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Qatar ‘most peaceful’ Middle Eastern state 17, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East, Qatar.
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The global peace index ranks countries according to how peaceful they are using a raft of statistics ranging from the number of homicides per 100,000 people to the number of inter-state conflicts to the number of internal security officers per 100,000. In short, it provides a reasonably accurate tabulation of the relative peacefulness of states.

In this year’s rankings Qatar came top of all Middle Eastern states as the most peaceful, pipping Oman by 5 places, finishing an impressive 16th, one ahead of Switzerland. Here’s the GCC breakdown.

2007 2008 2009
Qatar 30 33 16
Saudi 90 108 109
UAE 38 42 40
Kuwait 46 45 42
Bahrain 62 74 69
Oman 22 25 21

2007 2008 2009
Qatar 30 33 16
Saudi 90 108 109
UAE 38 42 40
Kuwait 46 45 42
Bahrain 62 74 69
Oman 22 25 21

Collective Nouns 13, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
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No, this isn’t too much to do with the Middle East but it’s just plain interesting. Here are my top 10-ish favourite collective nouns for animals. As far as I know these are all correct. To crow-bar some Middle Easternyness into this post, I’ve come up with a few collective nouns for some regional bits and pieces too.

  • A descent of woodpeckers
  • A sneak of weasels
  • A hover of goldfish
  • A storytelling of ravens
  • A murmuration of starlings
  • A bouquet of pheasants
  • A tidings of magpies
  • An ascension of larks
  • A memory of elephants
  • A tower of giraffes
  • A shrewdness of apes
  • An implausibility of gnus (some quasi-wilderbeast thing)

Some Middle Easterny ones:

  • A bling of Gulfies
  • A rage of extremists
  • A grope of Egyptian men
  • A pedant of Arabic teachers
  • A tick-tock of Mubaraks, Bashirs and Ghadaffis

Please feel free to come up with your own. The best entry will win the fabled squashed Kit Kat.

Poor Arabic journalism and its effects 5, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Media in the ME, Middle East.
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You do not have to be able to read or understand Arabic to understand what I’m trying to say with this post. Simply have a look at the Arabic/squiggles below. This is an article taken from the Saudi daily newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat. In bold are the names, titles and roles of the ministers involved in this meeting. As you can plainly see, they take up, what, 80% of the article? This article is, therefore, little more than a list of who attended the meeting. The rest of it is just the usual kind of fluff “met to discuss improving economic relations etc etc etc” that, along with lists of names and titles, plagues swathes of Arab journalism. This is turgidly bad journalism and wouldn’t be tolerated in a University newspaper in the UK.

When people read this kind of thing I fear two things. One, that they automatically dismiss it as government controlled fluff with no real content, analysis and certainly no independence. Two, that this automatic dismissal of ‘official’ newspapers infects peoples’ views about the media as a whole. That they subsequently do not trust other mainstream newspapers and instead seek their information from irregular sources be it on the internet, the local shisha bar or the Mosque. That they grow to automatically reject any kind of media consensus or what any government says.

I wonder how far to push this logic: can it stretch to some notion of it pushes some people to ‘divine their news from religious sources’ which is, after all if you’re that way inclined, the one true truth that there is. Does this embedded anti-establishment antagonism essentially guarantee that instead of reasonable discussion and analysis conspiracy theories take a vicious hold of society? Does this hold true or is the leap of logic and a generalization too far?

 

 

استقبل الأمير سلطان بن عبد العزيز ولي العهد نائب رئيس مجلس الوزراء وزير الدفاع والطيران والمفتش العام السعودي، في قصره بأغادير أول من أمس، الشيخ الدكتور محمد صباح السالم الصباح نائب رئيس مجلس الوزراء وزير الخارجية بدولة الكويت، والشيخ خالد بن أحمد بن محمد آل خليفة وزير الخارجية بمملكة البحرين، والشيخ عبد الله بن زايد آل نهيان وزير الخارجية بدولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة، ووزير الخارجية الأردني ناصر جودة، الذين نقلوا له تحيات وتقدير قادة بلدانهم.

وقد استمع ولي العهد خلال اللقاء من وزراء الخارجية لإيجاز عن أعمال الاجتماع الوزاري السادس لمنتدى المستقبل الذي عقدت أعماله أول من أمس في مدينة مراكش المغربية والتي ستسهم في تعزيز التطور الاقتصادي والسياسي والاجتماعي في شمال أفريقيا والشرق الأوسط. وأقام الأمير سلطان مأدبة غداء تكريما للوزراء.

