October 30, 2006

the order to remain silent

Mahmood's Den, a blog of a brilliant mix of wit, intelligence and fun of transcontinental proportions, was blocked today by a ministerial order devoid of any of the above.

The blog was so fun and pleasure read, that one thought the ruling family, many of whom are world-class pleasure seekers, would never resort to a pleasure-forfeiting move like this. But then, their new-found alliance with air-conditioned salafis is so locked, you don’t know who is the instigator party in all of this.

It is a sad day for the blogosphere. And a sadder day still for those who believed that beautiful days were ahead of us.

October 28, 2006

the right to remain silent

Our sublime ports are still deafeningly silent on Al-Bandar report. Six weeks on the breakout of the biggest political scandal in this island’s modern history, and the authorities are yet to break their long fast of silence. (To be fair, so are the leaders of those in whose name this whole plan sought to shore up- mainstream Sunni Bahrain).

Or in the words of one Italian poet:

“Silent as a man to be shaved.”

But we can take a day sailing detour from Al-Bandar affair in KKA to another Abu-Bander affair in KSA. The Guardian of today (28/10) has a delicious sequel to its investigation of the famous Al-Yamama-Tornado deal. (The first part alleges Saudi princes received yachts and sexual favours in return). This time, someone in the British bureaucracy made the terrible gaffe of sending some of the deal's classified documents to the Archives. The mistake was soon rectified, but not before some of the juicy stuff, just like in our Al-Bandar case- found its way to a Xerox machine nearby. And the top man here is none other than Abu Bandar, HRH Prince Sultan.

You can read about here :


This classified document briefs Thatcher on Sultan:


"He is not highly intelligent but he has charm". " He speaks freely and authoritatively, though not always coherently".

Prince Saud:

"Very bright, but perhaps not so bright as he thinks".

And about Bandar himself:

" Born 1950, son of the Minister of Defence by a nigress. His father at first neglected him because of his dark skin, but later recognized his qualities".

October 03, 2006

هنا يباع الوطن

The silence has been deafening.

A government swift in detaining the guy, confiscating all his belongings, deporting him on first flight and issuing his post-mortem press release, all in one day, suddenly has nothing to say about his report. For a fortnight, the authorities looked like a deer caught in the headlight. Not a single official statement, no reasonable explanation, no nothing. The higher-ups demeanor was as if the report was about another government of a third country. Not their business to comment or meddle into the fray. As for the other implicated party, societies purporting to speak in the name of Sunni Islam, they practically dealt with the report as a piece of fiction, a sequel of a Satanic Verses which better be left - or its author- to the shredders.

A fortnight ago, there was a press conference to unveil a new insurance and financial services company, Nexus Bahrain. At about the same time, the details of another formidable nexus were being revealed, slowly but surly over the internet.

Regimes, like us mortals, seek all the insurance policies they can afford. Some are basic coverage while others are supplementary insurance in case basic policies lapse or fail. From the state’s perspective, the alliance with Sunni ideologues makes a perfect second line of protection, insurance, complementing policies enterprised elsewhere. It’s a pity there wasn’t much of a PR pomp to herald such unique and strategic partnership.

A fortnight later, the strategic pause of silence gave way to a tactical reversal. A dozen of political detainees, almost past their half detention terms, were released. The red herring of electronic voting, which needed a constitution amendment in the first place, was shelved, for now. Yet, all implicated men – there is no single woman involved- are still soldiering on with their jobs –and columns- as usual. No reversal there. If the case of Adel Flaifel is any indication, this is a government truly loyal to its loyals, for a truly good reason.

For a conspiracy theorist, Al-Bandar report is a dream come true. From the blueprints of the plot to the blue ink of the signed checks for colour printers, with every middleman named in between, the facts and numbers speak for themselves. With the possible exception of a couple of details (notably whether some functionaries named were legitimately paid for ad-hoc work done for an ad-hoc ministry like the Cabinet Affairs), the report stands a damning, incriminating document like no other.

But it is boring to sing the praise of a serious report. The fun part is to denounce the report and its author, and I fancy joining in the festivities.

