The Marketing Strategy of A Cereals Box

The late Steve Jobs is well known for a famous saying: “Customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them” ; a saying that holds true in many cases and which I have had the chance to experience firsthand very recently in one of its most blatant figures.

Saudi Arabia is a market mostly known to attract products from the 4 corners of the world; so if you are a fan of studying brands and comparing what they do as opposed to their competitors then here is the best place for so. Add to it that up until recently, shopping – in all its forms – had been the main source of entertainment, so there is always a competition and a struggle to attract customers in all sorts of ways. I’d like to add that this competition is not always clean or ethical – at least not when compared to CSR initiatives that many companies are taking in order to show that they care about the society and would like to give back.

I was in the cereals and morning food aisles and there was no shortage of cornflakes options at all; brands from the united states, to Europe to the Middle East were conveniently placed next to each other. One thing you need to take into consideration that in this market, all US products are sold for premium prices that is sometimes triple the price of local or middle eastern competitors because of the additional overhead needed to get the product to the shelves and because it is perceived as a higher quality. The boxes were stacked to serve a specific purpose which is to target the main customers of this category: the 7-8 year olds who are the main consumers of this commodity.

It was a classical marketing lesson: on a “relatively” higher shelf were the boxes of a cereal brand that is made in a Middle Eastern country; those come in a 1 kg packaging and for a very competitive price – 16 SAR the equivalent of $4.27. Such a box would be a sensible choice for any parent but on the lower shelves exactly at the eye sight and arms reach of the 7 year olds was a “foreign” box that came in 500 grams packaging and ran for the price of 14 SAR or the equivalent of $3.73 so when compared to the other brand you would be getting half the quantity for almost the same price – not a wise economic decision one might say. Facing those aisles was a father who was doing his regular grocery shopping for his family and he had brought his son with him.

After the father reached out for the bigger box the son told him that he wanted the smaller one; the father refused and told him that the bigger one was better but the son insisted and said that this one had a toy and he wanted it. The discussion went on back and forth for a while and you can easily predict who won that confrontation at the end…. The father had to give in to his persistent son and accept the losses that came out of it….

This is not a unique case nor were the boxes randomly placed like that; companies pay premium prices to have their products placed on shelves and levels that would attract customers the most; it is a part of their “push” strategy where they want their product to be in your face. Regardless if you really need the product or that brand specifically they create a need for you and most of the time you just go along with it. Many times you buy a product not because you need it but because you saw it in your face and something about it attracted you. A bar of soap now boasts to contain more fruit than a piece of cake, you look at the wrapping and you think that it is for a chocolate bar with pictures of all kinds of berries on it; also a strategy to attract you.

We like to believe that our choices are our own but most of the time they are planted into us; What does phone X that costs you a massive amount of money do for you that the much cheaper phone Y can’t do? Would you have bought this specific brand hadn’t it not been conveniently placed for you? More importantly do we really need that “gift” and is it really a gift when we are indirectly paying for it because we went for the more expensive choice? Big companies spend fortunes on marketing and market research in order to influence and attract customers. In one of the teen choice awards events there was a well-known company that was doing research focused only to know what is the percentage of teens who were using Facebook as opposed to those using Twitter and as opposed to other social media platforms. The reason was very simple: know where to spend the biggest chunk of their marketing budget in order to attract more people.

If there was one piece of advice that I wish that someone had given me as a child it would be: “never go after the product that has a gift or free item” ….. I’m not saying that that those products are not good but at the same time I am just questioning why was the gift placed and was it actually a gift? So the next time you go buy a cereals box ask yourself or your child if that gift is really worth it……

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The “Brangelina” Story as a Business Model

The story of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt can be compared a lot to that of Daimler-Benz and Chrysler merger although the first one lasted 3 years longer than the later. At the time it happened, it was considered a merger made in heaven between 2 big superpowers and at the time it was over it was deemed worthless. For the sake of our story we will consider Brad Pitt to be Daimler Benz and Angelina to be Chrysler.

