Aftermath of Suleimani’s Assassination in Iraq.

6 Jan

This should correct some misstatements about the legality of the Iraqi parliament’s actions and what’s next.
From Sajad Jiyad (who is Managing Director of the Bayan Center in Baghdad)
The Iraqi Government has a set of agreements and requests for assistance with foreign nations (such as the US) & organizations (such as NATO & Coalition) to advise, train & support the Iraqi Security Forces. Most of these are for the purpose of combatting Daesh, some are wider.
Parliament did not enact any legislation to govern these agreements, they were set about in an exchange of diplomatic notes by Iraq’s MoFA and the other side. As such, the government can cancel these agreements without reverting to parliament.
These requests & agreements do not dictate a timetable in the event of their cancellation. It is plausible that such action from the Iraqi side will build in a lengthy period but not beyond 2020. The other side may decide to withdraw rather than be pushed out.
The PM did not initiate the process to remove foreign troops but urged parliament to do so. 2 main reasons for this:
– the ramifications, sovereignty issues, procedural. As outgoing govt having support of parliament resolution better
– pressure on parliament than cabinet.
Parliament resolution to government:
– cancel request for assistance from Coalition
– remove all foreign troops, prevent use of land & airspace
– keep weapons in hands of govt
– lodge complaint against the US at the UN for violating sovereignty
– investigate US airstrike .
Goverment has 3 choices:
– ignore parliament resolution
– act on it (quick or slow)
– return to parliament with draft bill for the above (time wasting/buck passing)
Legal opinions abound on all this but history shows politicians ignore constitution/process/law when expedient.
The PM said the US and Iraqi priorities are diverging (US in Iraq to combat Iran primarily so will carry out further such actions), cannot guarantee safety of US troops in Iraq and nor can US itself so best to remove them to prevent reprisals and escalation.
Around 150 MPs did not attend the vote, the majority of whom likely oppose the expulsion of foreign troops. At this moment in time government has not yet decided to remove foreign troops but it is probable soon as things stand.

Jane Arraf asked him and his co-speaker if the US could stay in Kurdistan, and both said that as things now stand, the US would have to leave KRG as well as Iraq.

Now to my observations.  Avaz and Mashhad witnessed HUGE demonstrations of mourning for Soleimani tonight and his body reached Tehran for its funeral tomorrow.

These are not state-ordered turnouts, Iranians are genuinely outraged on the basis of nationalism.

What comes next will occur rather swiftly in Iraq – and if there are other aspects to Iran’s reaction, those may take more time.

Muqtada Sadr issued a very strongly worded statement calling the one issued in Parliament weak.  He calls for the ouster of US troops as well, and has now for a second time, also announced that the Mahdi army is reconstituted.  He is in Iran and he could return to Iraq.

I realize I haven’t blogged for a long time.  I was distressed by the many arrests and detentions in Egypt and a sense that no-one is listening to reason there.  I will try to get back to it.


6 Jul



After the opening of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament, a controversy broke involving Amr Warda, a 25 year old forward.   A Dubai woman of Egyptian-UK background, Merhan Keller released shots of his direct messages and a voice memo to her on Instagram. Giovanna Valdatti, a Mexican model also showed his aggressive efforts to get her to send nudes, that he sent his own photos and a video of himself masturbating and then later threatened her.  Other women shared similar stories and screen shots of direct messages. The Valdatti shots prompted Egyptian humor on Twitter like “I show you, you show me” or “I show her, but she didn’t show me, ya basha.”

The Egyptian Football Association initially announced suspension of Warda from AFCON on July 26, 2019.  Then Muhammad Salah, a Liverpool forward, playing for the Pharoahs squad for the AFCON issued two tweets defending Warda, in English.    The EFA’s President, Hany Abu Reda reversed the decision on Warda on June 28, 2019 in response lobbying by top players and after Warda released a brief apology. Orange Egypt removed Warda’s photos from their ad campaign despite his reinstatement by the EFA.


Detractors of Warda felt he had demonstrated a pattern of harassment, mentioning that after his first training in 2017 on loan to the Feirense team there was nearly a fight with two teammates as their wives accused him of harassment. He was let go.  There were other incidents including one at a training camp in Tunisia.


The immensely popular Salah came under fire for using his platform to support Warda as Egyptians used hashtags like Team of Harassers, or ‘Amr_Warda_Harasser. Those upset at the EFA’s reversal commented that men who harass or attack women are always defended by other powerful men. Others called the women’s stories silly, that the behavior wasn’t harassment, or that the women were complicit, or worse.


Brief Response


The controversy continued for about a week, illustrating the keen resentment of sexual harassment by many Egyptian women and sense of impotence in dealing with it – and solidarity from some men towards this issue.  The incident simultaneously showed precisely how the culture of harassment is perpetuated by males protecting other males who engage in it, heightened in the male-dominated arena of sports.  It demonstrated that some men (and some women) mock feminism and ‘political correctness’ which is supposedly motivating reforms and the Me Too movement globally and consider harassment not to be illegal (or are unaware of laws against it).  Warda-Gate revealed that harassment is magnified online where people meet those outside their normal networks, and strange women are easily dehumanized and fantasized by men as being available sexual partners.


