Quotulatiousness

October 19, 2017

Iran vs Saudi Arabia (2017)

Filed under: Middle East, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Binkov’s Battlegrounds
Published on 13 Oct 2017

Find out how a match-up between two middle east powerhouses would unravel. With a special accent on a hypothetical scenario without other countries being a factor

July 29, 2017

QotD: Imposing “democracy”

Filed under: Government, History, Middle East, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

To be fair, the British set up monarchies, in the hope that they would become constitutional monarchies (which were their experience of something that might actually get somewhere). Jordan seems to be succeeding; the Gulf states are so successful few want to change; and Egypt was derailed by the Soviets and Americans playing Cold War games. The French tried to set up republics (god knows why, their’s [had] never worked) in Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, and other places. In the words of Dr Phil, ‘How’s that working out for you?’. The Americans successfully undermined the Egyptian and Iranian attempts to get constitutional monarchies off the ground, and celebrated the resulting republics… very briefly. The second in particular no longer looks a very clever move.

The latest American attempts to force republics on Afghanistan and Iraq have been absolute disasters.

Afghanistan might, might… have worked if the Americans had understood that such a tribalised society required a House of Lords of all the powerful tribal leaders and major clerics, to balance [the] elected representatives. (But of course it would still need some sort of monarch to make it work, because, as Machiavelli pointed out, you need 3 powers in balance, so any two can stop the third from dominating!).) Or they could just have a system where the two major components completely ignore each other while they compete for control, and leave an easy opening for the return of the Taliban.

Iraq might, might… have worked with a federal system of at least a dozen ethnically based states that each had two representatives to a senate that had the right to block the excesses of an elected house where a 50% majority could get revenge on everyone else for every slight since the death of the prophet. Or they could go for a more simplistic version of a republic, and get what they inevitably got.

Why couldn’t the Americans have kept their big fat ideologies out of it, as they largely did after the first Gulf War. Kuwait is no great shining beacon, but it doesn’t suffer from the American idealism that lead to Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Iran!

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s…”, rethinking history, 2015-09-19.

March 28, 2017

A long history of US involvement in “regime change”

Filed under: Americas, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith goes over just the “high points” of American interference in the domestic affairs of other nations:

It makes me sick to keep hearing the mostly Democratic assertion that Donald J. Trump is a candidate foisted on us poor, gullible Americans by the Russian government. This is largely a matter of psychological projection by the left, and of mind-boggling hypocrisy. Previous American governments (mostly Democratic) have a long, shameful history of removing foreign leaders they dislike, for one reason or another, and replacing them with more agreeable figures.

It’s hard to know quite where to begin, and absolutely impossible to be exhaustive. General Smedley Darlington Butler (1881- 1940), twice winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, tells a long, bloody tale in his little book War Is A Racket, in which he demonstrates that the United States Marines were sent on gunboats to various places across our sad, scarred, and war-weary planet — notably to South and Central America — to protect the interests (with rifles and bayonets, if necessary) of corporations like the United Fruit Company. Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatamala have all suffered from this kind of interference. That’s why they’re called “banana republics”.

In 1953, the people of Iran had thrown the Shah off the throne and replaced him with an elected official by the name of Mosaddegh. British and American “intelligence” were alarmed. If the guy was a communist (he was not) he might cut off the supply of oil on which they had become dependent to enforce their will on the world, So they deposed him and set the Shah back on the throne, setting the scene for today’s unholy (and extremely dangerous) mess.

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina was the dictator of the Dominican Republic (which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti) for many decades. He was thoroughly brutal and corrupt, but a time came when his government began to break up, threatening the “stability” of the Caribbean region. In 1961. he was assassinated spectacularly by riflemen in ambush. (Oddly, I recall his car body being blown off the frame by a bazooka.) Wikipedia teeters between blaming his dozens of political rivals and the CIA. At the time it happened, everybody I knew (I was growing up in the military — counter insurgency branch) took the latter theory for granted.