When Brad “merged” with Jolie he had a small foothold in America (Jennifer Aniston) which was somewhat not fully satisfying him. Brad (Daimler) wanted to expand his reach in America and he came across Jolie (Chrysler) a luxurious, flashy and highly in demand brand at the time and they both clicked. During the years that ensued, Brad went on to strengthen his foothold in America (Daimler building factories in the USA) while Angelina drifted away from her core business (less movie appearances) and did not increase her territory (Chrysler failed to expand into Europe at the same pace that Daimler expanded in the USA). During that tenure Brad was rumored to have had some flings (Daimler’s stake in Mitsubishi and Hyundai motors) but both were ended or denied. Trouble kept coming with Angelina (Chrysler) suffering the most – nervous break downs, double mastectomy and eating problems (Daimler Chrysler merger came to an end in 2007 just one year before the financial crisis when Chrysler took bailout money from the US federal government)

So now what?

For Brad: He will probably keep moving along and searching for bigger and smaller stakes here and there to try to polish his image (Daimler has a small share in the Nissan Renault alliance to help the German manufacturer in building small cars and EVs) Ironically he is rumored to have cheated on Angelina with a French actress (anyone else sees the humor here?) or to increase his reach in unexplored territory (50% stake in the Chinese automaker BYD and 12% in Chinese BAIC as well). He is unlikely to find another “Chrysler” or to settle back to a “small foothold” but he will be “everywhere” (Daimler has operations in 16 countries!)

For Angelina: the “old” lady will have to wait for a Sergio (CEO of FIAT) to come along; someone who wants her for her great past and who hopelessly believes that this past will push him forward to grandiosity; he will be happy enough to carry her big debt (6 children) but unfortunately he won’t get anything. Sure enough every now and then she can give him a “jeep” but that won’t cover the investment. She will drag him in to what she has always done and he will fumble along still thinking that he can get a bigger foothold in America (Sergio Marchionni still hopes he can revive FIAT in USA through Chrysler.)

In the world of business, mergers in the “same line of business” either face spectacular success or fail spectacularly. Unfortunately the 2nd option prevailed for our 2 actors in this case just like the Daimler Chrysler case; and as in most failure cases one gets out damaged more than the other and so far it seems that Angelina has had the shorter end of the stick. As the wise man once said “if it is too good to be true, then it probably is!”

#GREXIT And The #IRANDEAL

July seems to be so generous this year because in one week Greece saved its behind, Iran struck a deal with the “Greater Devil”, New horizons sent us live pictures of Pluto and Bastian Schweinsteiger became a red devil (this last piece of info can be a source of conflict though!).

If anything, the Greek and Iranian deals are purely business driven. Make no mistake, no party involved in any of both deals struck a “yes” purely because of goodwill or good citizenship. A Greek exit from the EU would have signaled the beginning of the union’s end and would have opened the door for other less convinced members to leave the group (Britain comes right on top of my head) and the domino would have rolled and although France and Germany seem somewhat eager to trim off the extra fat, deep down they knew that they had to keep Greece tucked in.  Perhaps the biggest catalyst for the Greek deal came from Russia; it was more than enough for President Putin to hint in one of his press conferences that a Greek exit meant more currency freedom for the country and meant that they were acquitted from all agricultural quota agreements with the EU to make all members eager to solve the situation. Last year’s EU’s sanctions against Russia have hurt both the EU’s and Russia’s economies and Putin might have seen in an independent Greece a possible ally especially that Russia lost important agricultural suppliers in Europe.

On the surface, one might think that Putin was dealt a hand, but the truth is that comrade Putin was a winner because he was smart enough not to slide in the Greek mud while successfully pushing the troubled EU further deep inside.

On the other hand, Putin’s real trophy was the Iranian nuclear deal; and I’m not talking in the political terms but rather in the economic terms. You see, Iran has tons of cash stacked in banks all over the world and years of sanctions have created a very thirsty economy that is ripe to use these funds in attracting investors and in investing heavily in the country. On the other hand, all the global economy is suffering and they are all in dire need for new markets and new money sources. These were the exact reasons that forced USA to restore diplomatic relationships and of course business with CUBA and they were also the reason here. Even France, the biggest ever opponent of the deal was the first country to announce that French companies might still get a chance to invest in Iran despite France’s official stand on the deal and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius has already announced that he will be visiting Iran next week (wait a minute dude, did you consult with your Israeli friends before taking such a hasty decision?). It’s very strange how the slight notion of money and profit can make one turn against their closest allies – just like the current situation of France and Israel.