Given the extreme violence toward women during and since the January 25, 2011 revolution in crowded settings like demonstrations (and prior to it at mawalid and the Eid festivals) and despite efforts like HarassMap, not much progress has been clocked toward eradicating the attitudes that fund that violence. Given the controversy about what harassment consists of, it was striking that defenders of Warda and Salah parsed different varieties of harassment, and insisted that the solidarity and national image inherent in sports has nothing to do with players’ private behavior.  It upset some that Warda did not apologize directly to his targets, but to his fans, other Egyptians, and only vaguely to those who might be upset by him. The women who complained were shamed and blamed as if they had encouraged the harassment in the first place, just as victim-blaming occurs in other forms of VAW (violence against women).  Considering that numerous Me Too cases have not been reported, discussed, nor tried in Egypt it was discouraging to witness the EFA’s actions and the way in which an incident with verification was argued in the court of public opinion.



Triple Summit in Saudi Arabia: Drums of War?

4 Jun

via Triple Summit in Saudi Arabia: Drums of War?

Triple Summit in Saudi Arabia: Drums of War?

4 Jun

Have let this blog languish this year with so much happening, and while trying to write a book.  Spend most of my tracking time on Twitter – follow me there if you like @SherifaZuhur.

The triple summits of the GCC, Arab League and OIC convened in Saudi Arabia were intended to underscore Saudi Arabia’s leadership in regional policy and its centrality to Muslim majority nations. In all three, Saudi Arabia’s King issued an urgent call to support him against Iran’s hostile actions, whether recent or more longstanding and to do so before the end of Ramadan and in Mecca, to remind all of his position as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.   Yet, the nations in these three organizations have different ideas about Iran’s intentions, and the U.S.’s role in deepening a crisis with Iran. Iraq and the smaller Gulf nations would rather avoid enlarging any conflict with Iran.   The Arab League is divided with regarded to numerous other issues, the GCC has been paralyzed since 2017 with the blockade on Qatar, and the OIC’s purview is hardly to declare or enter into wars.

King Salman presided, but it’s unclear if the triple meetings were suggested by his Crown Prince and advisors, or were his own initiative (which seems less likely). It is the Crown Prince who has pursued the war in Yemen and a more actively hostile stance to Iran.


King Salman injected strong condemnations of Iran’s alleged recent attacks (“terrorist attacks threatening the energy supply”, i.e. the attacks off of Fujeira) and interference in Arab states (via the Houthis in Yemen, directly and indirectly in Syria), and Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs. On these counts, the Arab League called for Iran to abide by United Nations’ resolutions, but there was some dissent or statements of exception.


Iraq’s President Barham Salih diverged from the GCC’s final statement arguing against escalation, reminding all of Iraq’s shared border with Iran and that a confrontation could lead to tragedy.


Qatar’s foreign minister also rejected the statements on Iran at the Arab League and GCC meetings, saying they had been prepared prior to the meetings and Qatar had no opportunity to consult; that they contradict Doha’s foreign policy, and that he had hoped the meetings would diminish tension with Iran rather than the reverse. He was then criticized by Gargesh and al-Jubair for his response. That Qatar sent representation was a surprise although the FM attended instead of al-Thani and all we saw of any reconciliation was a handshake between Shaykh Abdullah and King Salman arranged by Kuwait’s Shaykh Al Sabah.


The Arab League also condemned the escalation at al-Aqsa mosque whereby the IDF protected Israeli settlers who gained access. But the Arab League is also divided between Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s continuing cooperation with the U.S. unveiled peace plan and the intended summit in Bahrain.

Rouhani issued a public letter complaining about the non-invitation to the OIC and said the body should focus on the Palestinian issue, which Iran will aid.  Also Iran’s foreign minister complained about the use of the meetings to mobilize the Arab states against Iran.

The call to unite against Iran was also made at the OIC, where there was condemnation of the persecution of the Rohingya and a lengthy resolution to condemn the “transfer of embassies of the United States and Guatemala to Jerusalem” and urged all members to “boycott” countries that have opened diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

Pakistan’s PM, Imran Khan was filmed walking away from King Salman without waiting for translation of his remarks, but then met with him, and gave a speech about the OIC’s responsibility to explain Muslim issues – such as blaspheming the Prophet and the Qur’an – to the West, using an example of the Jewish communities’ successful efforts to convince the world not to speak of the Holocaust without sensitivity.   The meeting prompted the Indonesia’s FM, Marsudi to call for greater unity at the OIC and to warn that dissension threatened the OIC’s credibility (Jakarta Post).

Media outlets reported differing angles of the meetings. Some chose to emphasize deepening rifts, others discounted the importance of the meetings, whereas a CNN piece held that they heightened possible action against Iran.

