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RAK: a rentier coup in a rentier state 8, June 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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Gone are the days when a son embraced his father only to – et tu Brute? style – jab him with a knife and assume the throne. In 1995 the Qatari Emir just waited until his father was on his holidays (not very long judging by the amount of time he was out the country) and assumed the throne. Not very eventful, not very interesting, not much blood; perhaps Middle Eastern coups were beginning to lose some of the panache of the past.

From this sublime example we go to the more ridiculous modern-day coup currently occurring in Ras Al Khaimah. In the past when Brits have been involved in such coups, they had invariably been ex-SAS types. Hired and exceptionally well-trained guns to take out the Presidential guard and put their paymaster on the throne (if they didn’t get caught at the airport, that is). Yet today it seems that the British connection is a slightly portly lawyer from Farnham in (perfectly legal) cahoots with a high-end PR form from Washington D.C. How times have changed, yet how utterly unsurprising; they can’t even be bothered to get their hands dirty offing the rival: the rentier coup for the rentier state.

Seven years ago Shiekh Khalid bin Saqr Al Qasimi was ousted from power in Ras Al Khaimah, the northern most Emirati state, with little more than a shove and limited use of a water cannon. Khalid went into exile in Oman and London and plotted corporate revenge.

For his $15000 per week, his PR  agency – California Strategies – put together a whole media 2.0 package to Facebook him back into power. A swanky website and twitter feed was the beginning. Now, after photos and support from one or perhaps both Clintons and assorted concerted lobbying, Khalid is on the verge of returning to power, with the Emirate’s President seemingly about to do a spot of deposing and reimposing.

The back story to this stems from RAK’s geographical location. At the very northernmost tip of the Emirates it is closest to Iran and the Straits of Hormuz and devoid, just about, of oil and gas. This is the basis for wild claims put forth by the PR agency that RAK is little more than – you guessed it – a haven for Al Qaeda and for Iran to do its best sanctions busting. I confess that I am no expert on this particular topic, but I think that we can safely take everything spouted forth by the PR agency with, as they say, a pinch of salt. It’s not like, after all, Iranian relations are a strange thing for the Emirates: Dubai is at times little more than a glitzy Iranian spur-city. There are persistent rumours, spread by the PR agency, I’d have thought, that RAK was involved somehow in a plot to blow up the Burj Dubai Khalifah and attack the America’s cup team. Whilst I thought that the former was the work of people from Ajman, I could be wrong.

Amidst the spin, non-existant Emirati investagative reporting and wholesale media crackdown on these stories, I genuinely do not know the extent of the truth in these charges. Do let me know if you do. I’d have thought that there is, as I said, naturally a fair bit of Iran trade in RAK. As for the terrorist bit…who knows?

The unusually thorough report from the Guardian also includes the great nucta that some of the PR staff were on a $250,000 ‘get me back on the throne’ bonus.

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