And in 1963, in the middle of the War in Vietnam, when a dictator named Diem failed to do America’s bidding, the kindly, humane, genteel, and oh-so-Democratic President John F. Kennedy had him assassinated and replaced.

November 15, 2016

QotD: The one certain outcome of the Syrian civil war

Filed under: Middle East, Quotations, Religion, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Russia and the West are fighting to decide whether Syria will be run by Sunni Islamists backed by Saudi Arabia or Shiite Islamists backed by Iran. This insane civil war has burned up countless lives, not to mention plenty of dollars, rubles, euros and pounds. The only certain winners of this war, once the dust has settled, will chant “Allahu Akbar” and call for the death of the infidels.

Daniel Greenfield, “It’s a Mad, Mad War”, Sultan Knish, 2016-10-27.

May 12, 2016

Suleiman the Magnificent – V: Slave of God – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 9 Apr 2016

Suleiman’s empire stretches across the Mediterranean, but in the midst of his success, he suspects betrayal in his own house. His best friend, Ibrahim, and his most promising son, Mustafa, both seem to have designs upon the throne.

Suleiman was alone in his garden, unable to escape the doubts and regrets that shadowed him…

Suleiman and Ibrahim marched south upon the Safavid kingdom, where they met no resistance. Faced with an unbeatable Ottoman army, the Safavids simply yielded and scorched the earth behind them so Suleiman would not be able to hold the territory he took. Ibrahim suggested that he take on the role of sultan in this new territory so that he could govern it, but his words enraged Suleiman. Roxelana had been warning him that Ibrahim had grown ambitious and disrespectful, and now he saw it. He had Ibrahim assassinated and appointed a new chief vizier. But now his Western empire was in shambles. He allied with the French against his enemy, Charles of Spain, but they conducted their war in Italy, well beyond his usual sphere of control. The mismanaged war had to be called off after Charles and Ferdinand attacked Hungary in the wake of John Zápolya’s death. Suleiman defeated them and annexed it officially. Again war called. This time he sent his troops south without him, only to hear word that they felt Mustafa was a better leader than he was and Mustafa didn’t disagree. He joined them in the field and ordered Mustafa to come to him and prove his innocence, but it was a trap. He had Mustafa killed. The consequences rippled out. He killed Mustafa’s son, his grandson. One of his own sons died from grief. Roxelana died of old age. His two remaining sons, Selim II and Bayezid, began to quarrel for the throne, and he ordered them both out of the capital. Bayezid hesitated, and Suleiman turned against him. Even after Bayezid fled to the Safavids, Suleiman pressed for his execution and bribed the Safavid sultan to carry it out for him. Now, he had only one son.

February 18, 2016

Justinian & Theodora – IX: Justinian’s Comet – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 6 Feb 2016

A comet flew over the empire for forty days, heralding bad news to come. Raiders struck from the west, coming within mere miles of Constantinople. But the biggest threat lay in the south, where a border dispute threatened to reignite the war between the Romans and the Persians. Since Belisarius was still in Italy, Justinian had to send other generals to attempt to resolve the matter peacefully. Both failed spectacularly. The Persian king Chosroes (Khosrow) seized on this as a pretext for invasion. But instead of laying expensive sieges to the cities, he simply extorted them for tribute in exchange for being left alone by his army. As he advanced north, he took advantage of every opportunity to mock Justinian and remind him how little power he had to push the Persians back. Finally, the city of Antioch refused to surrender to Chosroes and he made quick work of it, convincing Justinian at last of the need to pay his own tribute to the Persians to make them go away. This bought him enough time for Belisarius to return, but even his great general was unable to make much progress. At last, he found himself pinned down in an un-winnable fight… which the Persians mysteriously decided not to engage against him. They did not want to risk contact with the Romans, whom they feared were rife with disease.

