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Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia

Crush Depth

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Some genius architects and urban planners have come up with a brilliant idea for future cities on Earth.

“The Line” is a proposed three-dimensional city that is 200m wide, 500m high, 170km long, and built in the Saudi Arabian desert, 500m above sea level, according to the NEOM Project’s official website. Saudi Arabian Crown Prince and Chairman of the NEOM Board of Directors, Mohammed bin Salman, made the announcement on The Line’s official site.

No roads, cars or emissions, it will run on 100% renewable energy and 95% of land will be preserved for nature. People’s health and wellbeing will be prioritized over transportation and infrastructure, unlike traditional cities…[It] will eventually accommodate 9 million people and will be built on a footprint of just 34 square kilometers.

Here’s their two minute video.

So, what do readers think?

I think it blows! Big time. Just one of the objections I have is that line about “preserving nature” – as if humans are not also part of nature.

It’s something out of a dystopian Science Fiction story, starting out like those bright, clean spaceships in 2001: A Space Odyssey and other SF movies of the 1950’s-60’s, but likely to degrade to a BladeRunner type locale. It should be noted that critics praised the move in SF movies away from “bright and shiny” to “gritty” as being likely a touch more realistic.

Also, humans don’t react well to being “re-engineered”. We’re organic beings and often the things we create, like cities, are organic too, even if we use machines to build and run them they develop in quirky ways. Planned cities like Brasila (“...the Hotel Sector, the Banking Sector, and the Embassy Sector…“) are not regarded with any great love:

Nothing dates faster than people’s fantasies about the future. This is what you get when perfectly decent, intelligent, and talented men start thinking in terms of space rather than place; and single rather than multiple meanings. It’s what you get when you design for political aspirations rather than real human needs. You get miles of jerry-built platonic nowhere infested with Volkswagens. This, one may fervently hope, is the last experiment of its kind. The utopian buck stops here.

— Robert HughesThe Shock of the New, Episode 4: “Trouble in Utopia”, (1980)

Fervant hope dashed. I can’t recall a time in my life when Central Planners have ever given up on any of their utopian goals. At best they’ve destroyed themselves, in the sense that their plans have produced undeniably dreadful results, but mostly they’ve encountered pushback in the form of people refusing to cooperate with their grand plans and escaping to places where the plans are not being effected.

But like rust, the bastards never sleep. They never give up on their utopian schemes, witness the constant hopes in Lefty bastions like The Daily Blog and The Standard, that the government would once again own the entire power industry here.

There’s also another unspoken aspect to this, summarised well by the secondary headline in this article, The Dehumanizing Tyranny of Densification:

The prevailing vision of environmentalism today caters to a global oligarchy.

Or perhaps Kip’s Law:

“Every advocate of central planning always — always — envisions himself as the central planner.”

In other words I very much doubt that Mohammed bin Salman or any of the other Saudi Princes will be giving up their palaces to live in this utopia. It’s probably intended for the army of Pakistani immigrant workers that their economy needs in order to operate.


Written by Tom Hunter

July 29, 2022 at 2:19 pm

All his policies end this way

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“[Trump]” has fundamentally weakened the Alliances. Biden will get them working again.

Whether it’s domestic policy or foreign policy, crime or economics, anything that Joe Biden has pushed eventually turns to shit.

The latest is his visit to Saudi Arabia to beg them for more oil. A couple of weeks ago audio captured French President Macron telling Biden that the Saudi’s were close to their capacity production limits, something you would not think a US President needed to be informed of.

After resting at home in Delaware following that European trip Biden finally got to the Middle East, having originally planned to go there straight after Europe. However, his age and weariness meant a change of plan.

Starting with Israel things did not go well, with everything from appearing lost and confused on stage twice to having multiple gaffes that insulted US allies. But perhaps that’s the intention:

In other words, the Biden administration is using its trip to the region not to draw closer to Israel, or to enhance the Israeli relationship with the Saudis, but to disrupt the budding alliance between Israel and the Gulf States, while causing their hosts as much heartburn as possible.

Next up was Saudi Arabia, the nation he’d called a “pariah”, along with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) because of the Saudi’s brutal murder of Washington “journalist” Jamal Khashoggi. It should be noted that Khashoggi was a full-blooded supporter of the Jihadist group, Muslim Brotherhood, who have made clear their desire to destroy the Saudis, and that his poor written and spoken English meant it’s certain that others were writing his WaPo columns for him: the WaPo were idiots for getting so close to a terrorist.

