No Minister

Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

Other collapses

While the world’s attention is focused on the growing disaster of Afghanistan since the Taliban took it over in the wake of America’s mis-handled retreat, there are other nation-state catastrophes happening.

Like Lebanon.

Admittedly this nation has been on a knife edge for decades. Civil war raged from the mid-1970’s to the 1980’s and has continued at much lower levels of sniping ever since.

Multiple groups are involved and it often seems as much tribal as between Christian and Muslim or sub-sets of each. As tribal as Afghanistan perhaps, but with a more Westernised approach towards civil society. It’s amazing the country has held together at all.

That may finally be coming to an end, Lebanese Economy Collapsing Amid Hyperinflation, Power Outages:

The economy of Lebanon is witnessing a once-in-a-century collapse.

Amid hyperinflation and inconsistent power supplies following a massive explosion in Beirut last year, Lebanon may be witnessing one of the worst three economic depressions since the nineteenth century, according to the World Bank.

Specifically the World Bank says:

Lebanon’s GDP plummeted from close to US$ 55 billion in 2018 to an estimated US$ 33 billion in 2020, with US$ GDP/ capita falling by around 40 percent. Such a brutal and rapid contraction is usually associated with conflicts or wars.

That’s what so awful about this. There has been no real war for years (random killings and reprisal attacks instead).

The WSJ adds the following:

Power outages have become so frequent that restaurants time their hours to the schedule of electricity from private generators. Brawls have erupted in supermarkets as shoppers rush to buy bread, sugar, and cooking oil before they run out or hyperinflation topping 400% for food puts the prices out of reach. Medical professionals have fled just as the pandemic hammers the country with a new wave of infections. Thefts are up 62% and murder rates are rising fast.

Add in Covid-19 and the Beirut explosion in which at least a hundred citizens died and 4,000 were injured, plus leaving over 300,000 homeless. But the really incredible thing is what the Prime Minister said as he quit:

“I set out to combat corruption, but I discovered that corruption is bigger than the state… I declare today the resignation of this government. God bless Lebanon.”

Nations seem to muddle along – Lebanon certainly has for decades – and there is Adam Smith’s old saying that “there’s a lot of ruin in a nation”. But an endpoint for Lebanon as a nation-state – as opposed to a set of locally controlled enclaves – is certainly in sight now.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 25, 2021 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Islam, Middle East

When the MSM works

To say that I’ve been hard on the MSM, both in the USA and here in NZ, would be an understatement given that one of my taglines for the posts has been Die MSM, Die.

So it’s nice to be able to give credit, for once, to MSM sources doing their job.

First up is a rather amazing press conference conducted the other day with a Biden Administration spokesman for the US State Department, Ned Price. This is a daily press conference and the topic of the day was the current US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is not going well. Price’s spin was that they were simply doing what the Trump administration had negotiated with the Taliban and that there was nothing they could change about that. That spin also did not go well for Ned Price when – of all people – an Associated Press reporter, Matt Lee, got stuck into him about that claim:

LEE: “This administration inherited plenty from the previous administration that it absolutely reversed,”

How about the Geneva protocol on the anti-abortion stuff?

PRICE: This was the point that we have made on any number of steps about the importance of the durability of American foreign policies – American foreign policy across administrations.

LEE: How about the agreements with the Northern Triangle, with Mexico and the Northern Triangle? Those are international agreements that you guys jettisoned.

PRICE: These are … Matt, I think

LEE: I mean, you just challenged me to come up with an international agreement that the previous administration signed that you guys have walked away from, and I just gave you, I think, three.

Wow. A non-right-wing reporter actually challenging some of the Biden Administration’s bullshit. Miracles do happen. I was also mightily impressed by something that came just before that exchange:

LEE:  And then lastly, the thing I don’t understand – well, maybe not understand, but you don’t want to talk about the historic analogy that Said made to Vietnam. Let’s go next door to Cambodia. Are you familiar at all with the letter that Sirik Matak wrote to John Gunther Dean, who was the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia in April of 1975?