History of a Song – Ya Ayn Mulayatayn

26 May

This material is all by the amazing Hytham M. Hammer.  Collector, seer on historic music – Jordanian and sometimes Iraqi.

I’m putting it here because I don’t want to lose the references on Facebook.

It’s early morning here in Amman, and I am sitting in my room listening endlessly to a certain song that defies categorisation. In the Arab world, there are few songs that can travel over such a vast, multicultural land stretching 13 million square-kilometres to become an ageless, pan-Arabic song like this one here attached in the YouTube video link that the Lebanese singer Samira Toufic (Arabic: سميرة توفيق), is seen singing with her band led by the Lebano-Armenian darbouka-player Setrak Sarkissian (Arabic: ستراك ساركيسان; nicknamed in Armenian as “Seto”), Mohammed Al-Berjawwi (Arabic: محمد البرجاوي, whose real name is Mohammed Ali Bakri and was known for his darbouka acrobatics!), first on second derbouka, then played on the large tabl, or bass-drum, and the impossibly magnificent mizmār-player Mahmoud ‘Ajroush (Arabic: محمود عجروش), in this televised live-set shot at Jordan’s Television studios in 1972, namely ‘Äl-Äin Mūllāyattin’ (Arabic: عالعين موليتين), a song sung on the bayātī scale (Arabic: مقام بياتي), and composed using the 4/2 Sol diesis (G# minor) sub-māqam called Ibrāhīmī (Arabic: مقام ابراهيمي), also written sometimes as ‘Ya Äin Mūllāyattin’ – يا عين موليتين), first put to record in 1923 by the Iraqi female singer El-Sett Ṣedīka El-Mūllāya (Arabic: الست صديقة الملاية, also spelled as El-Mullayé Sadika on her Baidaphon records), who’s a forgotten legend of the highest calibre that contributed greatly to Iraq’s folkloric music.

Ṣedīka’s real name is Fargha Bint Abbas Bin Hassan Al-Shebl (Arabic: فرجة بنت عباس بن حسن آل شبل. Note: Ṣedīka was a nickname that she became known by in women’s circles. She changed her name later to Ṣedīka Bint Saleh Bin Moussa to hide her real identity from the public as not to bring shame to her family). As a very young girl born in Al-Moussayyab county in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital in 1901 (Note: some date her birthday later to year 1909), when she was only two, she went with her mother to stay at Maḥallat Bab El-Sheik (Arabic: محلة باب الشيخ); a place where poor people resided, and began to learn how to sing some old laments called Al-Marāthy Al-Ḥusseiniyyah (Arabic: المراثي الحسينية; sad songs for women sung to memorise the killing of Imam Al-Hussein, who was killed in 680 A.D. in the Battle of Karbala mourned till this day by Shiite Muslims in the ten-day period starting from the first day of the lunar month of Muḥarram). Her first teacher was El-Mulla Shamsah (Arabic: الملا شمسة. Note: the title of mulla, or mullaya is designated to women who read these sad songs at women-only gatherings, as well as singing old poetic laments when someone passes away, called arājeez, depending on where the funeral is taking place whether it’s in the large city, or the countryside called ‘al-rïf’), who taught her how to sing.

The recitation of these old, traditional mourning lamentations called ‘Al-Qerāt Al-Ḥusseiniyyah’ (Arabic: القراءات الحسينية), is often combined with adulatory songs dedicated to ask God for the blessings of the House of prophet Mohammed at the end of the ten-day period, and Ṣedîka was always on the call at these gatherings that belong to the Shiite sect of Islam to sing. Later, she was taught how to sing Iraqi mâqamat (Arabic: المقامات العراقية), under the tutelage of ustad Rachid Al-Qanderghi (Arabic: رشيد القندرجي, who lived from 1887-1945); a grand-master singer considered as one of the best to have ever sung these thousand-plus years old music scales. She became famous overnight, and in 1918 started to sing professionally in Al-Shourugah nightclub where the wealthy Iraqi high-class elite used to go to listen to the best acts in the Iraqi capital and started to invite her to their palaces, most notably the Emir of Al-Muḥammarah Sheik Khaz’al. In 1923, the famous Odeon recording company invited her to record some of her best songs on 78RPM shellac that sadly, most got lost, or destroyed. The Iraqi national radio (Arabic: دار الإذاعة العراقية, Arabicised as Dār al-Ithā’a al-Irāqiyyah), asked her to be the first to inaugurate its music programmes on the 1st of July, 1936 which was a great honour at that time when Iraq was still a Kingdom.