In any case, the Saudi’s were quick to humiliate Biden.

Whoever told Biden to use that strategy doesn’t seem to get that fist bumping the guy you deemed a pariah and a murderer doesn’t look any better than a handshake, particularly when you’re all smiling together. Certainly Khashoggi’s widow thought so.

As expected, Biden lied about how he’d confronted MBS about Khashoggi’s murder. What Biden claims he’s said is not only denied by the Saudi’s but others who were present. It fits perfectly with Biden’s pathetic history of telling stories where he’s the Tough Guy. Even Peter Baker of the New York Times didn’t believe him:

Mr. Biden is by nature a storyteller with a penchant for embellishment.

So even though the leftwing corporate press is pretty sure the Saudis executed a fake “journalist” – when it come to a contest of credibility… they side with the Saudis.

Suffice to say Biden came away with nothing solid – least of all the increased oil production he so desperately needs to reduce US gas pump prices – and again, the Saudi’s made sure to broadcast their walk-backs and “corrections” of Biden’s post-visit claims.

So having talked of them as “pariahs”, then talked of repairing the US-Saudi relationship, Biden is now reduced to calling them liars.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 19, 2022 at 12:25 pm

A different perspective on Iran

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Over the last month I put up a number of OPs on the subject of Iran in the wake of the US killing their top military guy Soleimani:

  1. America “You can’t do anything against us” (آمریکا هیچ غلطی نمی تواند بکن)
  2. USA v Iran: What WON’T Happen.
  3. USA v Iran: What Iran will do.
  4. USA v Iran: What the USA will do
Now over at the Kiwipolitico blog, “Pablo” – aka Paul Buchanan – has linked to two articles he has written for the Australian Institute of International Affairs:
  1. Iran As A Strategic Actor.
  2. The Ideology of Iran.
In both cases Paul brings to bear his qualifications in geopolitics and international relations, plus his experience in the belly of the US military and diplomatic beast and I recommend both of them to be read.
Some key quotes from the first article:

The key strategic concerns of the Iranian state are to ensure the integrity of the nation, preserve the theocratic regime, promote domestic development and economic prosperity, ensure domestic peace and external security and be recognised as a legitimate regional power. 

Iran’s primary external threats come from its western and southern land and sea borders, but cross-national threats emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan are in the mix as well. 

[They have] 523,000 active duty military personnel…., including 350,000 ground troops, 30,000 air force, and 18,000 naval personnel, plus other constabulary and intelligence services) and another 300,000 in reserve.

… it follows the doctrine of plausible deniability by allowing proxies and Quds Forces to undertake decentralised, autonomous operations at the discretion of field commanders.

As a balance, Iran maintains close ties with China, Russia, and Syria as well as Shiite groups throughout the world, and cordial relations with a number of other states, including India.

And from the second:

The ideological element in Iran is twofold: it sees itself as a global defender of Shiia Islam, to include defending against “Crusader” and Sunni Muslim encroachments on traditionally Shiite land and people; and it is anti-imperialist in its rejection of distant (again, Judeo-Christian) great power interference in the Middle East. 

The influence of the ideological element ebbs and flows depending on the level of threat perceived by the regime and the specific policy arena in question. 

Iran wants to demonstrate a nuclear weapons delivery capability so as to deter aggression by its enemies, especially the US and Israel. 

Iran has publicly renounced a first-strike option for its nuclear weapons and has instead spoken of using nuclear weapons only if attacked (unlike the US, which has not renounced the pre-emptive first-strike option). However, the international community fears that an Iranian nuclear weapons capability will precipitate a nuclear arms race with Sunni Arab countries and/or a pre-emptive attack by nuclear-armed Israel.

I don’t agree with some aspects of this, but it’s interesting stuff. Most of all I do not agree with the basic idea that we should treat the Islamic Republic of Iran – a nation that has since its inception explicitly advocated exporting its nutty Shiite Islamic Revolution – as anything less than an enemy of the West, An enemy that should not be fought in an active war with, but an enemy nevertheless.
Like any other nation Iran’s leaders may well want to ensure “the integrity of the nation,….promote domestic development and economic prosperity,…ensure domestic peace” – but just as with the old Communists all of that is subservient to the idea of the Revolution, in this case, a religious one.
To that end Iran is willing to sacrifice much of those other things, including the lives of its own subjects. Ensuring “domestic peace” alone has required a domestic body count that was bad during the 2009 protests against the election and even higher in the 2019 protests (some 1500 deaths by most accounts), let alone over the last forty years – and not counting all those souls rotting in prison and tortured before being released.
My main contention with Paul is that such complex and sophisticated analysis, while necessary, often obfuscates the simple differences between good societies and bad societies and leads to detente with the bad in the hope that it will become less bad over time. So with his his suggestion that the Soleimani killing offers:

….an opportunity to test classic concepts in international relations. Notions of misperception, miscalculation, brinkmanship, bluffing, escalation, and reputation, and how they make for the possibility of war, are all at play in the stand-off.