But before everyone starts drooling over the Iranian pie, take a minute to remember that this is Iran – the country which until recently has been considered the heart of axis of evil and was named all sorts of names and remember that they are not known to be forgetful, so if anything then the biggest chunk will go to their staunch ally – yes you guessed it, it’s comrade Putin again. Russia has already announced that there will be deals that involve planes and if the sanctions are lifted then this will definitely mean both civilian and military planes. In addition, the country that has been for the longest time ever suffering from oil shortages will be able to fulfill its needs both in production and consumption with all the ramifications that will come from such a thing.

Iran might not really replace the EU in terms of trade size with Russia but Putin will definitely benefit the most especially that Iran has high agricultural production which Russia can definitely benefit of. On the other hand, Poor Obama has worn himself out to get that deal done and it so far seems that the Americans will not benefit financially whatsoever despite Obama’s relentless offers to market the deal in USA as a means to prevent war and promote peace, not unless Iran decides to lure them in even more.

A few years ago, Britain released the Lockerbie bomber who was Iranian; the official reason back then was humanitarian – the man was supposedly suffering from terminal cancer. The real reason though was to allow BP to strike a deal in Iran and that was what happened exactly. In 2015, the same is going to happen and nuclear Iran will be allowed to become so in return for financial benefits that the whole world desperately needs.

A lot can be said about diplomacy, about peace, about war and negotiations; a lot has been said about these in the last few weeks but the truth is it was all purely business; the country that until recently represented radicalism and extremism has become the world’s sweet heart and Israel which also until recently was Europe’s and America’s protégée has been shoved aside because it is not economically interesting anymore. For after all, and as one of my MBA finance professors used to frequently say: “It is not unethical, it is just business.”

As Oil Profits Decline, ISIS Taps Into A New Resource: Archeological Artifacts

ISIS top man is almost a ghost, a man of very few appearances and whenever he does show up he makes sure that all the 6 billion inhabitants of the planet know about it. In one of his staged appearances, the whole wide world seemed to ignore all what he said and focused on one thing: The Rolex watch in his hand. After all the guy does have an exquisite taste but it’s not his taste what matters here, what matters is the fact that traditionally Rolex watches have been linked to the big money owners, the affluent and successful business leaders and this here is the core of the issue.

Since its debut, ISIS has shown business skills as equally as military skills and although one would question how can you form a well trained and highly occupied militia in a fortnight, some sorts of business successes can be done in such a short time especially when the resource is strategic, offers high returns and the competition is virtually non-existent. All these apply to oil so it was normal and understandable that the first thing ISIS did after invading parts of Iraq and Syria was to control oil resources; they even advertised a job opening in November 2014 for an oil field manager to manage their valuable asset, and put it back on the right track all the while pushing competition out of the market by turning to the black market to sell their oil for prices as low as $20/barrel and sure enough there was never any shortage of customers. But that was just a short lived phase because the world which was happy with the low prices at the beginning quickly realized that the negative effects reached as far the shale oil rigs in North Dakota. That was when the US led a coalition in order to presumably stop ISIS and they started their air raids and soon enough it was obvious that those raids where just orchestrated to prevent ISIS from entering certain areas of interest; for example the raids were really effective and served their purpose when ISIS threatened the federal state of Irbil yet not even one plane left base when the Yazidis were being slaughtered and pushed to extinction.

With oil profits drying up, the rolex-wearing business man had to tap into another resource that is abundantly available in the area he controls (and no I’m not talking about dates); actually this area is extremely rich in archeological ruins and artifacts that are valued in many millions of dollars and which have a buyer base that is as enthusiastic and deep pocketed as the oil clients ( just today I heard that someone paid $187 million for a Picasso painting, so can you imagine how much they would pay for a 4000 year old statue?)

And as any smart investor he first tested the grounds and he did so in Mosul. People sat horrified in front of their tv screens as they watched ISIS fighters tear down and break apart statues that were almost older than humanity itself but then they all sighed in relief after archeologists came to say that most of the statues on display were dummies and replicas and that the real ones were hidden. Great news, now instead of having to tour all the sites, ISIS can go to one central warehouse and find all what they need to sell (that’s how you cut your supply chain costs and increase profitability, told you this guy was a business man in a previous life!)