She started to lose the limelight after WW-II when younger, more attractive female singers rose to fame and stole her thunder like Zouhour Hussein (Arabic: زهور حسين), Afifa Iskander (Arabic: عفيفة إسكندر), and Waḥida Khalil (Arabic: وحيدة خليل), to name here but a few, and after the end of her music career, she led a very poor life in neglect taking dole from the accounting department at the Iraqi radio where she used to go to get some money and beg outside of its gates after she’s lost her eyesight and became totally blind. Some Iraqi singers who frequented the radio building took care of her like singer Mohammed Al-Qubanchi, but slowly she was left prey to terminal rheumatism until she died in 1970. Her voice still survives on a dozen or so recordings that’s distinguished by its raw power and deep intonation that have won her such a glamorous status. This signing is called ‘al-mūllāya’, or ‘debkat al-mūllāya’ (Arabic: غناء المولية/ دبكة المولية), famous in the Euphrates region and used as a musical ‘geographical’ oral archive to immortalise certain places. It’s made of four poetic lines written in the metapoetic rhyme of Baḥr Al-Basiṭ (Arabic: بحر البسيط), with a stressed ‘nunnated’ yā’ Arabic letter in the fourth which is the last letter in the Alphabet. The songs are usually sung using the aforementioned bāyati, in addition to the nāhāwand scale.

There’s another female Iraqi singer who also sang this song, but she wasn’t a Muslim, nor a Shiite. Her name is El-Sett Ruth (Arabic: الست روتي; also spelled as Rutti, who was mentioned in a radio interview in 1963 to have been born in Baghdad in 1883). Just like Sett Ṣedīka El-Mūllāya, she also sang in cabarets and nightclubs, as well as her house on invite-only concerts for her richest fans who paid large sums of money to come listen to this woman who was nicknamed in the mid-1920’s “Bulbul Al-Iraq” (Arabic: بلبل العراق. Trans. The Nightingale of Iraq). Between the years 1925-1926 she was asked to record a handful of 78RPMs for Odeon, and these recordings still survive unlike Ṣedīka El-Mūllāya’s own. Some say that she wasn’t actually Iraqi but of an Indian descent; hence the name Rutti that was always misspelled as “Mrs. Ruth” on some of her Odeon and Baidaphon shellac recordings. What’s known about her life amounts to almost zero, but some sources attest that she was married to an Indian-British general at the British Army, and had a daughter from that marriage who went to live in England, then after quitting singing, she had remarried a man from Baghdad and disappeared completely from the music scene until she died, probably in the late-1960’s. Rutti was more active than Ṣedīka and got more recognition.

The two singers were contemporary, though. Little is known about who first sang ‘Äl-Äin Mūllāyattin’, but I can tell judging from the setting of Ruth’s song that she sang it after Ṣedīka El-Mūllāya by maybe two or three years in around 1925. Ruth’s recording (Note: I included it as an extra, downloadable MP3 file in the comments’ section as well as a full recording of Ṣedīka’s song), include clapping, called in Iraqi ‘taṣfeegh’ (Arabic: تصفيج), and a chorus ululation called ‘tahāleel’ (Arabic: تهاليل). These weren’t a common feature in classic al-mūllāya singing—a strictly solemn singing that had none of these two characteristics. The song was also recorded with various lyrics that differed in content but not in context. The words talk about the departure of a lover that’s left the eyes of a female lover as if two mullāyas, or weeping women were crying over them (Lyrics: “äl-äin mūllāyattin…” – عالعين موليتين; translated literally as, “There are two lamenting weeping women crying over my eyes”), then the song goes on to stress the sadness of this bereft lover with the second part of the song (Lyrics: “we ṭ’nash mūllāya” – وإطناش/ إثناعش مولية; trans. as, “and twelve mūllāyas”. The number twelve correlates to the Twelve Imāms of the Shiite Muslims). Through other parts of the song, it talks about men wearing “green turbans” which is also Shiite.

Shiites, or Shī‘ī (Arabic: الشيعة), have a close affinity to the descendants of prophet Mohammed and the consecutive sons of Ali who are numbered at twelve imāms, or leaders of the faithful, in what’s known as al-Imāmmiyah, or the Imāmmites just like the Twelve Apostles in Christianity who were Christ’s disciples, and the Twelve Tribes of Israel in Judaism who were Jacob’s sons. The song mentions an iron-bridge that the lover “breaks” in two halves going and coming to beseech the buried Shī‘ī Imāms Muhammad al-Jawād, and Mūsā al-Kādhim; both entombed in Quraish Cemetery situated on the west banks of the Tigris river. The bridge was built by the invading British Army in 1917, ordered by Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude who overtook Iraq from the Turkish Ottomans in the First Battle of Kut. The name of the bridge is called The Imāms’ Bridge (Arabic: جسر الأئمة; Arabicised as Jīsr Al-A’īmmah), and it connects the two suburbs of Baghdad, namely Al-Kāẓimiyyah and Al-‘Aḍamiyyah. It was made out of floating pontoons called in Iraq ‘ed-doub’ (Arabic: الدوب). There’s a huge mausoleum where people—especially women—go to pray and seek help from those dead pious Imāms buried there. The female lover in the song was no exception and she visited that place to pray for the return of her lover.