That’s all true. But I’m reminded that the same sort of analysis was applied to the Cold War, the decades-long struggle between the USA and the USSR, and was held to be the only way forward in living in a world with the USSR. And this basic disagreement can be seen with another quote:

… the “all stick, no carrot” approach adopted by the US under the Trump administration ignores the history of successful diplomacy with Iran and encourages the dominance of hardliners in internal debates about how Iran should engage generally and respond specifically to external events and conditions.

I’m not aware of any diplomacy with Iran that ever bent their ideological trajectory in the direction of behaving better internationally, which is surely what diplomatic “success” should be all about.

In any case I heard precisely that reasoning about the USSR in the 1980’s. US actions would strengthen the power of the hardliners – whereas it actually led to the rise of Gorbachev and his policies of Perestroika and Glasnost that, together with unaffordable military spending and a sheer loss of faith in Communism, eventually broke the USSR, which has improved our world greatly.

It was also the main argument about dealing with Russia that Obama used in 2008/2009; poor old Vlad was just reacting to the frightening warmonger Bush, hence the big “reset” button hit by Hillary. I don’t think any Democrat feels that way about Vlad now. Funny that.

The difference with Iran is that there is not even the closed mechanism of a Politburo and an ideology of earthly materialism to allow the rise of “moderates” in the nation. Their government has cleverly played the “moderate” vs. “hardline” argument in everything from domestic elections to foreign policy. Most of the world continues to fall for it.
It is a sham. There are no moderates in Iran that count; examples include former senior politicians Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi who have been under house arrest for years with no trial. The Ayatollah is the Supreme Leader: it’s why the IRGC and proxies such as Hezbollah ultimately report to him rather than the Iranian President, who can only be elected from a list of candidates approved by the Ayatollah and the Council of Guardians in the first place. That Guardian article revealed the sad truth even as it appealed to “President” Rouhani:

While acknowledging Rouhani’s limited ability to intervene in the affairs of the judiciary, which acts independently of his administration, the academics said the president should speak out to protest what they called a “grave miscarriage of justice”. 

When Ayatollah Khamenei dies he will be replaced by someone like him, just as he replaced the murderous thug Ayatollah Khomeini. That process presents only a faint hope for an Iranian Gorbachev to arise: depending on his age the likely conservative successor will maintain the same theocratic ideas for many years to come and push hard for them throughout the Middle East, with their violent proxy terrorist groups like Hisbollah as the stick.
By contrast, as I noted in an OP celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall, The People Win, President Reagan had a different take on the matter of dealing with such enemies:

“I’d like to tell you of my theory of the Cold War. Some people think that I am simplistic, but there is a fundamental difference between being simplistic and having simple answers to complex questions. So here’s my strategy on the Cold War:  

We win, they lose.”

Given the tensions of the day Reagan never said that in public. But it was an absolutely necessary idea in order to shake up an establishment that had, like the rest of us, grown used to the notion that Communist nations were forever.
Same with Iran. My take is also simplistic in that the Iranian people will be much better off once the current theocratic regime is destroyed and that the US and other nations should enable that to happen via sanctions and other non-military methods. Just as an aside, after all the gays they’ve publicly hanged from cranes over they years it would be justice to see the same thing happen to a few of the Mullahs and senior IRGC officers.
After Iran, Saudi Arabia and company come next, starting with cracking down on their export of the Wahhabist theology to the West as a way of keeping the fundamentalist knives from their own throats at home.
But with the same ideological objective to be kept at the forefront: we win, they lose.

Written by Tom Hunter

February 9, 2020 at 4:28 am

Posted in New Zealand

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I’ve seen this movie before – twice!

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Actually it’s more like watching three sequels.

2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani
Ahmed Ibrahim al-Haznawi

In the original story a Saudi Arabian who flew the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 as part of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 helped develop the plot in Florida where he also may have attended flight schools. That’s him on the left.

In the latest sequel just last Friday a Saudi Arabian shot eleven people at a flight school he was attending in Florida, killing three and injuring eight before being shot and killed himself by police. This time it was an officer in the Saudi Air Force who was training at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. That’s him on the right.

