On Iran’s Stealth RQ 170 Capture 9, December 2011Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
Tags: American drone caputres, Beast of Kandahar, Beast of Kandahar caputred, Iran, Iran shot down drone, RQ 170, RQ 170 captured
So Iran did actually manage to get a hold of one of America’s drones this time? I would imagine that there are some highly concerned people in Washington and some people buying air tickets and grabbing bags full of cash in Moscow and Beijing.
Iran insists that it remotely jammed the UAV and landed it on purpose. But Iran lies quite a lot about these things. Their technology is, obviously enough , enormously inferior to America’s, but America’s hubris knows no bounds: hence the debacle in Iraq with the feeds from UAVs. Certainly, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Iran hacked the feed and took control of it (their asymmetric warfare capabilities need to be noted as significant, in particular) but it is more likely that either 1) a technical error from the US side caused the issue or 2) Iran managed to scramble the signal somehow. Either which way, these UAVs are designed to land themselves somewhere flat so certainly it didn’t need the Iranians to guide it down.
Certainly, this is a blow for America. How bad a problem remains to be seen in a few years when grainy footage emerges from a Chinese military base of a wing shaped UAV taking off.
Yet such a UAV has such eventualities taken into account; there is some degree of expendability built in.This is not to try to minimize the loss; as Michael Dunn notes, now for one thing Iran will be able to learn exactly what the RQ 170 actually does (i.e. only photography, sigint, radar suppression etc or some combination thereof).
There are, of course, two other possibilities entirely. 1) That Iran has made this out of leftover polystyrene and sticky back plastic or that 2) this is some enormously elaborate sting by America. Neither are that likely, but neither can be ruled out. Let the speculation begin.
On assumptions of truth 9, June 2011Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, North Africa, Opinion.
Tags: Gaddafi, Iran 2009 election, Rape weapon or wat, Stolen election 2009 Iran, Viagra gaddafi, Viagra Libya
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Earlier this evening I read an article in which Libya’s comical Ali-esque spokesperson refuted the claims that Gaddafi had given the order to use rape as a weapon of war and instead claimed that the rebels, as he refers to them, had even engaged in cannibalism.
Immediately I assumed that, as you can clearly see, the official spokesperson was lying about the rebels engaging in cannibalism. While I certainly have some skepticism about the notion of Gaddafi ordering some kind of systematic policy of rape to be used, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. And, from what little news I’ve seen about it and with their snippets of ‘proof’ (i.e. boxes of viagra apparently strewn around areas recently deserted by pro-Gaddafi forces) I would suppose that this story is mostly true.
Though, as I note, I have, essentially, bugger all proof of this. Essentially, I believe that Gaddafi (probably) used rape as a weapon of war even though it is based on no reasonable evidence. Why is this? Is it because I manifestly dislike Gaddafi and think that he’s either crazy or evil enough to concieve such a plan or because I read about it in a trusted news source? A bit of both I’d suppose.
Yet this thought perturbed me, somewhat, as I thought about it earlier. Particuarly in the light of the saga of the abduction of the ‘Gay Girl in Damascus’. As you’ve probably read, a ‘prominent’ blogger – the eponymous gay girl – posted (or had someone post for her) that she had been abducted by Syrian security forces. Only later, a few days after the story broke and she became something of a cause celebre against the awful Assad regime, it transpires that it’s all something of a hoax. She was never abducted and it is not wholly clear if she is real, gay, a girl, a blogger, in Damascus, or what.
Here again, I suppose, I automatically assumed that this story was (probably) true, or at least a good representation of the facts. After all, it sounded just like what Assad’s security services would do, didn’t it? And this fundamental assumption was expertly played on by the author of the ‘gay girl’ saga.
So too to I think that the notion of Gaddafi promoting the use of rape as a weapon of war fits really rather perfectly into my characature of ‘exactly something’ that that evil despot would do. Too perfectly, perhaps? Certainly the reply of Gaddafi’s spokesperson went the only way it could: it ramped up the act to cannibalism, perhaps one of the few taboos worse (though I really don’t want to start that argument) than rape. Presumebly the logical conclusion to this game of one-upmanship’s is for Gaddafi to accuse the rebels of engaging in nechrophilia.
But this un-subtle, rather stupid response from Gaddafi’s people doesn’t concern me; it’s blatant and obvious.
To take another example: the Iranian elections of 2009. They were, I believe, stolen by Ahmadinejad with an absurd amount of votes in certain districts mysteriously not counting for who they were expected to. I have alluded to this opinion as ‘fact’ in a number of things that I have written recently. Yet I have also been reading various quotes, comments and articles from people that I trust plainly declaring that there is no hard evidence of the election being stolen. Were someone to ask me to provide my evidence then I’d root around google news, find a NYT article or two and provide that. However, I suspect that were I to delve deeper into their sources, I imagine that there would (perhaps) not be all that much solid, bonafide ‘proof’ that the election were stolen. Such proof is, I’d have thought, near impossible to obtain. Yet I still believe that the election was stolen. So am I right to say so?