RICE: It’s

LEE: If you’re not familiar with it

PRICE: It’s been a while.

LEE:  I suggest you familiarize yourself with it because it may end up being sadly prescient.

So this is not just some lightweight “journalist” like those of the Whitehouse press corp, who aim for fluff and “gotcha” questions of the “When-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife” type – when faced with a Republican. Matt Lee really knows his shit on foreign policy.

===========

Next up is coverage of local news that appeared overseas in The National Pulse, New Zealand Professors Claim CCP Is Planting Spies At Their Colleges:

Dr. Stephen Noakes, of Auckland University, said that non-enrollees showed up to his lectures and “appeared to be gathering intelligence.” On one occasion, an individual whom Noakes had never seen before was in the lecture theater, taking pictures.

“It made me incredibly uncomfortable and I followed it up afterwards. I’ve not seen that person again,” Noakes stated.

Catherine Churchman, a professor at Victoria University in Wellington teaching ancient Chinese history, said that, in 2017, a man came to her class and “upbraided her about her lecture content.” When asked why he was in the class, the man claimed to be a “visiting scholar.”

So we’re not just talking about Ann Marie Brady any longer.

It would be nice to think that such events will no longer be dismissed as they have been in the past

I have read Brady’s work, and spoken to her. She is an China alarmist. I don’t agree with her perspective.

… and it seems they’re not since this US article references their information as coming from a Radio New Zealand podcast. They supplied no link but here it is:

Redline: Can we walk the thin line between what some see as an evil empire and others as our greatest economic opportunity? A four-part series investigating China’s growing influence in New Zealand

So kudos to RNZ also.

===========

Finally there’s this, courtesy of MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute), who do a great job in covering various Middle Eastern news sites and translating them for the rest of the world.

It’s quite extraordinary how open some of the Palestinian news sites are about their society.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 13, 2021 at 6:00 am

An important election in New York

In this case the selection of the Democrat candidate for Mayor of New York City from the recent primary campaign.

Whoever wins the Democrat primary will go on to win the general election, given how corrupted and useless the NYC GOP is.

As of today the winner of the race appears to be one Eric Adams and although his lead is slim in the complex ranked voting system used, it looks like it will hold.

Now while you would think that the US Left would be overjoyed at yet another Black man rising to a prominent political position in the USA you would be wrong:

According to Lisa Lerer’s latest “Political Memo” for the NYT, candidate Eric Adams, a retired police captain, has “rejected calls to defund the Police Department and pledged to expand its reach in the city.”

Wait! What? I thought Defunding The Police was all the rage among Democrats? Well it was in 2020. But then crime rates started to climb fast in those Democrat-controlled cities that had made such proclamations – and acted on them in many cases as well as making it clear that their Police were the problem rather than criminals.

But more than that, it has become apparent that the Right’s claims that this was virtue-signalling bullshit from rich, “liberal” Whites and that it would be poor POC (People of Colour) communities who would suffer the most, turned out to be right on the money.

That’s a problem because Adams’ law-and-order appeal “adds evidence to an emerging trend in Democratic politics: a disconnect between progressive activists and the rank-and-file Black and Latino voters.”

Lerer quotes Hakeem Jefferson, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University, explaining that “The median Black voter is not A.O.C. and is actually closer to Eric Adams.”

I won’t supply the link to the disgusting New York Times original but the title of their article says it all:

Progressives’ Urgent Question: How to Win Over Voters of Color.

Awwww. All the experts have told me that the Democrats have POC in their back pocket. You can see why it is so vital for the Democrats to crank up the screams about GOP racism to eleven on the scale. You can also see why there have been recent attempts to backpedal from all this with: “No, No, We never meant to defund the police”.

They’re even trying to pin it on the GOP, but even with their MSM stenographers to help I think they went in too deep on this one to escape.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 30, 2021 at 6:00 am

An important election in Iran

In this case the recent election of a new President of Iran, where whoever is chosen by the Council of Guardians and who has the approval of the Ayatollah Kahmenei – the person actually running Iran – goes on to win the general election.