The report’s manifest failing is its conclusion. To suggest that there was a secret special-interest organisation with a leading ring and working extra-legally to subvert the constitution, derail the elections and further marginalize the Shia of the land is plain ludicrous. a Cambridge-associated researcher should be more precise and parsimonious with his terms.

Secret? Unknown to which level of government exactly? This is a group opting to do its job in silence.

Leading ring? That suggests a self-contained group. Besides, those presumed leaders, like Al-Bandar himself, are major figures in a side operation. The side operation? To use Al-Watan as a mechanized division in unison with salafi infantry to seize maximum ideological territory from the enemy and get hold of the Golan heights of the information war.

Extra-legal? You can call those involved any name you liked except being risk-taking. Obedience to Authority is a tenet of faith for those religious functionaries. It shows in being ultra-orthodox with the receipts and money changing hands transactions. It reminds me with the case when so MP’s called the naturalization process illegal, only to find its constitutional immunity goes all the way to Article 33 of the enforced constitution.

Special interest? In defence of the minister, few government ministries can match the dedication and almost military discipline of the CIO. Its mission and set objectives, as put out on its website, all are unambiguous about it serving to obtain, store and disseminate data in support of the decision and plan making authority of the land. It pronounces that repeatedly and with enviable clarity.

Subversive? The minister involved is one of three brothers who rose to prominence –despite being from the outer flank of the ruling family (and hence their penchant for higher education) thanks to the new guard. At close points in time, ,one headed National Security, one the Royal Court Affairs while our protagonist headed both the Cabinet Affairs and CIO. All, with the rank of minister, they are the King’s men, and to suggest that they would bite the hand that fed them sidesteps the dynamics of the ruling family to go into the realm of the incredible.

But then, there are some other incredible parts of Al-Bandar’s story. For example, his explaining that the one million dollar check was written in jest, or his assertion that his involvement with Al-Watan ended upon submitting a feasibility study.

You could tell, dear proud Arab nationalist reader, that the government in post-Henderson times is increasingly turning toward pan-Arab brothers. The range of sourced talents reads like the Arab league. ( There is also an Indian journalist but that’s subsidiary). An Iraqi full professor drawing on both Baath techniques and Muslim Brotherhood proclivities to draw up the meat of the new phase of the plan. (For the old phase you have to go back to his days as a lieutenants in the militarization plan of the University of Bahrain as head of measurement and evaluation). A smart Jordanian intelligence team. An energetic Egyptian pay-per-word squad. A Kuwaiti bank (sorry a finance house) with supreme annualized asset per employed Shia soul ratio (US$ 17 billions to zero). (You would think that the folks at the BMA would have asked KFH if it intends to repeat its impeccably exclusivist policy prior to licensing them to do business in Bahrain). Saudi indoctrination schools. A Yemeni evangelist. A Lebanese journalist. And of course, a Sudanese strategic planner. (Did I miss any nationality?).

But if you are dismayed, dear patriotic reader, of seeing your government feverishly sourcing other lands for the strategic projects, while assigning the local lot to the menially administrative tasks of writing and delivering checks, don’t despair. All of this has a certificate of local origin. Remember that poem-celebre (the one and only of its genre in the history of Arabic verse) detailing a political master plan and a final solution written in riposte to another poem some 10 years ago?

That is all to be expected. But to me, the most awe inspiring moments of the report were pages 85-87. Here you reach a Muslim Brother/Salafi moment of transcendence. The lines between a secular state and religious mission dissolve completely into a state of fusion surrealistically real. Under the title “Expense of missionary work “Daawah” for the month” , the public purse assumes the expenses of changing a Shia name to a “Muslim” name, provide a video camera for a lady converting to Sunni Islam and the educational trip of an Iraqi who saw the Salafi light to the original wells of Saudi Arabia. Its cloud 9 for our friends at Islah and Asalah.

This being a story about a strategic planner going off-strategy, one should end with an executive summary. Unless those implicated are removed from office and brought to a trial, this country has no future. (The most recent exemplar of state and church united in fermenting –rather than extinguishing- hate was Rwanda). If you can establish a living, a residence or a residency in a near or a far country, please do so.