So president Trump  is absolutely right that the arms agreement with Saudi Arabia will keep and expand jobsm , but more importantly, it will bring a host of other benefits to  our military
update: Brookings Institute, a very liberal organization  has written that the 110 abillion “contracts” that Donald Trump supposedly  concluded with the Saudis during his recent visit were not really contracts at all, but were rather penciled signatures on papers, letters of intent ,and heartfelt promises. But nevertheless the truth (a loose term these days) is that the die has been cast, and  Saudi Arabia knows exactly where Donald Trump stands, and unlike the previous president, Barack Hussein Obama, who saw Iran as the new hope of the Middle East,  supposedly ridding them of their desire to produce nuclear weapons,   but giving them a free hand in the Middle East to do pretty much as they pleased. As for myself I’m quite pleased with the Saudi deal, as I said earlier, one cannot   not make of friends of them. They have been dumping suicide bombers and cutthroat killers in the hinterlands of Syria and Iraq for  years. The individual wealth of Saudis enabled them to support terrorist activities, with the government turning a blind eye to their  activities. Saudi wealth enabled  the Islamists to buy expensive gear and weapons., and buy more radio and social media access.

Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi

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https://vimeo.com/218484759

This one was done a week ago and was titled syria II. It is about my continued trip to Aleppo with my observations it was previously posted and then somehow I deleted it

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https://vimeo.com/218397440

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Syria Part II

I got twisted around my tongue on how Basil was killed. He was killed in an automobile accident in Jan 1994.  I just can’t remember much about Aleppo. It seemed lethargic and without much life, The famed Suq was rather disappointing and the Mosque…well once you have seen one, you have mostly seen them all. The same with Churches and Cathedrals. I’m just not much on archeology except as how it affects the cultural life. In Aleppo the people there seemed lifeless and spiritless as they did in most of Syria. I remember leaving Syria for Cyprus and how happy I was to leave it. As I sat in the airport waiting, across from me was a Syrian woman in abaya and wearing a hijab, Running around and all over her were three little boys. As I noted boys are often ill disciplined in the Arab world until they reach puberty. Don’t ever sit next to them on an airplane.  Their mother will just look at them with adoring eyes as they trample all over you. Anyway the lady seemed so stressed and unhappy as she gazed with vacant eyes out of the airport window,   a  mess of never washed glass, flyspecked and smeared with fly goo.  I thought to myself…so much for the oft quoted Arab Muslim argument that their women happily trade some freedom for security. What security?

( God.  I was so happy to get to Nicosia and life again)

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Syria 1995

I visited Syria for a couple of weeks  in 1995 and based on what i read and hear very little in the basic problems and cultural issues have changed.

This is just a lead in to other short videos I hope to do on Syria, particularly the Syrian army.   Because of my limited internet knowledge I have to keep the videos very short and there is much more I could add to the videos but anything much over 4 minutes is difficult to download and put on word press.

One thing I want to  emphasize is the death like atmosphere in Hamah and Homs. Both had taken a terrible beating in the 1982 when the Syrian army put down a rebellion by the Brotherhood.  ( Here you will usually see Western histories of Syria inserting the word “brutal”) , but it was typical of the Arab methods of destroying an insurrection. The scars of massive destruction were still there. The Muslim Brotherhood was crushed but the society remained under the social yoke of Fundametalist Islam. But a having visited other parts of the Arab world repressed by fundamentalist Islam, I found the same somber, unhappy atmosphere. In fact the irony is that this repressive Islamist movement is inimical to the Arab culture of a buoyant, often ebullient society, loving music and dance, and free animated conversation. That is always missing in s fundamentalist environment. I shall always remember the sour faces and constipated facial expressions. Very rare in Arab society, at least in those days.

The danger of supremacist Islam is often overlooked with the emphasis being on more violent  organizations. But make no mistake about it. The Muslim Brotherhood and their fellow travelers, many among ignorant Western academics, is a danger wherever it exists.

Damascus was very different, with excellent  restaurants  and a  lively night life. As long as you understood that you were in an authoritarian dictatorship with a number of  omnipotent, omnipresent security services, alway sniffing around to find anti Assad sentiment, and you lived your life understanding that, you could live relatively safely. The old Arab proverb , “Blessed is the man with a beautiful wife and whom the sultan does not know,” In other words keep your mouth shut and stay out of the limelight.

 

 

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Potpourri of My take on the State of the Middle East and How we got there.

From a lecture at Chapel Hill NC  ( not at UNC) April 017

chapel hill updated by samPresentation !!! Chapel Hill-2

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