I suppose the ‘opposite’ example is currently underway, so to speak, on the other side of the Gulf where it is an assumption that has become hardened fact for many (and I’d be tempted to say most) Arabs that Iran is significantly at fault for, for example, the recent troubles in Bahrain. There is – to my knowledge; and I do live and breath this topic – no evidence of significant Iranian involvement, so I dismiss it, just as an Iranian may be tempted to dismiss my assumptions about their 2009 election.
How much ought one rely on one’s assumptions and on previous analysis in lieu of evidence for understanding a given event?
The notion that one must ‘always’ have absolute proof before one makes up one’s mind is absurd: I’ve no evidence whatsoever that the moon landings took place (on the moon…) but believe that they did. Clearly we need to rely on other people’s trusted judgments a lot of the time.
I’ve got no conclusion to this wavy and meandering stream of consciousness. All I would say is that this rant makes me believe that while blogging is good and all, it doen’t come remotely close to the rigour of a good newspaper (this blog being the grand exception, of course). While you may think that that is something of an obvious statement, I’m not so sure it is.
The hype that the ##sigh## Twitter revolutions have garnered, the ‘cool’ twenty-first centuryness of the blog and the commensurate if not necessarily wholly correlated demise of the profitability of newspapers suggest to me that the worth of newspapers is, for any or none of the afore mentioned reasons, going down.
So…I dunno…go buy a newspaper or something, I guess.
Shin Bet ‘Jewish Division’ head exposed 8, October 2010Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Tags: Avigdor Arieli, Avigdor Arieli video, Shin Bet, Shin Bet 'Jewish Division' head exposed, Shin Bet video
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This video shows a high-ranking member of Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service. The 17-year old Israeli who took this video and posted it on YouTube has been arrested as it is illegal to reveal and publicise such information.
Avigdor Arieli, the head of Shin Bet’s ‘Jewish Division’, lives in a settlement in the West Bank and his role it to monitor extreme right-wing Israeli settlers. Haaretz reports that his identity, despite being officially a secret, is well-known in the area.
As the sage Michael Dunn notes,
if the hardline settlers are out to get him, he must be doing something right.
Hat tip: Mideasti
Kuwait splurges its surplus & political reforms afoot? 20, October 2009Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait.
Tags: Kuwait, Kuwait budget surplus, Kuwait parliament, Kuwait Times, Silk Road City
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Business Intelligence Middle East reports that Kuwait will be spending some $63bn in the next four years on various projects which include fulfilling its oft-mooted Silk Road project, building a modern harbor and a railway and metro system.
Also in Kuwait, Michael Collins Dunn draws attention to an article in the Kuwait Times suggesting that they might revamp (again) their electoral district system by merging all areas into one large super constituency. Such a system would, theoretically, curtail the gerrymandering and buying of votes that has gone on when the districts were small and ‘buyable’. Whether or not this will aid in Kuwait’s political paralysis is, however, a different question.
Al Azhar bans the Niquab 10, October 2009Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt, Islam.
Tags: Al Azhar, Al Azhar Niqab ban, Egypt terrorist attacks, Niqab, Niqab ban, Sayed Tantawy
The Islamic World’s oldest, most revered and preeminent seat of higher education has banned women from wearing the Niqab, as pictured above, in their dormitories and in women only classrooms.
The Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar Mohammed Sayed Tantawy decided to enforce the ban did as the Niqab is not mandated at all by Islam but is instead only a regional custom. However, there is also the very real and practical result of this ban that female students now have to show their faces to male security guards.
Such a move is unsurprising in security conscious Egypt. One one level, the legion of state security organs are ever vigilant in maintaining Mubarak in power. Keeping a closer eye on their preeminent seat of Islamic learning and preventing it from radicalizing is one aspect of this. Those wearing the Niqab are thought to be – ipso facto – of a more austere and extreme Islamic persuasion. This is not so say that they are necessarily extremists: of course they are not; but those wearing it “tends [sic] to be adopted by the most radical elements” as Dunn puts it. Additionally, Egypt’s vast security apparatus is there to protect Egypt’s economic lifeline – tourism – from debilitating terrorist attacks such as devastating attacks in 1997 in Luxor and in 2005-6 in Shark El Sheikh and in Dahab respectively.
Jewish businessman to buy half of Al Jazeera? 8, October 2009Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Qatar.