October 4, 2015

The new new world order

Filed under: Middle East, Russia, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

David Warren gives us a handy run-down of the aspects of the “new” new world order (not that icky Bush NWO, but the shiny new Obama NWO):

The “neocons” are exaggerating when they say that Barack Obama has handed over all United States interests in the Middle East to Vladimir Putin. Only half of the region has been surrendered, so far. The rest he has merely abandoned.

[…]

What has suddenly emerged, or rather been confirmed, is a Russian/Iranian “axis” that extends from the domain of the Ayatollahs, across Iraq and Syria, to the Hezbollah domain in what was once Christian Lebanon. The murderous Assad regime now enjoys not passive but active and aggressive Russian support, and the Western powers are now outmanoeuvred in advance of any attempt to retrieve their interests in Iraq.

Those who believe Putin’s armed intervention will stop the Camp-of-Saints flow of “migrants” to Europe are extremely naive. This can only increase. From the outset, the targets for the Russian air strikes in Syria are the very territories that were free of the ministrations of both Assad, and the Daesh. By reconquering this essentially neutral territory for the Assad regime (Iranian troops are pouring in for this purpose), huge numbers with reason to fear retribution must certainly flee for their lives. Their route is through Turkey, which will happily assist their passage via dinghies to Greece, thus into the European Welfare Union.

Putin and company have no immediate interest in stifling the Daesh. Neither has Erdogan of Turkey, who uses the same ludicrously false claim to be bombing the Daesh, while directing Turkish strikes against Kurdish forces. The Daesh itself is useful to both. They serve as poison snakes within the Sunni Arab tent — masters in the spread of Islamist terrorism not only within the Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria, but of its export from Afghanistan right across North Africa. As the Sunni terrorist force of Hamas — supplied today mostly from Iran — they will prove an invaluable resource for destabilizing Iran’s Arab enemies. The case is complicated only by Putin’s interest in maintaining Iranian dependency on Russia.

September 29, 2015

Why Did They Fight in Neutral Persia and Albania During WW1? I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 28 Sep 2015

It’s time for the Chair of Wisdom again and Indy answers your questions about World War 1. In our new episode we talk about Persian and Albanian neutrality and how it was ignored by the Entente and the Central Powers. David, our producer, also explains how he creates the soundtrack for our show.

September 10, 2015

Trump, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, and Michele Bachmann Rally Against the Iran Nuclear Deal

Filed under: Middle East, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 9 Sep 2015

Today’s big event in Washington, D.C. was a rally sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots against the Iran nuclear deal. The event drew several hundred people who showed equal amounts of contempt for the Islamic Republic of Iran, President Barack Obama — and the congressional leadership of the Republican Party.

There doesn’t seem to be a clear libertarian position on the Iran deal — some think it will open Iran up to moderating Western influence while others think it doesn’t do enough to keep the mullah’s nuclear ambitions at bay.

Reason TV caught up with Glenn Beck of The Blaze (2:18), radio host and best-seller Mark Levin (1:00), and former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (5:10), all of whom ragged on establishment Republicans as much or more than they did on Harry Reid, Barack Obama, and Islamic clerics.

And we managed also to find out what Donald Trump — the big draw at today’s event — thinks about libertarians. (:51)

August 2, 2015

Witchcraft in the Islamic world

Filed under: Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

A few weeks back, Strategy Page looked at “practical sorcery” in the Middle East:

ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) recently got some media attention because they had beheaded two Moslem women accused of sorcery. For a Moslem the only thing unusual about this was how the women are killed. Public beheading is usually reserved for men. Sorcery, on the other hand, is quite common in the Islamic world, even though it is strongly condemned in the Koran. Many Islamic majority countries consider sorcery a capital (the guilty are executed) crime. But there’s a lot more to sorcery than that.