There have been “surprises” in these elections over the years, but that’s usually been when the Ayatollah has not expressed any favouritism for any one of the permitted candidates. This time he did.

The product of this joke of an election system turns out to be probably the biggest piece of shit that has ever crawled into that position., and that’s saying something considering his predecessors.

Ebrahim Raisi

Both of the following articles should be read.

———————–

First, a concise piece by historian Dominic Green, who has a biting wit, Iran’s president, a schreibtischtäter:

Raisi is what Hannah Arendt would have called a schreibtischtäter, a ‘desk murderer’: a functionary who orders dirty work while keeping his own hands clean.

In the 1980s, Raisi was a young regional prosecutor. He was part of a four-man ‘death committee’ which ordered the disappearance and killing of thousands of the Islamic revolution’s enemies. You may be shocked to hear human rights’ groups claiming that due process was frequently ignored during this judicial massacre.

He also has not changed over the decades:

… when protests against the clerical dictatorship broke out in 2019, Raisi, as head of the Iranian judiciary, granted blanket impunity to government officials and security forces responsible for unlawfully killing hundreds of men, women and children, and subjecting thousands of protesters to mass arrests and at least a hundred to enforced disappearance, and torture and other ill-treatment’.

Is it any wonder that Raisi won the presidency with the lowest turnout in Iran’s post-1979 history: 48 percent nationally, down from over 70 percent in 2017, with only 28 percent bothering to vote in Tehran. 

Green argues that with this election the JCPOA nuclear deal is more dead than when Trump withdrew the USA from it. Not that that will stop the Biden Administration from trying to re-enter it:

Raisi has already said he won’t meet Biden. He has issued a ‘non-negotiable’ rejection of the American goal of adding Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for terrorism to follow-on negotiations. The Iranian negotiators will use the prospect of Raisi taking office in August to lever more concessions from the desperate Americans. But the election of Raisi in the first place has already confirmed the futility of returning to the Iran Deal.

It is the Supreme Leader, 82-year-old Ayatollah Khameini, who heads the Iranian regime, and the military-industrial complex controlled by the IRGC that is its arms and legs. Raisi is a product of their interdependence and corruption. He may yet inherit Khameini’s throne. This is one reason why the pro-Democratic ‘echo chamber’ is spinning his merits in sequence with the centrifuges.

That last crack is referring to Obama’s point man on the JCPOA, Ben Rhodes, who boasted in an interview with the New York Times Magazine in 2016 about how he had created a media “echo chamber” to help get the deal passed. An article in the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine, A stunning profile of Ben Rhodes, the asshole who is the president’s foreign policy guru, noted the famous description by Rhodes of the MSM he manipulated:

Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

———————–

The second article, Ebrahim Raisi, the clerics ruthless enforcer, is longer and goes into more historic detail about his ugly past, including the political games that were going on behind the scenes of the 1988 executions:

The 1988 executions sparked a debate within the regime, just as Khomeini had intended. The supreme leader wanted to separate the true believers from the skeptics. His heir-apparent, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, objected to the killings, and in a secret recording released in 2016, he can be heard chastising Raisi and his fellow executioners.

Shades of Mao and his Cultural Revolution designed to purge the CCP of reactionary elements and purify it. All this history leads to this moment:

By 2016, there were unmistakable public signs that Khamenei was grooming Raisi to succeed him. When it comes to personnel, Khamenei has always displayed a keen eye for talent and loyalty. And Raisi’s promotions all required the personal approval of the supreme leader.

Which helps explain why, this year, the Guardian Council disqualified a high number of presidential candidates — not only did “moderates” get axed, but even the hard-line former speaker of the parliament, Ali Larijani, was removed from the ballot. As a result, Raisi ran nearly uncontested, with no real competitors. 

So he’s the next Ayatollah. He’s even been given “management” positions that enabled him to build a legacy beyond that of executioner, being placed in charge of huge sums of money via the Astan-e Qods Foundation in Mashhad, which runs the Imam Reza Shrine, visited by millions of pilgrims a year and with $15 billion in assets. 