The main question remains still: How did Samira Toufic get to sing that song which—according to her hardcore fans; including myself—resembles her best song that oddly enough, she didn’t bother to put to recording until it became very famous shown in one of her 1974 films (Name: Al-Ghajariyyah Al-‘Achiqah, or ‘The Gypsy Lover’ – الغجرية العاشقة. See the link to watch it in the comments below), that was directed by the Syrian film writer and director Redha Maysar? The story begins in early 1972 when the president of Iraq Aḥmad Ḥassan al-Bakr (Arabic: أحمد حسن البكر), commissioned literary writer and poet Shafiq Al-Kamāli (Arabic: شفيق الكمالي); the Iraqi Minister of Information at that time, to put to record famous Iraqi songs for Samira Toufic who was visiting Baghdad to sing in the Iraqi dialect at the radio there. The president was attracted to Samira as he thought that she was really a bedouin singer when she was one-hundred percent Lebanese! Shafiq then asked the famous Iraqi, bedouin singer Jabbar ‘Akkar (Arabic: جبار عگار; the son of old, rababah-player and bedouin singer Sa’ed Akkar – سعيد عگار who had sung this very song before in the 1940’s as well as many other singers including female rïf singer Ḥamziya Yassin – حمزية ياسين, and the blind Iraqi singer Sa’adi Al-Bayati – سعدي البياتي), to teach her some of his bedouin-style songs to sing live at the radio (Note: it’s called Dar al-Itha’a al-Iraqiyyah, or دار الإذاعة العراقية).

He did, indeed, choosing four songs and among those songs, only ‘Äl-Äin Mūllāyattin’ saw a rising fame so much that every listener at the Iraqi community radio phone-in programme ‘What Listeners Want’ (Arabic: برنامج ما يطلبه المستمعون), asked for this song by Samira to be played over and over! The president didn’t like Jabbar’s voice, and instead favoured another bedouin singer, namely Mulla Dheif Al-Jebouri (Arabic: ضيف الله الجبوري), but when he saw his song getting sung by Samira Toufic, well that was one helluva lucky strike that has regained his faith in Jabbar ‘Akkar who first sang this song in 1969 as a rïf, or country song. Samira Toufic was paid exactly four Iraqi Dinars only! That measly sum of money was a huge insult to Samira who was used to private, highly-paid concerts in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, but Al-Kamāli couldn’t do a thing about it because had he given her a bigger payment, he’d have been obliged to raise all Iraqi local singers’ wages which was impossible to do taking into consideration the mediocre budget of the official, state-run radio at that time! Anyhow, her first recording wasn’t really all that good, so when she returned to Beirut, she asked Jordanian bouzuki-player and writer Jameel Al-‘Aaṣ (Arabic: جميل العاص), to rearrange the music for her, and the words to this song were changed to suit Samira’s soft voice.

To wit, when Sett Ṣedīka El-Mūllāya sang hers, she always wanted her voice to sound coarse; even hoarse and almost manly to suit the deep, and “thick” maqām (Note: something in al-mūllāya singing that’s usually called ‘al-ghaleeẓ’ – غناء الغليظ according to ustad Hussein Ismael Al-A’ẓamhi), where words are read and recited as loud as possible. Normally, the reciter woman would “read” in a coarse and loud voice so everyone present would hear. She was also called ‘äddādah’ (Arabic: عدادة, literally translated as ‘she-counter’ for being able to mention things that would set people to tears and force them to weep and cry in what’s known in Iraqi music as ‘al-boukaī‘īat’ – البكائيات that exclusively belong to the Shiite sect of Islam), and introduced foreign-language poetic lines into her songs being a tri-lingual singer herself knowledgeable in Kurdistani accent of foueliyyah (Arabic: الفولية), that she had inherited from her mother who was Kurdish. Samira met Sa’adi Al-Hilli (Arabic: سعدي الحلي, known as Abu-Khalid), in Sahara Hotel when she was invited to sing in Baghdad and both agreed to arrange for the four songs commissioned by the Iraqi president to be rewritten by Hilli himself who at the end took credit for them all. These songs include the following three songs that were part of Samira’s ‘Gypsy Lover’ film, and they are: ‘Yamma Hina Yamma’ – يما هنا يما, ‘Hay La Dana’ – هاي لا دانا, and ‘Ya Äin Mūllāyattin’ – يا عين موليتين.

