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Iran: ‘Persian Gulf’ or we’ll impound your planes 23, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, The Gulf.
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(That’s not a coffee cup, by the way)

As if I haven’t covered this enough recently x x x x, Iran is having another hissy-fit over the Arabian Gulf/Persian Gulf naming controversy. This time around it stems from a Greek steward on a Kish Airlines internal flight who started arguing with a passenger about the ‘real’ name of the Gulf.

The story started on Al Arabiyya but has [why I’m surprised, I just don’t know] ended up splashed across the media with the Iranian Government now *sigh* threatening to make all incoming flights display the phrase Persian Gulf on their in-flight maps, lest their planes are grounded. If you want to read more on this issue, please use the links in the first sentence, I don’t have the will to rewrite the same stuff again…

This kind of reaction is similar to that after the Chinese-Israeli orange importing incident last year, not to mention the Chinese jeans fiasco. If I were in an uncharitable mood, I’d say Iranian politicians were professional overactors.

Iranian Defence Minister to visit Qatar 23, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, Qatar.
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Not long after Iranian warships chaperoned Hilary Clinton’s visit to Doha, Iran’s Defence Minister is due to visit Qatar later this week. Cue warm, friendly statements of shared histories, interests and ever-increasing levels of cooperation.

Hat tip: Will Ward

Twitter not instrumental in Green Movement? 23, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, Iran.
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A recent Al Jazeera study sought to dispel the notion that Twitter was instrumental in the organization and popularization of Iran’s Green Movement. The head of new media at the Doha based news organization concluded that there were less than 60 twitterers in Tehran at the time. This number subsequently fell to only 6 owing to subsequent media restrictions. Such a conclusion would be a blow to those that trumpeted the social networking revolution provoking near revolution in Iran.

However, before any firm conclusions can be drawn, the role of Tor and similar proxy redirecting servers needs to be evaluated. These services reroute ISP addresses redirecting traffic through foreign servers instead. Whilst I am no technological whizz, I don’t quite see how Al Jazeera could have taken this into account. The whole point of Tor is, after all, to keep the original ISP address (ergo its country of origin) a secret. I am willing, however, to be corrected…

Hat tip: Abu Aadrvark

Kuwait oil to Japan down 20% 22, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Japan, Kuwait.
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KUNA reports that in December 2009 Kuwait’s exports of oil to Japan were down 20% on the same period last year. Anyone have any ideas why? Perhaps it’s just a random cyclical thing…

Durham and their Iran conference controversy 22, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, UK.
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At the end of January the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University, UK (both my department and my University) held a conference attended by relatively hard-line Iranian academics and diplomats. The two keynote speakers pulled out at the last-minute to avoid the controversy kicked up by students angry at the University hosting such an event. Thus, in the words of the conference organiser Dr.Colin Turner it was “monopolised by pro-regime speakers.”

Aside from the notion of giving a detestable regime a platform to discuss their points, Durham’s Iranian students were specifically angry about a few things. First, on the day of the conference Iranian authorities announced the execution of two young men condemned as terrorists. Second, there is a Durham PhD student in Iran who has had his passport taken away preventing him from leaving the country.

Turner, the organiser, defended the conference with rather injudicious gusto.

These same people who denigrate us have absolutely no problem in accepting scholarships from the British government – which has turned the slaughter of innocent teenagers in Iraq and Afghanistan into an art form. Before they accuse us of receiving what they term ‘blood money’ from our Iranian funders, maybe they should look a little more closely at the source of their own funding.

Whilst his intrinsic point may be true about differing sources of funding, by using such crude hyperbole he comes across as something of a partisan zealot.

This issue is certainly difficult. Dialogue is just about always the best thing. Peace, reconciliation and other such positives cannot come about if there is no interaction at all. Yet, in practice, this is obviously distasteful. Talking to the IRA was clearly the best thing to do, for now there is an absence of their terrorism. Setting free IRA prisoners as part of the bargain was also the right thing to do in exchange for peace. Yet, many of these steps can just feel so wrong. Setting free unrepentant killers years or decades early in particular grates profoundly. Notions of ‘the greater good’, I suppose, must take over personal, human emotions at this point. Perhaps this difficulty is as simple as a macro versus a micro point of view; easy to understand on the grand scale, but when they are speaking in your department, it’s more difficult to accept.

Patriot and Aegis in Gulf to pressure Iran 22, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iran, The Gulf.
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UPI reports that the Obama Administration has accelerated the deployment of anti-missile defenses to friendly Gulf States to counter the Iranian missile threat. Patriot Systems and Aegis Cruisers are the key plinths of this deployment, though General Petraeus did not specifically name the countries that hosted the Patriot Systems. This is somewhat curious as the Guardian reported at the end of January that the Patriot System would be installed in Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain, with Kuwait and KSA having their existing systems upgraded. The widespread leaking of this move is seen as a mechanism to heap pressure on Iran.

Patriot Missile Facts

– Production began in 1980

– Currently at least 17 countries operate the system

– In the first Gulf War their success rate was 70% in KSA and 40% in Israel

– Each missile can weigh up to 1000kg, has a range of 100 miles, is more than 6m long, costs around $9 million and carries 90kg of explosives

– It automatically finds its target by radar

On the origin of the minaret 21, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Islam, Syria.
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Also at the book launch at the Ismaili Center [see the previous post] the editor discussed a popular story relating to the birth of the Minaret. Back in the x century Arab forces retook Damascus. They went to what is today the Omayyad Mosque which was then a huge Christian church and saw the bell tower towering above them and decided that that would be a good place from which to announce the call to preyre. Lo and behold the idea of the Minaret was born. Or at least, so that particular story runs. Competing ‘versions’ of the origin of the Minaret are welcome…

Book launch at London Ismaili Center 21, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Islam.
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Last week at London’s Ismaili Center there was a book launch. The Center is sponsoring a series of more accessible books on the Muslim world with “A Companion to the Muslim World” being the first. The editor, Aymn Sajoo, was interviewed by CNN’s Zain Verjee on stage where he discussed various aspects of the book.

From time to time he brought up Bernard Lewis in discussing how the media gravitate towards him and his ‘popular name’ when they seek coverage of an issue. I agree with him, though at times he did come across as being jealous of Lewis’ attention.

Later on Sajoo quoted the Jaroslav Pelikan:

Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.

This struck me immediately as a pithy and exceedingly elegant sentence with a rather profound meaning. So far as I understand it, Pelikan sees tradition as being something positive, learned and passed down the generations. Whereas traditionalism for him has negative connotations of people blindly and devoutly following old creeds not because they understand them or agree with them but because they are simply old and thus feel duty-bound to follow them. Though being far from a theology student, I stand to be corrected…

US anti-‘Iranian’ missile interceptor fails 21, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iran.
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A recent attempt to shoot down what was staged to resemble an Iranian-fired ballistic missile failed. The Department of Defense commented that part of the radar system did not work as expected.

Whilst I most certainly do not profess to be an expert on these matters, ballistic missile interceptors like this never seem to work that well. Moreover, fundamentally, I don’t really agree that they are that much use. For every advance in interceptor technology there can be an (easier) advance in missile technology countering it. Given the staggering sums of money involved in these projects, I just cannot believe that there are not better ways to spend it than on epically complex systems with high failure rates.

The Shisha car 21, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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The Shisha car…a more relaxing way to drive.

Hat tip: Will Ward