حضر الاستقبال ومأدبة الغداء الأمير سلمان بن عبد العزيز أمير منطقة الرياض، والأمير سعود الفيصل وزير الخارجية، والأمير خالد بن عبد الله بن محمد، والأمير خالد بن سعد بن فهد، والأمير سطام بن سعود بن عبد العزيز، والأمير فيصل بن سلطان بن عبد العزيز الأمين العام لمؤسسة سلطان بن عبد العزيز آل سعود الخيرية، والأمير فهد بن خالد بن عبد الله بن محمد، والأمير سعود بن خالد بن عبد الله بن محمد، والأمير عبد الله بن خالد بن عبد الله بن محمد، والأمير محمد بن سلمان بن عبد العزيز، والأمير نايف بن سلمان بن عبد العزيز، والأمير بندر بن سلمان بن عبد العزيز، وعبد الله بن سعد الغريري رئيس مراسم ولي العهد، وحمد بن عبد العزيز السويلم نائب رئيس ديوان ولي العهد، ومحمد بن سالم المري السكرتير الخاص لولي العهد، وعبد الله بن مشبب الشهري رئيس المكتب الخاص لولي العهد، ومحمد بن عبد العزيز الشثري رئيس الشؤون الخاصة بمكتب وزير الدفاع والطيران والمفتش العام، والدكتور محمد البشر سفير السعودية لدى المغرب، واللواء ركن عبد الرحمن بن صالح البنيان مساعد مدير عام مكتب ولي العهد نائب رئيس مجلس الوزراء وزير الدفاع والطيران والمفتش العام، واللواء ركن علي الدحيم الملحق العسكري السعودي في المغرب، والشيخ خالد بن سلمان آل خليفة سفير البحرين لدى المغرب، ووزيرة الدولة في دولة الإمارات ريم الهاشمي، وسفير الكويت لدى المغرب محمد صالح الذويخ، وسفير الإمارات لدى المغرب سعيد الكتبي.

وكان وزراء الخارجية الأمير سعود الفيصل والشيخ الدكتور محمد صباح السالم الصباح والشيخ خالد بن أحمد بن محمد آل خليفة والشيخ عبد الله بن زايد آل نهيان وناصر جودة، قد وصلوا في وقت سابق أول من أمس إلى أغادير، وكان في استقبالهم بالمطار الأمير سلمان بن عبد العزيز أمير منطقة الرياض وعدد من الأمراء والمسؤولين

A Turko-Islamic Empire 25, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Islam, Middle East.
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turkoislamic empire

…would – apparently and arguably – look something like this.

Hat tip: The ever interesting folks at Strange Maps

Angry Arab on the NYT 17, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Middle East.
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The Angry Arab, in a brief comment on a recent New York Times article, comes up with an absolute peach of a comment, laying out American hubris and purported exceptionalism bare and for all to see.

Look at this dispatch by Adam Nossiter: “China has been determined in its pursuit of minerals in Africa, often without consideration of how countries are governed.” Was there no editor at the desk to note that this is not different from US policies? Like US ever cares about how oil-rich countries are governed? Let me re-write this sentence for you to see what I mean: The US has been determined in its pursuit of oil in the Middle East, often without consideration of how countries are governed.” The only word I would change is often: I would replace it with always.

Bid now for the Arab Puppet Dictator Kit 11, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
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arab dictator

For sale on E-Bay now. Bid currently rests at $20 Canadian. Features include:

Package deal! Arab puppet dictators made in USA, cheap, servile, ressourceful, 100% unelected, “moderate” label, “New Middle Beast” certification, “New World Disorder” 90001, among the useful fonctions of your “Arab puppet dictators full kit”:
They will:
– sell national ressources for nothing,
– buy for billions in useless US military hardware and other WMD, thus helping the military-industrial complex,
– give access to bases for wars of agression against independent countries or resistance groups (the so-called “bad guys”)
– give green light to any US agency for regional hegemony, control of oil, gas and minerals,
– repress with an absolute brutality their people aspiration for true freedom, national independance, social justice, dignity, control of the economy and foreign policy, military defense capabilities…
– They will respond in real time 24/7 to any order from the DoD or the White House.
– They respond very well to CNN and other tools of imperial propaganda
– They are well domesticated, they exhibit various postures, they walk on your side, they sleep in their own cute little box

– Warning: some of the US gov. supported puppet dictators are training or financing real sectarian of fanatical groups in order to keep alive the imperial doctrine: “divide and rule”

Special bonus !!! All benefits for the average Joe and the average Mohammed ! Buying them will help the arab people in their quest for freedom and justice, it will end the petro-dollar recycling system and it will end the inhuman, barbaric wars waged by the US empire against poor people and small resistance groups, it will defuse all extremism, it will force a profound change in the economy, giving ressources back for the real economy, for life, for social and human developpement in north america and in the middle-east and not for greedy war makers, weapon sellers and mercenary firms. Buy your puppet dictator full kit now !