The last song became an instant hit all of a sudden, and singers in as far as Turkey covered it, including the Father of Turkish rock Erikn “Baba” Koray, renaming it ‘Şaşkın’ (Translated fairly as ‘Bewildered’), in 1974. The video shown is from 1972 shot at Jordan’s T.V. studios—the same place where she recorded many of her best songs in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Jordan remained Samira’s second home when the civil war broke in Beirut, and she was loved by every Jordanian, including the late Jordanian king himself King Hussein, who had a crush on her and adorned her with the Order of the Star of Jordan (Arabicised as ‘Wisam al-Kawkab al-Urduni’), from the second degree. She was nicknamed in Jordan as “Umm Al-Jeish” (Arabic:أم الجيش), or ‘The Mother of The Army’ because she used to sing to Jordanian troops stationed in their war-fronts back in the late-1960’s and early-1970’s as if she belonged to them! Needless to mention is the basic fact that Samira was the first Arabic singer to get invited to sing at the inauguration party of Jordanian Broadcasting Authority (JBA, Arabicised as Haī‘īt Al-Itha’a al-Urduniyyah, or هيئة الإذاعة الأردنية), in 1959 along with the Rahbani brothers, introduced by Minister of Information at the time Salah Abou-Zaid. During that performance, she panicked and left the stage only to be invited to sing at the King’s palace the next day!

She’s an amazing woman and a daring performer who had certain “tics” that included her famous wink that men would die to get from her khoul’d eyes! Samira also employed a simple veiling gesture by placing her long-end of the cuff of her dress directly under her nose to mimic a bedouin girl who’s not supposed to look at a man with a full face as a way of enticing her fans who wished to marry a woman as beautiful as she was. One of the trademarks of Samira Toufic was her ‘fake’ mole that she had sported on her left cheek! This woman is a living legend at 82 years, and her family still surround her with the utmost care and love imaginable. Only two months ago, they surprised her on her birthday by asking her long-time tabl-player and friend George Shaqr to come to their building at Al-Hazmiyyah district in Beirut which brought her to beautiful tears*. Most drummers like Setrak Sarkissian, Mohammed Al-Berjawwi and Mohammed Ali Qazmouz related their success to this wonderful bedouin singer whom Jordan was her real takeoff to stardom, fame, and fortune. We Jordanians never forget her songs and in the last year King Abdallah-II invited her to sing at Jordan’s celebration of its Independence Day on the 25th of May during which he adorned her with the prestigious King Abdallah Ibn Al-Hussein Order for Distinction of the First Degree.

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“The World Is a Dangerous Place!”: Trump and US Financial Interests in Saudi Arabia

20 Nov

This morning Trump issued a very lawyerly statement on Muhammad bin Salman’s guilt with regard to Khashoggi’s assassination: “The world is a dangerous place!” (as if Khashoggi just bumped into his murder) …  “it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t”. And “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia, to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”


The full statement is attached here:


Why would Trump defend the murderous intent of a government who sends a hit-team to Istanbul to suffocate and dismember a U.S. resident and writer for the Washington Post?  First let’s begin to look at the money trail (and later at the grand plan that Kushner has supposedly cooked up for Saudi Arabia in the region).


#Trump claims to have NO business interests in #SaudiArabia. That is only half true. In June of 2001 #Trump sold the 45th floor of Trump World Tower to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and reportedly made $4.5 billion (actually more, see below). These apartments became part of the Saudi Arabian Mission to the United Nations.

Because the Saudis also paid additional costs (like annual fees of 85K per year) he could have made as much as $12 billion in that sale, but certainly $5.7 billion.


Earlier, in 1991, Prince AlWaleed bin-Talal bought Trump’s yacht, “Princess” for $20 million to help him out during a very tough period. In 1995, Prince AlWaleed along with other investors bought #Trump‘s Plaza Hotel for $325 million. (Prince AlWaleed expressed strong dislike for Trump, who has returned his animosity despite the fact that he had helped Trump with these purchases. Some have speculated this is why Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman so mistreated Prince AlWaleed when he captured him along with hundreds of others and held them at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. The Prince appears to have been tortured, or certainly is not the same man, and recently spoke in defense of Muhammad bin Salman as if ordered to do so).

While Trump’s dealings with Saudi Arabia were legal before his Presidency, certain actions during his campaign (involving Russia but also UAE and Saudi Arabia are arguably not) and he is supposed to avoid directly profiting from a foreign entity as a President. Even so, after #Trump became President, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spent $270,000 at Trump’s Washington hotel while they were lobbying (the US) – $190,000 on rooms, $78,000 for catering, $1,600 for parking accrdng to a Washington Post Report based on required lobbyist filings. Just slightly different figures were given by the Independent: “aid disclosures filed with US Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, show that Qorvis MSLGroup paid $190,272 to Trump International for lodging expenses, $78,204 for catering, and $1,568 for parking.”

Also see:


In July 2018 a lawsuit was filed against #Trump for accepting payments from foreign governments in that stay, which is a violation of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution. The President filed a Motion to Dismiss, which the court rejected. Here’s the judge’s opinion:


Though he may not actively manage the properties, he profits or “gains” from their profits. That lawsuit is continuing.


Also, in March of 2018, the #Trump International Hotel in New York hosted #Saudis accompanying Muhammad bin Salman. The Saudis paid so much that the general manager of the property wrote that their five day stay produced a 13% bump in revenue for that fiscal quarter 2h2 hours ago

In addition to this information which came from a fact-check on #Trump‘s denial of interests in #SaudiArabia ( ) we should look carefully at Crown Prince #MuhammadbinSalman‘s activities while in the United States in March He visited tech industries in California and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) pledged $45 billion to (Japanese) SoftBank’s $100 bill technology venture capital fund. Also, PIF bought a $3.5 billion share in Uber and a $2 billion stake in Tesla; and invested about $1 billion in Virgin Group’s space companies. Why all this spending?

Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman had magnificent plans under #Saudi‘s Vision 2030 for a tech city, Neom, which will use AI (artificial intelligence) and robots. Just imagine all the profits that Silicon Valley companies and others could make here!

But meanwhile, why wasn’t the U.S. speaking out even prior to the brutal murder of #Khashoggi, when Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman had brutally locked up and tortured senior #Saudis in the Ritz-Carlton, not releasing them until they paid huge sums of money to him?  At least one died and some are still locked up!

There have been arrests of activists, including women activists and reports they have been tortured, beaten, mistreated, and threatened from telling their family members of their treatment.

These include: include Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Mohammad al-Rabe’a and Dr Ibrahim al-Modeimigh.

Why was there no outcry from #US senators or congressmen? If not from #Trump and Kushner?  It wasn’t simply the prospect of business deals in the U.S. but because #SaudiArabia has spent a LOT lobbying individual politicians.

#Saudis spent $27 million on Washington lobbying firms in 2017, that is three times the amount they paid out in 2016. $400,000 went directly to campaign funds of senators and House members who were urged not to make noise about MbS’ actions at the Ritz-Carlton, or arrests of activists, and indeed they did not speak out about this. (Information from Centre on International Policy)


What about this important arms deal? President Trump claims that it totals $110 billion in sales. That figure is again, not entirely correct. Most of the agreements are MOIs (memoranda of intent). Actually the total is more like $28 billion made up of six items which were previously declared by President Obama to Congress. Others are more like more like a wish list, and are still being negotiated.


For example, the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-ballistic missile system received preliminary approval from the US Congress. However #Saudi Arabia was supposed to meet a September deadline with Lockheed Martin, and they missed that deadline. Many items are scheduled for far enough in the future, that the ‘deals’ could be withdrawn. The THAAD is tentatively scheduled for 2023-2026.

It doesn’t HAVE to be sold and no Americans are going to be put out of work they haven’t started on. There’s much more on this and fact-checking on the figure that Trump refers to here:

Now, I’m hoping to find out more about Kushner’s financial interests in Saudi Arabia …


CIA Concludes that CP Muhammad bin Salman is Linked to Khashoggi’s Murder

20 Nov

16 November – At the very beginning when Khashoggi’s October 2nd disappearance at the Turkish embassy broke in the press, and I began to tweet about it – along with 1000s of you – I wrote that I was SURE #Khashoggi had been told “by someone he trusted״ that it was safe to go to the Istanbul consulate. That he was observant & no fool.

Today we learned from the CIA that the Ambassador to the US, Khalid bin Salman told Khashoggi, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post, that he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents and gave him assurances that it would be safe to do so.”


this is is the same Ambassador who said “the reports that suggest that Jamal Khashoggi went missing in the Consulate in Istanbul or that the Kingdom’s authorities have detained him or killed him are absolutely false.” That was before he hurriedly flew to Riyadh without any good-bye party and he has not returned to Washington DC.

Today, (Nov. 16) Khalid bin Salman denied communicating with Khashoggi, so did the embassy spokeswoman – but the CIA has intercepted a communication – WSJ suggests this was on Whats App. So that’s a lie. And the Congressional intel committee heard about this on Thursday

Andrea Mitchell Verified account @mitchellreports

Congressional intel committees were briefed Thursday that CIA believes Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi death 1st reported by @washingtonpost

Also today the funerary Salat al-Gha’ib (for the dead whose body is missing) was said for Khashoggi in Mecca, and in Medina, and also in the Fatih mosque in Istanbul.


To understand the timing of leaks or information to the media. Turkey has prodded with leaks obtained from its security officials aimed at the US. Why? Because Turkey thought the US has the most influence over Saudi Arabia and could convince it to cooperate more effectively with the investigation into the killing of Khashoggi (which Saudi Arabia has certainly not done – having ignored the extradition papers and refused to give information and told the Turkish investigators to come to Riyadh instead.)


There are two audiotapes under discussion. CIA chief Haspel heard the 7 min. tape previously (in which Khashoggi was actually killed) The timing of the CIA leak comes as the Saudis “concluded” their “investigation” so the off-record statement from the CIA about the communication from Khalid bin Salman (explaining why Khashoggi went to the consulate in Istanbul trusting in his safety) ‘should’ have an impact despite KbS’ denials.


Here was a heartfelt farewell and explanation of the funeral prayer for the “absent” by JK’s friend Yasin Aktay. Aktay is close to Erdogan and this explains why a call to him from JK’s fiancee rather quickly brought authorities’ attention to other details like the two teams of Saudis arriving that day by private aircraft.


