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On the 4th Gulf War 10, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iran, The Gulf.
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RUSI have a commentary by Dr. Neil Partrick on the Gulf States and the 4th Gulf War. Whilst there is nothing particularly new in this assessment, it nevertheless eloquently and intelligently sums up the issues in question regarding a possible future conflict between, broadly speaking, the US and Iran and all that that would involve for the Gulf States.

NYT journalist’s account of kidnapping 10, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Central Asia.
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Stephen-Farrell_2_611272a(Stephen Farrell – The Times)

Here’s the link to Stephen Farrell’s account of his four days in captivity after being kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan until his rescue by British Special Forces, during which one soldier died. It is as engaging and ‘page-turning’ a read as it is possible to get. Once again as with all of these writings or even just those where people have some spent time with terrorists/freedom fighters/irregulars/bandits/insurgents, what comes across most profoundly (to me at least) is the relative normality of the people. They aren’t monsters, though some of them to monstrous things. Alas the other aspect of the story that is familiar is that the interpreter is killed, this time not by execution but in the fire-fight at the very end.

Here’s a link to an article to the memory of Farrell’s translator, Sultan Munadi, who died in the rescue operation. I feel, however, that it is unfair to call people like Sultan translators. To me a translator is someone who sits in an office or in an organisation and translates articles, speeches and the like. They are in a civilian environment doing a civilian job. People like Sultan are a different breed entirely doing a different job entirely. Whilst they do not always do it well, they are, nevertheless, unquestionably risking their lives. Their job is, therefore, unequivocally different and must be treated as such. It makes decisions like the British Government’s not to automatically grant translators entry to the UK utterly disgusting and immoral.

Iran meddling in Yemen? 10, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East, Yemen.
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(Yemen was once variously known as Arabia Felix or Happy Yemen. The word being pushed off the cliff is Al Saaeed (Happy) by the other word Al Yemen. Al Hayat)

Michael Collins Dunn over at the indefatigable and ever-informative Middle East Institute Blog puts forward an intriguing case focusing on what he sees to be some level of distortion of coverage of the Yemani conflict. He discerns that there is something of an agenda of sorts being pushed by what appears to be much if not most of the Arabian Gulf’s media [I use the term pointedly, for a reason] to implicate Iran as fermenting, to various degrees, the trouble in Yemen.

This complex conflict between the Houthi rebels in the north against the south is being woefully simplified to the good, old fashioned binary Sunni/Shia conflict. Yet – needless to say – it if far more nuanced that this. Instead, Iran are ipso facto, so to speak, ‘supporting’ the Zaydis because they are quasi-Shi’ite and, ‘as usual’, – so the narrative goes – supporting terrorism of some description.

Dunn makes clear that there may well be sympathy from Tehran towards the Zaydis or even tacit (or otherwise) support. Yet there is little evidence of this. He further links this with the recent assassination attempts in Saudi (the bum bomb) and concludes that:

The result is that there seems to be an emerging narrative: the Yemeni Government is hand-in-glove with Al-Qa‘ida, or at least looks the other way, while their enemies the rebel Houthis are Iranian stalking horses. Or, if you want to combine the two, here (in Arabic) is a Saudi article in Al-Watan saying that the Houthis are actually supporting Al-Qa‘ida.

But the narrative is building. True, false, or in between, the charge is growing that Iran is fueling things in Yemen.

See this article in the Huffington Post for a Yemeni conflict primer.

Where is Iran Headed? 10, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran.
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…is an interesting article on the Tehran Bureau website about, as you might expect, Iran’s trajectory after the recent election debacle. Whilst it’s quite long and in-depth, it’s worth the read. The conclusions are not hopeful.

…in the view of many, the political establishment is neither Islamic nor a republic…The hardliners have made it increasingly difficult for many of the conservatives to support them.

So, in summary, here is where the author believes the Islamic Republic is headed: A situation in which the fissures at the top become even deeper, as the hardliners’ circle of ‘insiders’ become increasingly smaller, while at the same time, the anger and frustration of the people rapidly grows.

Unless the hardliners somehow decide to retreat and undertake deep and lasting reforms, the nation is moving toward a confrontation between the unarmed, but determined majority of the people, and the highly armed small minority that the hardliners represent.

Dubai metro takes off 10, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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At exactly 09.09.09 on 09.09.09 the ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid swiped his metro pass and boarded the first metro service in the Gulf. Along with countless other VIPs, followed by a train full of people who had won a ‘golden ticket’ to take part in the event, the service left  – where else – the Mall of the Emirates on the way to Rashidiya station.

The $7.6 billion system is expected to put a dent in the staggering levels of congestion on Dubai’s roads. So far, the system is working perfectly and many of those interviewed by local press maintain that they will use it instead of their cars. This, however, remains to be seen.