Is it just me or should the US intelligence agencies and military be a little more wary of Middle Eastern Arabs training at flight schools in Florida than they seem to be?

I guess we should be grateful that Alshamrani only used a handgun rather than an airplane – especially a military airplane!

Some 62,700 foreign military students from 155 countries participated in such training in the USA in 2018 alone, so it may be that looking for a potential Islamic Jihadist is needle-in-the-haystack stuff.

“A person familiar with the program said that Saudi Air Force officers selected for military training in the United States are intensely vetted by both countries.

The Saudi personnel are ‘hand-picked’ by their military and often come from elite families, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they did not have permission to speak to a reporter. Trainees must speak excellent English.”
Okay, but during all this intense vetting did anyone, especially in the USA, have an extended chat with him about his thoughts on America and the global jihad? Were there any follow-ups to this, especially after he returned from Saudi Arabia when others noted that he had become notably “more religious” than he had been before?I doubt it. Any effort to have done so would have been denounced as “Islamophobic” and would have been career suicide for whoever did the questioning.

Apparently King Salman informed President Trump that the Saudi people “love Americans” and “are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter...”.  I don’t doubt that many of them, including King Salman, genuinely do feel like that about the shooter as well as having other emotions about him like shame and disgust.

But that’s not the point.

Of the 19 men involved in the September 11 attacks, 15 were Saudi Arabian, and that was a quite deliberate selection by Osama Bin Laden, who wanted to demonstrate to both the US and the leaders of Saudi Arabia that the majority of the nation was on his side, not theirs.

Frankly the jury is still out on that, especially following the arrests of six other Saudis. At best you could describe the Saudi’s as being “frenemies” of the USA. What that’s going to change about the “intense vetting” is anybody’s guess but were I a US military officer working with Saudi nationals I think I’d start asking to be allowed to carry my handgun at all times rather than trusting the higher ups, let alone the “gun free zone” bullshit that actually translates to “you can shoot here and nobody will shoot back until its too late“.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan

The reason for such a precaution is that overlooking the fact that a military officer is a secret Islamic Jihadist has happened before in the USA, with the latest chapter perhaps being a different sequel – this time to the 2009 Fort Hood shootings.

They were conducted by the guy on the left, Major Nidal Hasan, a US Army psychiatrist of all things, who killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at the military base.

He was considered a “lone wolf” who supported terror network Al-Qaeda, but he’d left a huge trail of breadcrumbs. He’d been investigated by the FBI after intelligence agencies intercepted at least 18 e-mails between him and an Islamic preacher named Anwar al-Awlaki between December 2008 and June 2009. Even the US Army was informed of the e-mails, but the higher-ups did not see anything worrying about Hasan’s questions to Awlaki. Instead, they viewed them as:

general questions about spiritual guidance with regard to conflicts between Islam and military service, and judged them to be consistent with his legitimate mental health research about Muslims in the armed services”.

As such he was actually praised and promoted despite alarming people who actually had to work with him, what with all his talk of violent jihad. None of his superiors dared do anything except promote him. They undoubtedly knew that if they questioned him about his loyalties it would probably be they who would face a dishonorable discharge because of “Islamophobia”.

Later of course, numerous former members of the CIA and Homeland Security would say things like:

“E-mailing a known al-Qaeda sympathizer should have set off alarm bells. Even if he was exchanging recipes, the bureau should have put out an alert.”

Well duh! But by then 13 people were dead.

One basic difference this time is that six ten more Saudi’s have been arrested near the base, three of whom were seen filming Alshamrani’s shooting spree, so we likely won’t have to hear any crap about “lone wolves” or it being a “an act of workplace violence“, which was the fantastically moronic take on the Fort Hood shootings by the Obama Administration.

Mind you, even aside from the haystack-needle problem I can see how tough such investigations could be when you look at what this latest Islamic shooter apparently left behind in a Twitter account:

“O American people, I’m not against you for being American, I don’t hate you because your freedoms, I hate you because every day you supporting, funding and committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity,”

“What I see from America is the supporting of Israel which is invasion of Muslim countrie (sic), I see invasion of many countries by it’s troops, I see Guantanamo Bay. I see cruise missiles, cluster bombs and UAV.”

That could come from almost any university liberal arts professor, student or Leftist poltical activist in the USA nowadays!

Written by Tom Hunter

December 8, 2019 at 7:44 pm

Posted in New Zealand

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