A few days ago, the US military euphorically announced the killing of a top ISIS oil expert along with 40 aides (maybe that was the dude who replied to their 2014 ad and got hired) yet they sat and watched as the militia entered the 4000 year old Palmyra which we call Tadmor; again no planes flew over that area (starting to sound a bit eerie no?) there also is a great historical reserve and while after the attack on Mosul ISIS videoed how they were destroying the ruins, nothing has come out of Palmyra yet and I don’t think anything will because  the guys will be busy making deals to sneak as much as they can out of the country and sell for whatever prices they can get – after all they need the money and the same parties that had no problem in buying ISIS oil have no problem buying those valuable ruins and historical artifacts either. UNESCO has confirmed it and EBAY as well – you can find many valuable coins on e-bay and for relatively low prices.

ISIS seems to be investing heavily in 3 things that are highly profitable, oil, the trade of rare artifacts and prostitution – 3 commodities and services that has been sought out since the oldest time and although they claim that prostitution and all what is related to tourism are against their dogma it seems they have little trouble when it comes to making money of them for after all and like one of my MBA professors used to constantly state “It’s not unethical, it’s just business.”

USA, Cuba and Russia, the Everlasting Threesome

“War and Economy: The All Time Best Friends” is a term that will always hold true no matter what era the world is living in nor what situation is occurring. Money, wealth and the need for more resources for cheaper costs have and will always propel the world, not necessarily forward but it definitely is a pushing force.
In 1962, the world held its breath as the standoff between the USSR and the USA nearly wiped off the modern world in a nuclear war; the star of the story back then was Cuba. Ruled by the communist hard liner Fidel Castro and euphoric from its previous success in fighting off the Americans in the Bay of Pigs incident, Cuba was considered a direct threat to the “communism paranoid” USA. As a communist regime, it was just normal that Castro would align with the USSR. As part of the ongoing political war between the USSR and the USA, the Russians tried to benefit from the situation by trying to deploy a set of nuclear missiles that would put Washington D.C. within their reach. After a few tense days, Russia agreed to remove those missiles and secretly the USA agreed to do the same by removing some missiles they had deployed in Turkey just at the borders of Russia.
In 1962 the 2 world superpowers were the USSR and the USA, the Castro’s were in power, President Kennedy was a democrat and both powers used Turkey and Cuba in their stand-off. In 2015, a democrat is in the white house, Putin who’s a former KGB (the offspring of the USSR) has been steering Russia since 1999, Cuba is still ruled by the Castro’s and the USA has used the NATO as a cover to redeploy a defensive missile system in Turkey. So the scene is still almost the same minus the Russian missiles in Cuba.
In an interesting twist of events, President Obama announced in the beginning of 2015 that USA was going to ease restrictions against Cuba and allow more trade exchanges with the isolated island. There are many reasons that can interpret such a move but only one reason is the most valid and it’s the economic one. The proof lies in the set of rules that allowed for exchanges and money transfers.
To begin with, the ailing US airlines can find a new travel line where they can actually make money and profits since they are losing on their own turf (the CEO of Delta Airlines recently went ballistic in his criticism of some Arabic airlines and claimed that that’s where the September 11 terrorists came from and that no Arabic airlines should come to the USA) and as Mexico becomes more and more of a dangerous place, Cuba can be the next ideal destination for spring breakers. The always suffering US car industry is thirsty to reenter a market it has lost more than 50 years ago. Images coming from Cuban streets show them bustling with good old American cars, question is will the Cuban consumers like what the new American car industry looks like?
In recent years the US economy has been coming under lots of pressure from outsourcing jobs, to foreign competition to a larger and alarming budget deficit – most of which is owed to communist China, another country aiming at being a superpower but with no luck yet. This explains why the USA is in dire need of finding new markets, but Russia is not standing and watching, they too want a piece of the Cuban pie. A recent report announced that the trade embargo imposed on Russia by the European Union has cost the old continent about 21 billion dollars in losses and although Russia has been so secretive about the effects on its economy but a weakening Ruble and a statement by Putin that the country needs 2 years to get out of this mess is a clear indication. In short, both countries need an escape plan.
So both economies are in trouble, and both are looking for new markets. The Middle East is already set ablaze, and although Africa is a promising market it is for now left for the Japanese and Chinese to feud over it. China and Japan in their turn are expected to have slower growth than what was initially estimated and India is still struggling to find its identity. Europe shot itself in the foot when they imposed the sanctions on Russia and Australia – as always – seems like a continent on a different galaxy (too much sun can have it effects if you know what I mean). This leaves very few options for the two giants and makes Cuba seem the most interesting of them all.