In the name of hundreds of millions of arab citizens and in the name of a billion muslim men women and children, thank you in advance. We will be very happy to send them anywhere in the US (or elsewhere, even antartica) with FREE shipping ! Don’t miss the opportunity. We may even pay you to get them in a package deal.

Abu Muqawama attacks Fisk 9, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
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Robert Fisk made headlines earlier this week with a shocking story suggesting that Middle Eastern governments along with Russia and China were conspiring or at least discussing dropping the Dollar as their back-up currency of choice. This would lead to a dramatic and pervasive shift in world financial markets and would hammer the American economy. However, Fisk’s sources on this story leave a lot to be desired: having anonymous sources is understandable to some degree, but for a story of such significance (world markets plunged and soared on this story) it is simply not good enough.

Abu Muqawama, one of the most knowledgeable and highly respected bloggers on things Middle Eastern, launched something of an unbridled attack on Fisk on his blog, now hosted by the Centre for a New American Security. He slated Fisk for essentially becoming lazy in his work in the last few years, for not properly backing up his controversial stories only referring to a few anonymous sources and for believing his role to be the preeminent speaker of ‘The Truth’ in his columns in The Independent.

Whilst the attack is really rather vitriolic, I unfortunately agree that there is some truth to in what it said. Unfortunate because, as Abu Muqawama mentions, Fisk used to be such a fastidious reporter whose word carried significant weight. Read his latest book, however, and the errors leap out in their droves.

The book contains a deplorable number of mistakes. Some are amusing: my favourite is when King Hussein’s stallion unexpectedly “reared up on her hind legs”. Christ was born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem. Napoleon’s army did not burn Moscow, the Russians did. French: meurt means dies, not blooms. Russian: goodbye is do svidanya, not dos vidanya. Farsi: laleh means tulip, not rose. Arabic: catastrophe is nakba not nakhba (which means elite), and many more.

Other mistakes undermine the reader’s confidence. Muhammad’s nephew Ali was murdered in the 7th century, not the 8th century. Baghdad was never an Ummayad city. The Hashemites are not a Gulf tribe but a Hijaz tribe, as far as you can get from the Gulf and still be in Arabia. The US forward base for the Kuwait war, Dhahran, is not “scarcely 400 miles” from Medina and the Muslim holy places, it is about 700 miles. Britain during the Palestine mandate did not support a Jewish state. The 1939 white paper on Palestine did not “abandon Balfour’s promise” (and he was not “Lord Balfour” when he made it). The Iraq revolution of 1958 was not Baathist. Britain did not pour military hardware into Saddam’s Iraq for 15 years, or call for an uprising against Saddam in 1991. These last two “mistakes” occasion lengthy Philippics against British policy; others may deserve them, we do not.

Overall, as the Angry Arab says, perhaps it is time for Fisk to sail off into the sunset.

Faking it 3, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
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There’s a show in the UK called Faking It. An ordinary member of the public is trained by professionals in a month or so to do a vastly different profession that they are ostensibly suited to. They are then judged against people who have been practising said profession for years by panel who don’t know who’s trying to Fake It. More often than not, the recently trained faker wins as the most convincing ‘x’ in the group.

I was reminded of this by a recent posting on the Emirates Economist about hymen replacement surgery. A delightful topic I’m sure you’ll agree. Women have to go through such an operation to obtain a certificate of virginity before they get married in some parts of the Arab world. Head more here and here.

Iran meddling in Yemen? 10, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East, Yemen.
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yemen

(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.

China No.1 exporter to the ME 7, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China and the ME, Middle East.
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Here’s a quick note of an interesting article in – of all places – the Torygraph, by the author of the New Silk Road Blog. It highlights the trend of China’s ever growing exports to the Middle East to the tune that they are now the number one exporter to the Middle East at $60bn (up from just $4bn a decade ago).

It contains a few interesting nuggets of information such as the existence of ‘a virtual Arab market town’ not far from Shanghai as so many buyers from the Middle East apparantly go there to look for products and it also cautions as to the effects of cheap Chinese products flooding Middle Eastern cities. Whilst Kuwait City and Doha need not worry so much, Damascus and Cairo, with their enormous populations, the young-age of many and their skills sets, have something to fear from this. The author concludes that this can only draw on a protectionist backlash at some stage.