Tags: Al Jazeera sale, Al-Jazeera, Haim Saban
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Micheal Collins Dunn turns Sherlock Holmes over the rumour that Jewish-Egyptian mogul Haim Saban is seeking to buy a large stake in Al Jazeera. Dunn comments that the notion that strong Jewish supporting tycoon buying Al Jazeera off the Qatari Royal Family sounds anywhere from bizarre to ridiculous (the latter of which being the end of the spectrum at which I stand). A bit of digging and Dunn goes to the source of the story, Egypt’s fairly scurrilous and tabloidish Al Misryyoon. Given the papers penchant for publishing – how to put this – not necessarily 100% corroborated reports and Egypt’s general antipathy towards Qatar these days and there is a perfect recipe for a naughty little story to stir up a bit of trouble.
Yemen: Who’s pulling the strings? 15, September 2009Posted by thegulfblog.com in Yemen.
Tags: Terrorism's Shangri-La, Tisdall, Yemen civil war
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Simon Tisdall in the Guardian has a good piece on Yemen. Unlike the Michael Collins Dunn who does not see much evidence of foreign involvement but rather a Sunni media frenzy over the potential of Iran interfering, Tisdall quotes the rebels in the North claiming that Saudi planes have bombed them and that they have recovered Saudi mortars. They, therefore, have been helped by Al Sadr’s Shia forces which are generally believed to be at Iran’s behest.
So far it seems to me that rhetoric is overtaking facts and that the Sunni half of the Gulf’s perpetual view that Iran is just bound to interfere has led them to either pronounce that they in fact are meddling or for them to counter and support their ‘own forces’ in the conflict.
It is, however, a messy conflict to the extent that Tisdale quotes the Wall Street Journal as describing it as being second only to the unruly Af-Pak border area of North Waziristan as a ‘terrorist’s Shangr-La‘.
Carnegie on Yemen. Worth a read.
Iran meddling in Yemen? 10, September 2009Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East, Yemen.
Tags: Houthis, Iran, Middle East Institute Blog, Yemen, Yemeni conflicy, Zaydis
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(Yemen was once variously known as Arabia Felix or Happy Yemen. The word being pushed off the cliff is Al Saaeed (Happy) by the other word Al Yemen. Al Hayat)
Michael Collins Dunn over at the indefatigable and ever-informative Middle East Institute Blog puts forward an intriguing case focusing on what he sees to be some level of distortion of coverage of the Yemani conflict. He discerns that there is something of an agenda of sorts being pushed by what appears to be much if not most of the Arabian Gulf’s media [I use the term pointedly, for a reason] to implicate Iran as fermenting, to various degrees, the trouble in Yemen.
This complex conflict between the Houthi rebels in the north against the south is being woefully simplified to the good, old fashioned binary Sunni/Shia conflict. Yet – needless to say – it if far more nuanced that this. Instead, Iran are ipso facto, so to speak, ‘supporting’ the Zaydis because they are quasi-Shi’ite and, ‘as usual’, – so the narrative goes – supporting terrorism of some description.
Dunn makes clear that there may well be sympathy from Tehran towards the Zaydis or even tacit (or otherwise) support. Yet there is little evidence of this. He further links this with the recent assassination attempts in Saudi (the bum bomb) and concludes that:
The result is that there seems to be an emerging narrative: the Yemeni Government is hand-in-glove with Al-Qa‘ida, or at least looks the other way, while their enemies the rebel Houthis are Iranian stalking horses. Or, if you want to combine the two, here (in Arabic) is a Saudi article in Al-Watan saying that the Houthis are actually supporting Al-Qa‘ida.
But the narrative is building. True, false, or in between, the charge is growing that Iran is fueling things in Yemen.
See this article in the Huffington Post for a Yemeni conflict primer.
Stealth F-35s in return for settlement movement? 11, July 2009Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Tags: America, Arms trading, F-35 Stealth, Israel, Joint strike fighter
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Thanks again the the MEI Editor’s blog for pointing out that Israel has officially just asked the Pentagon for permission to buy a new generation of Stealth F-35 fighter aircraft from America. Dunn asks whether this will be used by Obama as some kind of carrot in return for real movement on, for example, settlements. Quite frankly, I just don’t see how Obama could not use this as leverage. This seems like a golden opportunity for Obama to exert some real pressure. These planes aren’t key to Israel’s security. The hundreds of advanced fighters that Israel has now are more than adequate, as has been proven time and again, to vastly out-match whatever Israel’s enemies could possible throw at them. I suppose that Israel might prefer these Stealth aircraft were they to want a safer way to, for example, go after Iran’s nuclear weapons, but I’m sure that they’ve got aircraft already that are more then capable of this. Also, symbolically, I think that holding back on giving Israel access to some of America’s most advanced technologies could be a useful in currying favour in the other camp.