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The horror: Kuwaiti athletes participate with Israelis! 31, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Kuwait.
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A few news organisations in Kuwait appear to be puffing themselves up with indignant bluster after it has emerged that three Kuwaiti athletes took part in an athletics event where – brace yourself – Israeli athletes also participated.

These judicious defenders of Kuwait’s virtue and sworn enemies of any and all vice in Kuwait (perhaps they should call themselves the Virtue and Vice police?) leapt to savage these treacherous Kuwaitis who finished 111th, 117th and 118th at the world-famous Polish Cross Country Championships.

Let’s all be thankful that these vigilant morality warriors spotted this mendacious and unconscionable affront to Kuwaiti piety. Imagine – just imagine! – the possible consequences had they – I shudder at the thought – actually MET one of the Israelis: they might have exchanged a few words of dialogue…oy vey…

Of course, the key thing to remember here is that Palestinians, so dear to the Kuwaiti’s hearts and the reason for this pathetic honorable reporting will, I am sure, be thrilled and thankful at all the meaningful, literal and on-the-ground differences that this Kuwaiti gesture has made.

Life’s Saudi photo archive 31, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Some time ago I had a brief look through Life magazine’s photo archive powered by Google. Saudi Jeans has just reminded me what a fantastic resource it is. Well worth a browse.

Some things seem to have changed a lot:

Others, not so much:

Soon to be King Faisal:

Hat tip: Saudi Jeans

Source: Google-Life archive via Google’s blog

A study of US political scandals 30, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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Someone with clearly too much time on their hands has undertaken an academic study of political scandals in US politics. They took into account

58 scandals over the past 20 years involving all politicians or major candidates for city mayor and above…[using]…a methodology that accounted for whether a crime was committed, versus inappropriate behavior; whether the charges were proven, versus alleged; the level of office held; and whether the incident involved children, staff, a coverup or hypocrisy.

Across the Beltway summarised their conclusions as follows:

– The number sex scandals has increased dramatically over the past few decades, thanks to technology, new press standards and a post-Clinton belief that everything is fair game.

– Democrats tend to have more problems with harassment, staffers and underage girls; Republicans tend to have more problems with prostitutes, hypocrisy and underage boys.

– Republicans have more scandals (32 to 26), but Democrats have bigger ones (13 out of top 20)

Hat tip: James Joyner

The ugly face of terrorism?? 30, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Saudi Arabia.
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There’s an article in Sharq Al Awsat titled The Ugly Face of Terrorism‘. What sort of a title is that? Such a title absurdly insinuates that there is a ‘pretty’ side to terrorism.

The article itself is simply the dullest of recapitulations of all the good ‘ol fashioned clichés about terrorism: it’s an unfair, evil, indiscriminate thing; it’s a scourge for us all; there’s nothing noble about a suicide attack and so on.

I realise that journalists have deadlines and editors demand column inches, especially in the aftermath of an attack that Moscow has just experienced, but this is the most banal, pointless, repetitious and redundant of articles and is a spectacularly bad indictment of ASAW that it was printed.

Kuwaiti wedding arsonist to hang 30, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait.
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Nasra al Enezi, the 23-year-old Kuwaiti woman who set fire to a wedding party last year killing 57 women and children has been found guilty of murder and will probably face the death penalty. If the appeal courts upholds the verdict she will become the first Kuwaiti woman to be executed.

Body of missing Abu Dhabi Sheikh found 30, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nayhan who went missing after a glider accident has been found dead in Morocco after an exhaustive search. The influential Emirati, younger brother of the President of the Emirates, was the CEO of one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world.

Republicans spent $2000 in strip club 30, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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Someone from the Republican national committee spent nearly $2000 at a club in Los Angeles where mostly naked women writhe in nets and glass boxes simulating sex. I’m sure their base will understand.

CIA attempt to persuade Europeans to maintain forces in Afghanistan 29, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Central Asia.
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Wikileaks has obtained a classified ‘not for foreigners’ CIA memo discussing strategies to shore up European support for ISAF forces in Afghanistan. In the wake of the Dutch Government’s demise over troop questions, the report states that there is a similarly grim outlook in France and Germany.

In France the report suggests focusing on the Afghan refugees as a way of ‘promoting’ the issue, whereas in Germany the notion of stressing the consequences that would negatively affect German interests is suggested as the way to proceed. Additionally, a focus on the multilateral and humanitarian nature of the conflict might shore up German support.

Using President Obama’s high regards in Europe was also suggested as a strategy. Were he to stress his full commitment to the process and the gains for Afghan women, this might also prove advantageous.

New York Times curiously apologises over Singapore comments 29, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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Forgive me for quoting at length here, but things have been put rather well already and this area of the world is outwith my expertise (such as it is).

A few days ago the New York Times ran the following apology.

In 1994, Philip Bowring, a contributor to the International Herald Tribune’s op-ed page, agreed as part of an undertaking with the leaders of the government of Singapore that he would not say or imply that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had attained his position through nepotism practiced by his father Lee Kuan Yew. In a February 15, 2010, article, Mr. Bowring nonetheless included these two men in a list of Asian political dynasties, which may have been understood by readers to infer that the younger Mr. Lee did not achieve his position through merit. We wish to state clearly that this inference was not intended. We apologize to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for any distress or embarrassment caused by any breach of the undertaking and the article.

This is a curious thing. Firstly, that a reporter would be help to account for some kind of undertaking made 16 years ago. Secondly, that the NYT really cared that much to print such an apology. Third, that, as Outside the Beltway put it:

Is there any question whatsoever that Singapore, despite having had elections for decades, is authoritarian by Western standards?  Or that nepotism and other forms of personal loyalty plays a stronger role in Singapore than in true representative democracies?  Or that Lee Kuan Yew played and continues to play an outsized role in Singapore and People’s Action Party politics?

Joyner, the author of the above comment, then clarifies via a quick email from a friend:

The reason the New York Times issued that correction is that if you print something about the Lee family, they will sue you in Singapore courts, which they control, and then they will win, and then they will seize any assets you happen to have in Singapore.  For the New York Times, this is an issue.

If you have ever wondered about the strange kid-gloves treatment the rather noxious family gets in the international media, that’s why.
And Joyner concludes that
It makes sense, actually.  And as Steven Taylor notes in the comments below and CJ Morton speculates via Twitter, it’s quite possible that NYT wrote the correction in the way they did precisely to elicit the reaction they did from readers paying attention.  That is, they simultaneously met their obligation to the Singapore autocrats and thumbed their noses at them.
An interesting little story.

Qatari Emir: ‘I’ve failed as Arab League head’ 29, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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In a refreshing speech, Qatar’s Emir has said that he has

no achievements to boast of in the past one year as head of the Arab Summit.

He continued to insist that there needs to be reforms within the Arab League if it is to succeed. Yet with differences entrenched, it is difficult to see any kind of unity befalling the League in the near future.