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Newt Gingrich’s Mussolini moment 19, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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Gingrich:
There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.

Mussolini:
There will be a mosque in Rome only when a Roman Catholic church is permitted in Mecca.

Hat tip: Comment Central

US combat troops leave Iraq 19, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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Anyone else reminded of…

(NB. This is not a photo of people being evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, as is commonly mistaken).

Car cookies in Doha 19, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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You all probably know that the Gulf can be quite a hot place. BUT, did you know that it’s so hot that you can bake cookies in your car? A female expatriate in Qatar – guess which country she’s from (and which state in that country)  – decided to give it a whirl on 14th July when Doha’s temperature was recorded at 50.4C, the highest recorded temperature for four decades.

Hat tip: Abu Arqala

Saudis can’t see the funny side 19, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Whilst thegulfblog.com is, in the immortal words of Snap!, “…as serious as cancer”, occasionally, as you loyal followers know, I like to lighten the usually onerous load of Middle Eastern reportage. Cue two silly stories.

A Saudi satirical sketch show (yes, they do – sort of – exist) Tash Ma Tash (No Big Deal) has fostered a minor storm of predictable outrage in the easily outrageable Kingdom.

The central character takes four husbands, explaining herself using the    conventional arguments Saudi men use to exercise their legal and religious    privilege of marrying four times.

Then she decides she wants to marry for a fifth time, making the four husbands    draw lots to see who will be divorced and plunging them into a morass of    jealousy.

When she remarries for the first time she complains that her existing husband    has stopped caring about his looks after five years, and is preoccupied with    work.

The next marriage is for a dare with friends, and the fourth marriage, to a    Syrian, she explains by saying that she is now bored with Saudi men.

Whilst this is hardly biting satire, it’s a mildly amusing little skit beyond the sense of humour of numerous Saudis. However, the Torygraph reports that it is apparently a favourite of Saudi’s King Abdullah who has been making significant (for Saudi) liberal noises recently.

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened were this controversy to have occurred under the presumed next Saudi King – Naif – who is a staunch conservative. Whilst Abdullah too was feared to be conservative when he was Crown Prince, he has transpired to be somewhat different, so to speak. The key question for Saudi is, if Naif takes over, whether the exigencies of power will mellow his conservative tendencies.

Hat tip: Out Al Arabiyya colleague

Galloway interviewing Ahmadinejad 19, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran.
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Amazing. Not in a good way.

Bahrain’s security crackdown 18, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain.
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Four opposition activists have been arrested in Bahrain and their whereabouts remains unknown.

Abd Al Jalil Al Singace was arrested on 13th August when he arrived back from London. Abdal Ghani Al Khanjar, Sheikh Said Al Nuri, and Sheikh Muhammad Habib Al Moqdad were arrested on 15th August after attending a conference in the UK’s House of Lords earlier on in the month during which they criticized Bahrain’s human rights record. Al Muqdad and Al Nouri are outspoken critics and Al Kanjar is the head of a human rights group that supports the victims of torture.

Whilst no official comment has been made, it is believed that they have been arrested for “inciting violence and terrorist acts.” Despite Bahraini law dictating that they ought to have been brought before the public prosecutor by now, this has, as yet, not happened.

Human Rights Watch reports that Al Singace is a lecturer at the University of Bahrain and a leader of the Shia-based Haq movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy that has advocated the boycott of elections and election officials.

Elections for Bahrain’s Parliament are due on the 23rd October. The majority of Bahrain’s population is Shia yet are largely disenfranchised. Recent years have seen the percentages of Shia and Sunni change starkly. Whilst the Shia used to be a clear, large majority (70%+) thanks to the co-option and immigration of Sunni tribes, they are down to a majority of, according to some reports, only 55-60%.

These measures have already fostered protests and more are surely on the way.

Pakistan floods satellite image comparison 18, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Central Asia.
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These pictures were taken on the 10th August 2009 and 11th of August. 2010. They show, better than anything I’ve seen yet, the veritable  explosion of the River Indus. Don’t forget that these are satellite images and the scale is enormous: these pictures show essentially all of Pakistan.

(NB. Just to be clear, the turquoise splodges are clouds)

Obit: Classicist, scholar & warrior Bernard Knox 17, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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The New York Times ran a suitably glowing and reverential obituary of Bernard M. W. Knox who died on 22nd July 2010. He was 95.

If one was to have the ability to manufacture a romantic yet steely and honoured career for an academic then one would most likely write the life of Bernard Knox. American born but raised in the U.K., Knox studied – what else? – Classics at – where else ? – Cambridge. He then left to fight in the most romantic war of his age, the Spanish Civil War. Later he served in the U.S. Army in World War Two where, as a part of an O.S.S. detachment, he parachuted into France and worked with the resistance before working with the Italian partisans.

After returning to the U.S. and winning the Bronze Star and the Croix De Guerre, he once again studied Classics at Yale earning his doctorate in 1948. He became full Professor in 1959 and in 1961 started the Harvard affiliated Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington.

In addition to writing numerous celebrated books (many still in print today) he regularly featured in the New York Review of Books and won various scholarly prizes.

Hat tip: Abu Muwawama

Qatar: ‘largest radioactive store in Mid East’ 17, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Qatar.
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An environmental NGO has charged that the U.S. military is turning Qatar into the largest store of radioactive waste in the Middle East. They also note that Qatar houses the largest ammunition store outwith America.

Depleted uranium weapons, empty shells casings and uranium ‘infected’ detritus from various battle fields are, it alleges, being stored in vast quantities in Qatar, and elsewhere. Whilst depleted uranium shells etc  may technically be ‘radioactive waste’, it is hardly tantamount to the usual connotations of  the term.

Additionally, in a slightly shrill article, Khalid Al Hjri, the group’s Chairman, warns that the Gulf region as a whole could be subject to a “nuclear disaster” because of the nuclear powered ships that the U.S. has floating around the region. Again, technically true, I suppose. But what’s the alternative? All such U.S. ships to leave? Would the Gulf countries be safer with an Iranian ‘umbrella’?

IDF holiday snaps 17, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
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What a delightful photo to put on facebook or to send to your mom. This photo emerged from an album entitled: “The IDF…the best time of my life.”

You’ve got to think that when the Israeli army describes your behavior as “ugly and callous” then you’re really far out in left (perhaps that should be right) field…

Is it just me or do examples like this not really seem to hit on one of the key cruxes of the issue: an institutionalized lack of respect? Obviously, I am sure [desperately hope, rather] that most IDF soldiers are not like the delightful Eden Abergil here, but the simple, every day banality of the measures – from arrests to roadblocks to detentions – can only foster such deep hatred on a personal level. How routine, for example, are the detentions in the above picture? To say that this would build a simmering, burning resentment would be an understatement of epic proportions.