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UAE backheel penalty: tut tut 26, July 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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The clip below shows an Emirati player backheeling a penalty against Lebanon.

To those that perhaps don’t understand football culture, this is a shoddy thing to do. And it’s far worse and far more humiliating a thing to do if you’re already 6-2 up. Clearly, you’ve already wiped the floor with the opposition, to do something like this is wholly beyond the spirit of the game. Tut tut.

In any case, as any footballer will know (even a rubbish one like me), he makes a complete ass of himself doing so: it’s practically a mis-kick. If you want to see how to do this watch Totti below who did this in practice. Classy.

European cliches 26, July 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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I owe someone a hat tip for this, but confess that I’ve no idea who. Sorry.

The worsening Kuwait Iraq relationship 26, July 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iraq, Kuwait.
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I recently wrote an article for Foreign Affairs discussing the ever-worsening Kuwaiti-Iraqi relationship. You should give it a read.

I note today with neither joy nor vindication a further worsening of their relationship. Specifically, an Iraqi MP has accused Kuwait of stealing Iraq’s oil with ‘slant drilling’. This comment, as infuriating as it is by itself, is all the worse given the historical resonance with which it is loaded loaded: Saddam Hussein said the same thing as one of his pretexts for invading Kuwait.

At the moment the relationship is entering a spiral. Comments from deliberately provocative MPs on both sides purely designed to please a domestic audience are making things worse. This patch of deliberate provocation will pass.

Then, cool-headed MPs must prevail upon their counterparts to reset this relationship for everyone’s sake, using the real benefits which are possible should the two neighboring countries come together as a carrot. Needless to say, these MPs will have a hard time, for it is infinitely easier to prey on the public’s prickly fears and prejudices than it is to ask for a mature and long-term thinking approach.

Norway PM quote on the attacks 24, July 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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Needless to say, the events of yesterday in Oslo are profoundly shocking.

I’ve got nothing useful to add to the discussion or analysis on this topic other than to remind you, dear reader, to try to eschew the myriad of Scandinavian right-wing terror experts that will inevitably emerge in the coming days like Gremlins dunked in water.

I’ll end with this rather beautiful quote used by the Norwegian Prime Minister. Ordinarily, I’d mock such sentiments for being overly soppy or even mawkish, but on this occasion, I think that it’s apropos.

If one man can display so much hate, consider how much love we can create together.

China’s mega projects 17, July 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China.
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Here’s a link to an excellent slideshow marveling at China’s immense projects, both foreign and domestic.

This picture is of the Shanghai Tower, what will be the world’s second tallest building. It’s amazing to think how much taller it will be than the Jin Mao tower (middle) which is a sumptuously beautiful and incredibly tall building already on Pudong. However, the key issue – for me at least – is whether they can fill these buildings. Back when I was in Pudong – granted, aaaages ago – it was a lifeless area. No throng, or bustle at all because there was, well, no one working there. I wonder how China’s version of Dubai’s ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy will pan out for them.

The Saudi-Egyptian Causweay 17, July 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt, Saudi Arabia.
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So plans are vaguely afoot for Saudi Arabia and Egypt, or rather Saudi Arabia, to build a causeway linking the two countries together. What a wonderful joint venture undertaken in the spirit of good, fraternal and long-term friendship.

What, do we think, are the odds of this actually coming to pass; of it actually being built? Snowball’s chance in hell? Accrington Stanley winning the Champion’s League? Me ever finishing my sodding PhD? Sumfin’ like that, methinks.

QIA Investment Stratagy – Wikileaks 12, July 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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I’ve just stumbled upon, once more, Wikileaks’ treasure-trove of interesting bits and pieces. In addition to HBJ voicing his concern over the security situation in Yemen and the Qataris noting that they doubt that their electricity infrastructure could cope with a nuclear reactor in Qatar, there was also an interesting conversation related by the American Ambassador after a member of the Qatar Investment Authority’s executive board, Dr Hussain Al Abdulla.