For example, back in 2013 Mehdi Taeb, a senior cleric in the Iranian government explained that the major reason so many nations went along with the increased economic sanctions against Iran was because Israel had been using magic to persuade the leaders of these nations to back more sanctions. Without the Israeli witchcraft, the sanctions would not exist. Taeb explained that the Israelis have used this magic before, as in 2009, against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he was running for president. Many Iranians openly opposed Ahmadinejad, who won anyway. This, to Taeb, was proof that devout Moslems could defeat the Jewish magic.

What’s interesting with this observation is that, in 2011 Taeb and his fellow clerics tried to get rid of Ahmadinejad and his zealous (against corrupt clerics) associates. One method used was to send the police (which the clergy control) to arrest key Ahmadinejad aides and accuse them of witchcraft and sorcery. This led to street brawls between fans of Ahmadinejad and Islamic hardliners. Clubs, knives, and other sharp instruments were used. There was blood in the streets. All because of a witch hunt.

Ahmadinejad was quite popular because he has gone after corrupt officials, especially the clerics and their families, who feel they are immune from prosecution and can take what they want. In theory, the clerics can get rid of Ahmadinejad by simply declaring that he is not religiously suitable to run for election. That’s the kind of power the clerics have. But Ahmadinejad was too popular for that sort of censorship and Ahmadinejad was not corrupt. His rants against Israel and the Jews, while a bit much for some clerics, is also not grounds for being declared “un-Islamic” and ineligible to run for election. Ahmadinejad is quite respectful of Islam and most Moslem clerics but willing to go after clerics who are dirty. This is also quite popular with most Iranians, and that scares the dirty clerics at the top.

So why had the clerics decided to accuse Ahmadinejad cronies of sorcery? That’s because in most countries where there is a dominant religion, especially a state approved one, there is usually still a fear that the previous religion (or religions) will try to make a comeback. The former faiths often involved some really old-school stuff, including what many would consider magic and sometimes animal, or even human, sacrifice. It is not uncommon for there to be laws covering those accused to be practicing such sorcery and severe punishments for those convicted. At the very least, the accused will be driven from any senior government jobs they might hold, and that’s what’s being done to dozens of Ahmadinejad associates. In Iran Ahmadinejad was eventually removed from power by going after his more vulnerable associates and sorcery was one of the false accusations used.

February 6, 2015

Western politicians on terrorism – “I am appalled by the evidence that they actually believe what they are saying”

Filed under: Middle East, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

David Warren on the fecklessness of western politicians and the utter seriousness of the terror organizations and their backers:

The response to it in the West, and particularly from the United States government, is incompetent on a scale so breathtaking that I sometimes miss my slot as a daily news pundit. (And by inviting Netanyahu to address the U.S. Congress, Boehner proved himself as dumb as Obama.) What distresses me is not that characters like Obama and Kerry say “terrorism” has nothing to do with Islam. They are politicians: of course they spout drivel. Rather, I am appalled by the evidence that they actually believe what they are saying.

This goes beyond noticing that the terrorists cry Allahu Akbar! after every strike. To understand current events one must notice the war being fought within Islam. And this is not as hard as it might seem. It is a war between not one, but two radical factions: Shia fanatics, and Sunni fanatics.

“Al-Qaeda,” “the Caliphate,” “Hamas,” and some other groupings, though rivals for the leadership, are united in their aspirations for the Sunni side. Revolutionary Iran and its proxy Hezbollah provide the united leadership for the Shia side. Every formerly Western-allied government in the region, including that of the Wahabi sheikhs in Saudi Arabia, fears both sides; but they fear Iran more. And after Iran, they probably fear Turkey, which has the potential of becoming patron to the fanatic Sunnis on the analogy of Iran.

We could get into blaming Islam itself for the mess, but that won’t be necessary for today’s purpose. It is only necessary insofar as we must understand that the words Allahu Akbar are not uttered lightly, and are not insincere.