As USA tries to aggressively enter the Cuban market by easing business and travel restrictions to American citizens combined with more freedom of capital flow from and to the mysteriously romantic island, Russia is not willing at all to sit on the side bench and they have already set plans for Cuba. In recent years, the once communist nation has been opening up to globalism but not in the terms of allowing multinational companies in as much as it was by trying to compete on the international scene although they have not been a great success so far. Russian Automaker Avto Vaz is now a part of the Nissan-Renault conglomerate which has significant meaning for an automaker that has been one of the very few to survive the post soviet era and might now become a global player. On the telecom front, The Wall Street Journal ran an article late in 2012 about the Russian Telephone maker YOTA which was planning an aggressive entrance to the already crowded telephone industry. So far their presence has been limited and just recently they signed a deal to enter the Chinese market which is highly dominated by local makers. One should not forget that the makers of the Kalashnikov are one of the largest exporters of weapons. Although they are not major yet, those moves are significant signs as to where the country is planning to head to.
Perhaps the most significant indication is the recent news that Russia is in talks with a group of investors from Abu Dhabi to partner up in a $200 million dollar investment that includes the development of a major airport and might include later a seaport and a railway. This announcement has sent messages in all directions; first it was announced in a military trade exhibition signaling Russia’s aggressive strategy to earn a market share in an area that has been predominantly an American turf. The second is a loud message by the Russians that they are still at the center of action in whatever happens in Cuba, and the third and probably the strongest message of them all is that Russia is dealing with Arabic Countries as trade partners and allies rather than just customers as has been the custom before- something that Uncle Sam has not done before (remember in 2006 when Dubai Ports company was forced to drop a deal to manage some US ports terminals just for being an arab company? What is it that they say about Karma?)
In terms of politics, Putin has loudly announced many times that the missile system in Turkey and many countries of the Eastern European block are an act of aggression against his country, he has shown resilience and unwavering determination is Syria, was among the first highest ranking officials to visit Egypt after the presidential elections which brought an army general back to the presidency and has shown ice cold nerves in the recent Ukranian crisis and was able to hurt the already ailing European economy. Cuba will not be any different; there are no signs that the Russians are willing to give the country up no matter what. During the soviet era, they supported the country in billions of dollars and there is no reason for why they should stop now.
After all, just like the USA is surrounding them they have a great interest in returning the service to uncle Sam; the Cuban market is thirsty for investments, the democrats are still in the white house, the castro’s in Cuba, the communist ghost in the Kremlin and the missiles in Turkey. It is obvious that little has changed in the last 50 years or so……

Why Low Oil Prices are Bad for the Global Economy as Well

In 2 weeks I’m going to be in Lebanon for vacation and as I will stop by the gas stations to fill up my car, I will be paying almost the same price that I used to pay when I first graduated from university around 6 years ago. At nearly 25,000 Lebanese Pounds per 20 liters all the Lebanese will be raving about it and enjoying this Holiday season to the maximum ( yes they will forget all the economic, social, residential, and environmental issues, they will also forget the refugee spillover from the neighboring war-plagued Syria, they will forget that we are still without a president for almost 8 months now and that our parliament is aiming to outlive the parliament that was around during all the 15 years of civil war. Ironically enough most of the faces are still the same and yes I am talking about the parliament and not about a senior citizens residential compound)

Of course not only the Lebanese are the ones joyful about it; in fact they share the same feelings with more than half of the residents of the planet. Americans are planning more and more road trips and the demand for big SUVs is ramping up again, and the Europeans might have something to cheer them up and keep them warm this winter after fears of Russia cutting them from the oil supply as a result of the ongoing tension between Russia and well most of the world. But all this comes with a price tag and a hefty one also; just as the increasing prices have been hurting the economies so will the decreasing prices. OPEC is still insisting on keeping the production and supply levels on current levels although supply is far exceeding demand and thus challenging the free market theory that supply and demand will lead to a market balance. The reasons behind this decision are plenty but I am not going to delve into the politics of it right now but the fact is everyone is hurting from it.