The article draws the appropriate conclusions that the US will have to confront:

Raisi’s win in a fully rigged election strips the system of its off-ramps. The once-popular reformist notion that the theocracy could liberalize itself through its own constitutional provisions has died — except perhaps abroad among Western leftists. The Republic of Virtue is drowning in corruption and class divisions that are as pronounced as those in the last days of the shah.

The regime has no answers to the myriad problems the nation faces. Even hooking up with China will not save them in the long run as they continue to disconnect further from the Iranian people, whose protests are answered only by brutality because the Ayatollah’s know it also:

A nation that saw massive protests once a decade now sees them more frequently. In the latest nationwide revolts of 2019 and 2020, sparked by a drop in fuel subsidies, even the working classes joined the protests. Iran’s ethnic minorities, who probably make up 50 percent of the country’s population, have also become increasingly vocal in expressing their grievances.

They have the same conclusion on the nuclear deal as well:

These two clerics, who will likely reinforce each other’s hardest impulses, both understand what Washington appears to have missed: The era of arms-control diplomacy has ended. The Islamic republic’s nuclear trajectory will not be impacted by further negotiated restraints.

The US may succeed in getting JCPOA back, but it will make no difference and ultimately what happens to the Iranian nuclear weapons programme is down to the Israelis.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 29, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Graphics that needed more thought

I really don’t think that the people who developed this little graphic for Pride Month applied enough thinking to it.

But then you need an awareness of the wider world and a sense of history to do that.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 15, 2021 at 7:33 pm

Posted in History, Islam, Middle East

Tagged with

Brave? More like fracking suicidal

Written by Tom Hunter

May 28, 2021 at 4:25 pm

Random Fun III

Another collection of things that don’t justify a post in themselves.

First up, what is it with Senators from Arizona? In this case Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, who has loud clothing choices and is wearing a ring labeled “Fuck Off”.

It’s not entirely a joke either considering that is exactly what’s she’s said (in more polite terms of course) to various Big Ideas from her own party, like a $15/hour minimum wage, votes for some Trump cabinet members, and ending the Senate filibuster on all legislation.

I know there’s stuff she supports that I don’t but I’m beginning to warm to Maverick II.

Second is one of those Big Ideas. There’s a Democrat party activist group that has decided to learn from history and try and avoid another Supreme Court pothole such as the one that happened with Justice Ginsburg hanging on grimly, only to die while a Republican was President.

The “Demand Justice” group has therefore decided to focus on the next oldest Democrat Justice – Stephen Breyer – and as you can see from the van driving around D.C. they’re very blunt about what they want.

Third is an interesting screen capture of some chatroom involving folk from the Middle East discussing the best ways to escape from where they are to head for Germany. You can see the recommended routes marked out, but what amused me was the nations the group thought should be avoided on the trip North, although I’m a little surprised that they think Greece is one path, since none other than the EU Commission President called it “our European shield”.

Fourth is a juicy item for all those folk who can’t argue a point and use links to “Fact Check” sites, like that of Politico’s “Truth-O-Meter”.

On its website, PolitiFact splits its Biden verdicts into “Facts Checks Of Biden” and “Fact Checks About Biden.” Our review of the first 100 days shows 13 fact checks “of Biden,” and 106 fact checks “about Biden.” That’s an eight-to-one disparity.

In other words, they’re much more sensitive about someone “lying” about Biden than they are about Biden lying. 

That’s hardly a surprise. As people’s trust in journalism has declined over the last twenty years, the same journalists started to form “Fact Check” groups where they could write the same stuff and exhibit the same bias that had caused the loss of trust in the first place.

It’s a scam that should have ended long ago, especially when you dig into their “Fact Checks” and find that most are simply arguing a different opinion, not a fact. The reason it has not ended is that Lefty politicians, activists and supporters love the sort of cheap, one-URL-link, argumentum ad verecundiam, gaslighting they get from the likes of Politico.