While both sides look forward to murdering us next, their attention is first focused on murdering each other. Attacks on Western targets must be understood in this context: for neither party is so naive as to think they can out-gun us, or even out-gun Israel. Moreover, many of their stunts (including video beheadings) are designed to manipulate Western public opinion — against themselves, in order to win allies within the region. The “Je suis Charlie” demonstrations in France, for instance, were a godsend to the Sunni fanatics: they triggered massive anti-Western demonstrations among less fanatic Muslims across the Middle East, and thereby magnified their claim to represent Islam.

January 26, 2015

Tsar Vladimir I is making “dangerous history”

Filed under: Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Austin Bay looks at the risky but rewarding path of aggression and propaganda undertaken by Vladimir Putin:

Russian president Vladimir Putin made dangerous history in 2014. His invasion of Crimea and subsequent annexation of the peninsula shredded the diplomatic agreements stabilizing post-Cold War Eastern Europe.

Then Putin ignited a low-level war in Eastern Ukraine. Despite a September 2014 ceasefire agreement, Putin’s overt covert war-making continues in Eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has concluded that Western leaders, European and American, are weak and indecisive.

Putin, unfortunately, knows how to use specific tactics in operations designed to achieve his strategic goals.

Military analysts typically recognize three levels of conflict: the tactical, the operational and the strategic. The categories are general, and distinctions often arguable. Firing an infantry weapon, however, is a basic tactical action. Assassinating Austrian royalty with a revolver is a tactical action, but one that in 1914 had strategic effect (global war). U. S. Grant’s Vicksburg campaign (1862-63) consisted of several Union military operations around Vicksburg (many unsuccessful). The campaign’s concluding operation, besieging Vicksburg, was an operational victory that gave the Union a strategic military and economic advantage: control of the Mississippi.

Putin’s Kremlin uses propaganda operations to blur its responsibility for tactical attacks in Ukraine. International propaganda frustrates Western media scrutiny of Russia’s calculated tactical combat action. Local propaganda targets Eastern Ukraine. Earlier this month, Ukrainian journalist Roman Cheremsky told Radio Free Europe that despite suffering criminal bullying by pro-Russian fighters, Kremlin “disinformation” is convincing Eastern Ukraine’s Russian speakers that Ukrainian forces are “bloodthirsty thugs.”

[…]

Oil’s price plunge, however, has also slammed Putin, threatening the genius with political and economic problems that, if prices remain low, could erode his personal political power. Energy revenue declines do far more damage to Putin than the economic sanctions Western governments have imposed.

So what’s a brilliant, innovative, thoroughly unscrupulous and utterly amoral strategist to do?

According to the AP, this week (Jan. 20), Iran and Russia signed “an agreement to expand military cooperation.” Iran and Russia are old antagonists, but given current circumstances vis a vis the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, Tehran and Moscow may be following an old Machiavellian adage: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The deal includes counter-terror cooperation, military training and “enabling each country’s navy to use the other’s ports more frequently.”

For years Iran has sought Russian air defense weapons, presumably to thwart a U.S. strike on its nuclear facilities. However, the agreement’s naval port clause attracts my interest. About a third of the globe’s exported oil moves on tankers through the Persian Gulf’s Indian Ocean outlet, the Strait of Hormuz. To spike oil prices, Iran often threatens to close Hormuz. If Iran actually tried to shut the Strait, Western nations have assured Gulf Arab oil producers that they will respond militarily.

November 30, 2014

Even the Marxists think laws “protecting” women are paternalistic and patronizing

Filed under: Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

In Britain’s Weekly Worker — subtitled “A paper of Marxist polemic and Marxist unity” — Yassamine Mather argues that the demand for “safe spaces” is insulting to women and denies their legal and moral equality with men:

In her speech to LU conference the Communist Platform’s Tina Becker, arguing against the proposed ‘safe spaces’ document, said it was patronising and bureaucratic. What did she mean by these two adjectives?