Oil producing countries are going to face massive budget deficits with many of them starting to question for how long they will be able to sustain such low prices and still go on with their development plans. Europe seems to be heading towards another recession in which low oil prices will not be of much help (the PIGS are now PIIGS with Ireland joining the club) they should start looking for a different animal name soon and preferably a longer one it seems.

In USA seemingly it will have the worst effect. The country that started the global economic crisis in 2008 might as well be leading the world into another one and if USA sneezes, Europe gets the flu. Right after the crisis, a massive effort was put into creating a more efficient economy that is not as much relying on oil as before and as a result a wide variety of fuel economic cars started to take more place on the roads instead of the traditional much larger gas guzzling V8s, the Prius which was literally the laughing stock of every movie and every comedian started to have its last laugh against all the skeptics. Green energy was strongly supported and subsidized and the glass panels industry witnessed a great boom. Now the lower oil prices have halted all this with the people reacting very fast to the low oil prices and ordering big trucks again and the still expensive alternative energy sources are being ditched in favor of traditional energy sources. What is even more, GM has announced its plans to lay off some workers from its Lake Oreon plan starting January 2015 and the reason cited is simply due to decreased demand on its economical cars the Buick Verano and the Chevrolet Sonic and I am guessing it won’t be long before the other carmakers will follow lead. Such is how much shortlived is the people’s memory and that’s how quickly they go back to old habits. Am I the only one seeing a “cash for clunkers” campaign looming in the Horizon once more?

Fiat was gambling on its tiny 500 model to conquer the streets of USA, Smart America was hoping that this would be its revival point and VW group were betting that their fuel economical tiny cars will help them dethrone BMW and Daimler as the kings of European cars in the USA. Alas, all those dreams might be going with the wind now.

In Lebanon, we party all the time; in the middle of the Israeli invasion on us we were partying, in the peak of the global crisis we were partying and now we are partying. In fact we don’t need a reason to party, we just need…… a place! But this time we have a reason and it’s the oil crisis. While countries have been bracing for the damages that the oil prices will cause to their economies, we are planning where to spend New Year’s Eve! I just hope that the economy does not sour so much that I lose my job and miss the chance of enjoying the low gas prices!

Lessons from History: ISIS of our Days, is Taliban of the Last Century

“History repeats itself” one of the most controversial sayings out there that has lead to many debates and to lots of digging in our history just to prove it right or wrong. Whether it is true or not is a debate that will go on forever, but for now I will focus on an incident that is alarmingly similar to a historic predecessor and maybe, just maybe it will support the believers of that saying.

The whole world seems to be consumed and shocked with the uprise of ISIS and claiming that its ways and its brutality were never seen before. I beg to differ; for as brutal and unusual their acts might seem, they are not new because some 35 years ago a predecessor movement called “Taliban” emerged in Afghanistan and tried to implement the same plan that ISIS is trying to implement now in the Middle East. Not only their goals are similar, but how they came to power, how they were created, what was their role, and what they did are almost typical as if they were exact twins.

A few days ago, I came across a documentary that was once aired on The History Channel titled “The Taliban Declassified” and the similarity between Taliban as depicted in the documentary and ISIS is so striking that at one point you just can’t tell who’s who.