Following on from the post about New Zealand’s woeful productivity the other day I was reminded of this classic Dilbert question.

Of course there is the situation known as No Money – and irony too.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 19, 2021 at 9:27 am

SADLY THE HAMAS LEADERS NEED TO DO IT?

Gaza is an overpopulated area for non Jewish people, too stupid to see they could be so much better off if they accept the horrendous passage taken by Jews dispossessed in the main by the assault perpetrated by Nazi Germany’s bent out of shape racists that resulted in millions having everything taken from them before being either killed in short order or worked to death in slave labour enterprises, directly led to the established State of Israel

The remnants of the pogroms and slaughterhouses ended up in their homeland from biblical times where by force they established the modern state of Israel, actually the only functioning democracy enjoying the rule of law that covers all who live within the Borders of The Jewish State. Many many have perished amidst the ongoing violence on both sides that had appeared to have diminished significantly while Donald Trump occupied The White House. In fact under his foreign policy small steps emerged that saw Islamic Nations create peace treaties with Israel.

Now with the appeasing Biden Administration installed it seems an emboldened Iran is again using the residents of Gaza to create mayhem in the middle east with Hamas launching rocket weapons towards Israeli cities, now totalling over one thousand in this latest barrage. Many fall short on Palestinians within the borders of the territory, many others are intercepted by the Iron Dome anti missile defence system but some do get through and kill people in the wrong place at a bad time. Retaliation by Israel are accompanied by specific warnings that allow non participants to flee along with all to often those who will intentionally wish to kill Israelis.

Yet there are too many who see Israel protecting themselves as a war crime and further embolden the stupids. Much of the occupations of territory around the world began under some form of force, if not in the initial migration then soon after when original occupiers became opposed. A process that litters history.

If Israel unilaterally ended all defensive actions they would cease to exist as a nation in very quick time, if the muppets being enabled by Iran and others did likewise, peace could break out just as quick. Is it time to set the second option in place and see what happens.

Written by Gravedodger

May 13, 2021 at 9:46 am

Posted in Islam, Middle East

The Peaceable President Trump

One of the hundreds of drumbeats against Trump becoming President was that he would get the USA into a war.

Whether it was because of a Giant Toddler TantrumTM (the uncontrolled anger trope, see McCain, John, 2008) or because he’s a Colossal MoronTM (see Bush, George, 2004). And it need hardly be said that he was too stupid and unstable to craft any peace treaties.

Well, as has been the case with most criticisms of him…

The president, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed released a joint statement Thursday, after the three spoke “and agreed to the full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.”  The statement said that the “diplomatic breakthrough” was at “the request of President Trump,” and that Israel will “suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world.”

With this peace agreement, the UAE officially recognises Israel and promises to “fully normalise” all relations — including economic relations, direct flights to Israel and so forth. Combining UAE money with Israeli biotechnology, agricultural technology and computer technology will be very beneficial to both sides. Other Gulf states like Bahrain and Oman will likely follow at some point as it’s long been known that they were in an open-secret alliance with Israel and Saudi Arabia against the Shi’a Islamists of Iran. And Saudi will be along as well, although they have more intense domestic Islamic opposition that is only slowly being worn down.

But…, but…., I was told by the Best And The Brightest that Donald Trump was likely to start a yyyuuuge war, as well as being such an incompetent reactionary isolationist that alliances would be wrecked and peace plans shelved and… Well, there were no end to the disasters that would unfold under this brutal, callous, selfish, racist, xenophobic [insert insult of choice] and stupid man.

The whole thing about peace between Israel and “The Arabs” has effectively been a moot point since the 1978 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, since Egypt was the primary military threat, even more so than Syria. All the rest has been optics weaponised by pro-Palestinian groups to beat Israel over the head as being the source of ME unrest. Only once the Palestinian problem had been resolved in their favour could there be peace: that was the line. And it’s true that even here part of the deal was that in exchange for normalised relations, Israel agreed to suspend its West Bank annexation plans.

For the moment.