The idea that women in leftwing organisations need ‘protection’, as opposed to ‘empowerment’, is what is patronising. No doubt Felicity Dowling’s extensive work in dealing with child abuse cases and fighting for children’s rights is commendable. However, time and time again when she speaks about safe spaces she starts with abused children, before moving swiftly to the need for safe places for women, gays, blacks in society and, by extension, in the organisations of the left. I disagree with such a classification of women, gays and blacks as weak creatures — actual and potential victims who constantly need ‘protection’ from the rest of society.

On the contrary, as adults they need a progressive culture that encourages them and everyone else to challenge sexism, homophobia and racism. Comrades in Left Unity are not weak creatures: they are conscious individuals who recognise capitalism as their enemy — that is why they are in politics. They do not need protective legislation of the type social workers use when dealing with vulnerable children.

Here the example that comes to my mind is the struggles of Iranian women over the last 35 years. They had to fight misogyny not only at home, but in every aspect of social, political and economic life. The state claimed that their ‘safety’ was best maintained by segregation — in the home, or beneath the hijab in the street. But women rejected this from the first days of the Islamic Republic. They took to the streets and fought against misogynist legislation and, although there are still many battles to win, they have made great strides against all odds — to such an extent that the women’s movement in Iran is by far the most significant social movement of the region. Would they have been able to achieve this if in their battles against misogyny they had retreated to ‘safe spaces’? Of course not. On the contrary, it is precisely the ‘safe spaces’ provided by the clerical regime that they are rebelling against.

On the left the most effective way to fight sexism and racism is to make sure we battle against privileged positions and the abuse of power, against secrecy and cronyism. It was not lack of safe spaces that led to the disastrous situation in the Socialist Workers Party. It was secrecy, the power of those in authority, their ability to use ‘confidentiality’ to suppress reporting. A ‘safe spaces’ policy cannot protect women from a ‘comrade Delta’.

H/T to Natalie Solent for the link.

November 7, 2014

QotD: Freedom of speech versus “fear, cowardice and rationalization”

Filed under: Books, Liberty, Media, Middle East, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

On Feb. 14, 1989, I happened to be on a panel on press freedom for the Columbia Journalism Review when someone in the audience told us of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s religious edict for blasphemy against the British novelist Salman Rushdie. What did we think? We didn’t, as I best recall, disgrace ourselves. We said most of the right things about defending freedom of thought and the imagination.

But the death sentence from Iran’s supreme leader seemed unreal — the sending of a thunderbolt from medieval Qom against modern Bloomsbury — and we didn’t treat it with the seriousness that it deserved. I recall, alas, making a very poor joke about literary deconstructionism. My colleagues, though more sensible, were baffled and hesitant. Was it even true — or perhaps just a mistranslation?

We knew soon enough that it was true. The literary, media and political worlds rallied in defense of Mr. Rushdie. He became a hero of free speech and a symbol — even if a slightly ambivalent postcolonial one — of Western liberal traditions. But he also went, very sensibly, behind a curtain of security that was to last many years.

And by degrees — when it seemed that not only Mr. Rushdie’s life but the lives of his publishers, editors and translators might be threatened — his base of support in the literary world thinned out. Sensitive intellectuals discovered that, in a multicultural world, respect for the Other meant understanding his traditions too, and these often were, well, sterner than ours. Freedom of speech was only one value to be set against…ahem, several other values. Fear, cowardice and rationalization spread outward.

John O’Sullivan, “No Offense: The New Threats to Free Speech”, Wall Street Journal, 2014-10-31.

September 17, 2014

QotD: Fun has no place in Islam

Filed under: Middle East, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious. Islam does not allow swimming in the sea and is opposed to radio and television serials. Islam, however, allows marksmanship, horseback riding and competition …

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, meeting in Qom “Broadcast by radio Iran from Qom on 20 August 1979.” quoted in Taheri, The Spirit of Allah (1985) p.259

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