While there was nothing new in the conversation to those that pay attention to these things, it was pleasing to see the policies codified in black and white.

  • An interest in ‘any commodities’ – gold, silver, oil, gas, agricultural products. This was based on a belief that there are long-term structural changes afoot in these markets suggesting price increases.
  • Business acquisition.  QIA is “not interested in distressed assets or distressed debt. We are interested in distressed sellers.”
  • Real estate in US and Europe, not Asia.
  • Beginning to invest in South America – particularly in agriculture.

Regarding QIA’s various vehicles, again, there was nothing new to see, but a brief summary-

  • QIA itself as an investment company for established enterprises
  • Diar (wholly QIA owned) focussed on development projects
  • Barwa – owned by QIA, to be privatised at some date
  • National Hotel Corporation – owned by QIA, to be privatised at some date

Egyptian fears realised? 12, July 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt.
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Back when all this started, like a crotchety old git, I bemoaned the perils of Egypt’s transition. Of course it is a good thing that Mubarak is gone, I said to anyone who would listen, but I have a great and profound fear that people automatically expected things to get better…immediately. Sure, Mubarak retarded Egypt’s growth, say, or certainly he and his crony-elite creamed off billions which ought to have trickled down, but simply removing him will change sweet FA in the near term.

The fact that it was a largely youth-led revolution, combined with my crotchetyness, made me even more concerned. I tritely mashed together notions of the MTV generation’s legendary attention span (measured in seconds) and general youth attributes of impatience and impetuousness, to conclude that when everything didn’t suddenly end up smelling like roses immediately, there would be another flare up of indignant anger. Indeed, this chronic youthful naivety was profoundly in evidence at the Al Jazeera Forum in Doha earlier in the year, with at least one of the ‘Egyptian youf’ noting that it was only a matter of time before Pan-Arabism was revived off the back of the Egyptian revolution. Bless.

Well, perhaps my melancholic fear is coming true. While I’m well aware of Fisk’s penchant for exaggeration these days, he perhaps might have a point here.



French & US Embassy in Damascus attacked 11, July 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Syria.
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Reports are emerging that pro-Assad protestors have been attacking the US and French Embassies in Damascus, Syria.

Guards at the French Embassy apparently had to shoot into the air to drive back the crowds.

I cannot see how the US Embassy in Damascus could possibly have been ‘stormed’ as some of the more incorrigible reports have been claiming. Countless security assessments would have been carried out in recent weeks on this exact topic and it’s not like the US don’t have a rather bitter recent-ish memory of such incidents. Moreover, from what I remember, the US Embassy in Damascus is a fortress in a cage: it would take a lot more than some protestors to break it, methinks.

Still, attacking the Embassy and damaging it in some way, shape or form will likely have serious repercussions for Assad, despite the fact that he will surely claim it as a spontaneous reaction of loyal Syrians.


Reuters notes that the attackers have now left the Embassy complex. In other words, they perhaps got through the outermost layer of security. I’d venture to guess that they stood no chance of getting through any more layers. Apparently, the Syrian police response was “slow and insufficient’. Shocking.

News of the World crossword last laugh 10, July 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in UK.
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Despite threats to the journalists to behave themselves and not to attempt to insert any coded criticisms in the News of the World’s last edition, which included hiring two journalists to scan the paper for any such examples, the NOTW crossword makers appear to have wholly stitched up their former and extraordinarily maligned boss, Rebekah Brooks.

In the quickie crossword clues were the words:

“Brook”, “stink”, “catastrophe” and “digital protection”

The clues for the cryptic crossword were plainer still:

“criminal enterprise”, “mix in prison”, “string of recordings”, “will fear new security measure”  and “woman stares wildly at calamity”

The answer to this last clue is “disaster”

Other answers included

“stench”, “racket” and “tart”.

Hat tip: @blakehounshell