The Washington Post’s smoking gun (as to the knowledge and direction by Muhammad bin Salman of the murder) is the communication between Khashoggi and Khalid bin Salman.   The CIA concludes that MbS knew that Khashoggi was directed to go to the embassy in Istanbul. Now, quite honestly, the CIA knew this after the audio tapes were heard and as it has been investigating multiple source of this information. Also remember there were already intercepted communications leaked about in the US concerning the luring of Khashoggi back to KSA (just not a direct message to him).


On BBC 5 Live (on which I was a guest on Nov. 16) we discussed whether this CIA assessment (& other new factors like the 15 minute audio which captured a discussion by the killers prior to Khashoggi’s entry to the consulate in which they reviewed their plan and their roles) are “enough” to implicate Muhammad bin Salman. My radio host has rightly emphasized that if all the millions and billions at stake in business, lobbying, arms sales and so on were not involved, then justice would be a simpler matter.

My radio host asked: “Can KSA ever be part of the internat’l community given this flagrant behavior?”


I can’t recall of my lengthy answer – it concerned the fact that pariah nations and pariah leaders ARE part of the international community but we need to force them to account for their actions, as just the day prior November 15th, two higher officials in Cambodia, one of them Pol Pot’s #2 had finally been sentenced.


And that I am certain that Saudi Arabians want to be part of the international community and deserve better [from their own government] (as Jamal Khashoggi himself wrote).

But that requires justice for Jamal, release of MANY political prisoners, a moratorium on arms sales, a change in policy on Yemen (which MbS has said is a bad idea), an end to guardianship for women and much more.

Khalid bin Salman’s irritated response complaining that the Washington Post hadn’t published the totality of his denial of communicating with Jamal Khashoggi shows that he doesn’t understand that the CIA wants the public to know what it knows and why. To force some hands. Because Kushner, Trump and many senators and congresspersons are in Muhammad bin Salman’s pocket.

Referring again to my first statement – that Jamal Khashoggi had to have been duped by someone to go to the consulate in Istanbul (rather than try to obtain his documents in DC where it is not impossible to be murdered [there was an assassination attempt on Adel al-Jubair] but it certainly would have been more dificult) I noticed that Iyad al-Baghdadi – a democracy activist also noticed that Jamal changed his plans in the period between August and September.


This pertains to BBC 5 Live’s question to me – did I think Jamal Khashoggi ever thought he’d be murdered. As I told BBC, he wouldn’t have dreamed he’d be murdered! Maybe a kidnapping was a fear, but with that reassurance from Khalid bin Salman, he would not have feared going to the consulate. Still, he left his telephone with his fiancee and she raised the alarm when he didn’t return.


From Iyad al-Baghdadi’s TL – “Then on October 15th, I received a leak from someone who claimed to be a Saudi source. He claimed that MBS “chose” Istanbul for disappearing Jamal way before the incident. He didn’t mention when, but he seemed to suggest it was weeks before.”


There is much more here to follow up on MbS closest advisors Saud al-Qahtani and Turki al-Sheikh, the sports empressario. #Khashoggi wrote that they were thuggish and that Muhammad bin Salman didn’t really have advisors, he had these two and others like them close to him.   Both were among kidnappers of the previous crown prince Mohammad Bin Nayef. #Egypt’s al-Ahly fans will agree after Turki al-Shaikh’s efforts in Egypt (see the article below)


Here are interesting details on al-Sheikh and al-Qahtani in James Dorsey’s piece.

Al-Qahtani was accused in one Turkish leak of directing the actual murder by Skype and saying about Khashoggi “bring me the head of the dog.” Al-Qahtani was relieved of some his many duties (we don’t know which). His official Twitter account seemed to have been taken over by someone else after October 24. However many Twitter accounts created in October ’18 which solely tweet support for Muhammad bin Salman or attack the Washington Post, or were attacking Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz may be the work of al-Qahtani, Mr. Hashtag.

Here are more details on al-Qahtani and al-Sheikh in Hubbard and Kirkpatrick’s NYT piece. The important detail – neither is among the initial 18 arrested (now 21 are reportedly arrested) for #Khashoggi‘s murder despite Turkish claims about al-Qahtani –


Back to the role of AMB Khalid bin Salman. If your older brother, the most powerful person in KSA asked to you to tell, or have someone else tell #Khashoggi to obtain a document in #Istanbul, would you do that? And would you ask why? As for me, I’d ask my brother. But, if he did not respond to my question, then I would assume – that nothing should be said. So Khalid bin Salman may not have known that any attack was being planned for Khashoggi. But certainly al-Otaibi, the general consul in Istanbul DID know. Did he know in advance? Well, he was present and arranged transportation for the team to the consulate. His voice is heard on the briefer of the two tapes, objecting to the murder being committed in his study and he was allegedly threatened by the murder team.


To find this thread on my Twitter TL – (there is a bit more about the actual number of women drivers – since MbS is touted as being a great reform, I thought we should look at that too)