Here’s why I find both guerrillas to be of the exact genetic pool:

  • To begin with, little is known about the background and history of Mullah Omar, the leader of Taliban; even less is known about Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS which strikes me as very odd since we are in the era where nothing can be hidden from the internet (you might want to check the facebook pictures from your “latest event” to verify my sayings) – Many rumors link both man to secret services.
  • Pakistani secret services are believed to be the creators of Taliban – in the case of ISIS, there are many “Godfathers” who fit that profile. Maybe someday we will know the true father.
  • Back in the 80’s Mujahidin flocked from all over the world to support Taliban because they believed that it was there to implement what they viewed as the true Islamic teachings – in 2014 a main export item should be added to Europe’s GDP because they are the biggest exporters of fighters going to Syria to join ISIS.
  • ISIS performs flogging, crossing, beheading, stoning and takes extreme measures to perform their view of Shari’aa. They banned music, forced men to grow their beards, imposed the religious police, put the 5 prayers a day law into effect, they also forced women to be fully veiled, and banned them from driving cars. Moreover, they changed school books and the teaching curriculum, punished men who were caught eating during Ramadan fasting days. They are convinced that the whole world is fighting Islam and it is their job to protect it. A quick look into Taliban’s history and dogma shows that they were exactly the same, albeit ISIS seems to believe more in sexual freedom because they believe that a cow’s boobs are sexually provocative and should be covered – all of you heartless people who accused them of being sexually intolerant should rethink your accusations after this piece of information!
  • On October 21st 2014, and as US air force fighters were dropping military support to Kurdish Guerilla fighters defending Kobani they “mistakenly” dropped some supplies inside ISIS controlled territory. Of course the official account from US officials was that it was made by mistake but given all the technology and GPS systems makes it hard to believe such a “mistake”. What adds to my doubt is a piece in the documentary where US ambassador Peter Tomsen who was at one point a US special envoy to Afghanistan between 1989-1992 says, and I quote his exact words: “while the Soviet Military was still in Afghanistan there was every reason for the United States to continue supporting the Pakistani approach of providing the extremists with the greatest bulk of American weaponry. However after the soviets moved out in February of 1989 we should have readjusted our policy and provided weapons to all groups not only the extremists but the moderates and other groups in Afghanistan.” Perhaps this time the Americans have learned from their previous mistake and this is why they dropped the supplies “by no mistake”
  • ISIS does not tolerate any other military faction next to it and this is why we see them fighting with Al-Nusra most of the time. Back in the days, Taliban also eliminated all competition to reign on the Afghani scene.
  • There were always indirect talks between the USA and Taliban through many channels since after all they were their “Godfathers”. Mrs. Clinton admits in her memoirs that ISIS also is the offspring of American secret intelligence but it probably is a more refined version of Taliban. They probably sat down and learnt from all the mistakes committed in the Taliban era and tried to avoid them this time with ISIS. I believe it is safe to say that there will be no September 11 this time.
  • Taliban was created for the sole reason of fighting the Soviet Union back then; both the USSR and USA led a proxy fight on Afghani territory with little attention to the real needs of the Afghani people. Both were looking into increasing their territories, have access to more resources and in cheaper ways and stop the other side from doing so. The whole war in the region today is to try to cut off Russia’s access to the Mediterranean and also to try to find cheaper ways to get oil and gas to Europe in an attempt to break Russia’s monopoly.
  • In 1985 and in the height of the fight between Russia and Taliban, an unexplained surge in oil production made a downward push on the prices. This initiative was lead by Saudi Arabia and it hit right in the heart of Russia’s economy. Today oil prices are at an all time low and have hit lows never seen before ( I still can’t believe that gasoline prices are down to just $20 / 20 liters in Lebanon, it definitely must be a dream!) Saudi Arabia has reiterated many times that they have no plans to cut production which means prices are not going to go up again anytime soon – Another hit to the Russian and Iranian economy this time.
  • Just as Taliban became out of control, the USA eliminated it and Mulla Omar just disappeared into thin air – Just as ISIS became a threat to Kurdistan (USA’s protégée) the USA stepped in and hit ISIS with airstrikes to stop its march towards that state.

What I find to be extremely interesting is how accurate and effective where the hits performed by the US airforce against ISIS when they were threatening Kurdistan and how much less effective they became when ISIS was marching towards Kobani.

USA, Russia, oil seem the theme words of this decade just as they have been since the 50’s of the last century. This here is another model of the ongoing economic fight between the 2 global superpowers; they still lead their proxy wars on territories that aren’t theirs in the first place, innocent casualties still die and along the way they are creating more and more beasts. The question is how long will the life span of ISIS be this time? We surely hope it will be short because we are getting tired and frustrated of it.