In reality the Palestinian issue only mattered where Arab nations could use it to hopefully beat Israel instead of constantly losing actual wars against her. And once those nations began to give up on the Palestinians – especially when the Gulf states saw how they sided with Saddam Hussein in 1990 – this sort of thing was inevitable.

Live by the optics. Die by the optics.

“Trump has been bad for the Western Alliance nations. He has fundamentally weakened the Alliances. Biden will get them working again.”

Naturally some people have their panties in a twist about Trump “taking credit” for something that had been in the works for a while. Here’s former Obama Deputy National Security advisor Ben Rhodes – last seen dismissing journalists as 27 year olds who know nothing (Foreign Policy Magazine), just after he’d manipulated them into his proudly described “echo chamber” over the Iran deal and then slapping them in the face by boasting about how he’d screwed them:

This agreement enshrines what has been the emerging status quo in the region for a long time (including the total exclusion of Palestinians). Dressed up as an election eve achievement from two leaders who want Trump to win.

Shorter Rhodes: Waaaahhhh. My buddies in Iran will be even more isolated. Not only that but the day was supposed to have been a Biden-Harris news day, and instead everyone is talking about a major Trump foreign policy success.

But what really burns the likes of Rhodes is that the paradigms of he and his fellow Progressives can’t explain this success. After all, it if it was so easy how come Hillary, Kerry and Obama couldn’t get it done? Moreover this peace deal didn’t involve sending billions of dollars to Iranian terrorists who love killing Jews and Americans.

BTW – I loved this quote from the Foreign Policy magazine article link:

Rhodes comes off like a real asshole. This is not a matter of politics — I have voted for Obama twice…. But, as that quote indicates, he comes off like an overweening little schmuck.

And of course one can always go full conspiracy theory:

“In late 2015, international dealmaker and current cooperating witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation George Nader convened a secret meeting aboard a massive luxury yacht in the Red Sea. Nader pitched to several Middle Eastern leaders a plan for a new pro-US, pro-Israel alliance of Arab nations that would fundamentally alter the geopolitics of the Middle East while marginalising Iran, Syria and Turkey.

To succeed, the plan would need a highly placed American politician willing to drop sanctions on Russia so that Vladimir Putin would in turn agree to end his support for Iran. The gathered leaders agreed their perfect American partner was Donald Trump, who had benefited immensely from his Saudi, Emirati and Russian dealings for many years, and who had, months earlier, become the only US presidential candidate to argue for a unilateral end to Russian sanctions.”

Meantime I’ll just leave this out here.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 16, 2020 at 2:24 pm

A Wedding to Remember

I doubt the groom will ever forget their wedding anniversary date now.

Because it’s the 21st century the Beirut explosion was captured live in High Definition video by countless numbers of people using their smart phones, and then uploaded to the Internet to be seen by the whole world within minutes.

Those videos have been extraordinary and enabled people to better feel what past such events must have been like. The most famous os which is probably the Halifax explosion, where a WWI ammunition ship caught fire and exploded in the harbour of Halifax, Canada, killing about 2000 people. It has been estimated as 2.9 kiloton explosion, equivalent to a small tactical nuclear weapon. Apparently when news of the Hiroshima bomb came in 1945 it was referred to as being equivalent to “seven Halifax explosions”, a standard which that event would instantly replace.

Looking at the Wikipedia list of such events it would appear that there have been a lot of others in history. I knew of the Port Chicago, USS Mount Hood and Texas City disasters, but others such as several Liberty ships hit during WWII, the Bombay explosion and the RAF Bedenham explosion, were unknown to me.

SS John Burke exploding after being hit by a Kamikaze, December, 1944.

I’ll leave this with the one video I think most accurately captures the effects of the shock wave in Beirut. Quite incredible to see roofs being lifted off multi-story apartment buildings.

The bride and groom escaped and will have their day of bliss but based on past events I cannot believe the death toll will not climb into the hundreds, not to mention all the eye injuries from people watching through their windows, which was a big part of the Halifax injury toll.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 7, 2020 at 11:48 am

Posted in Middle East

Tagged with