Derisionist History
November 28, 2009

Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations By Avi Shlaim (Verso, 392 pp., $34.95) Avi Shlaim burst upon the scene of Middle Eastern history in 1988, with the publication of Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine. Before that, as a young lecturer at Reading University in England, he had produced two books, British Foreign Secretaries Since 1945 (1977) and The United States and the Berlin Blockade, 1948–1949 (1983), and several revealing essays on modern Middle Eastern historical issues in academic journals.

The Saudis Expect Us to Pay for Oil We Don't Buy
October 14, 2009

Yes, you read it right. Here is the essence: If the Saudis (and other OPEC producers) export fewer hydrocarbons, the buyers should still pay as if they were purchasing the old amount. They should pay what the Saudis could charge when the market was tight and the demand high, and the arrangements should not made in the Arab bazaar, but by treaty. It's a nice world that Riyadh lives in. Perhaps this is King Abdullah's gracious response to President Obama's servile bow. "Less global warming would be good, right?" ask Jad Mouawad and Andrew C. Revkin in a report in Tuesday's Times.

"This Has a Fighting Chance of Success"
September 03, 2009

A presidential election marred by allegations of fraud, rising casualties of American soldiers, even a few disturbing discoveries about the civilians hired to guard our embassy there--we figured it was about time to talk to terrorism expert Peter Bergen, who was in Afghanistan last month, to get his take on the situation there and what it will take to improve it. TNR: What is your sense of the election’s validity? Bergen: Of course there was fraud--the question is one of scale. I was there for the 2004 election and there were claims of fraud at that time.

Can the Saudi King Spare Pervez Musharraf from the Death Penalty?
September 02, 2009

It wasn't until I reported my print piece on how much Barack Obama's foreign policy--from closing Gitmo to Iran to the global economy-- depends on the Saudis that I appreciated the influence Riyadh has over its Sunni ally Pakistan. One illustration of that: Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani military dictator pushed from office last year, flew on a Saudi jet to Riyadh this week to meet with Saudi King Abdullah, in what regional news outlets are suggesting could be part of a Saudi-brokered deal to spare Musharraf, now residing in London, from treason charges back home.

A Key Saudi Royal Dodges Death
August 28, 2009

Saudi Arabia's chief counterterrorism official has narrowly survived a suicide attack -- an event significant for two reasons. First, it underscores that the Saudi royals are still in a very dangerous battle with al Qaeda, which would love to overthrow their regime. The good news is that the Saudis have had success in fighting domestic al Qaeda militants over the past few years, something Obama officials praise the Saudis for.

Survivor: Saudi Royal Edition
August 10, 2009

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has a sort of accidentally-colorful chart illustrating the main line of succession within the Saudi monarchy to date. While the important question here is what comes after Saudi's current octagenarian leaders, King Abdullah (age 86) and Crown Prince Sultan (85), when you look at their family history you can't help but marvel at the various unpleasant ends met by their predecessors.

The Worst Moment Of A Bad Press Conference
December 04, 2007

Q Thank you. Another issue--on another issue of credibility in the Mideast, at the Annapolis summit, you used your influence to get Saudi Arabia to the table. But I wonder whether now you will use your influence to do something about the Saudi rape case that's gotten so much international attention. What goes through your mind when you hear about a 19-year-old Saudi women getting gang-raped by seven men and basically a Saudi court blames the victim and sentenced her to 200 lashes? You spoke to King Abdullah by telephone in the last couple of weeks. Did you press him on this case?

A Mission Fit For A King
May 13, 2007

Isabel Kershner and I do not exactly share the same politics on Israel. But she is an extraordinary and extraordinarily honest journalist. She has been the "Palestinian" correspondent of the Times for a while now, joining my good and admired friend Steven Erlanger (the head of its Jerusalem bureau) and Greg Myre in covering what may be the most emotionally laden beat in the world. She gets it.

This Is A Scoop... A Scoop About Saudi Arabia
December 22, 2006

This is a scoop. I didn't post when I'd heard that Prince Turki al-Faisal was being brought back from Washington to Riyadh. I should have. I knew it before anyone else. Well, not exactly. Not before the London personage who informed me. Sorry. But, if you want a very reliable explanation of why this royal has been retired so soon after arriving, you can read in a January 16 Wall Street Journal column, "Talking Turki," by the savvy Simon Henderson. In any case, what's past is past. It's the future that counts. And here's the news.

The End of Arab Nationalism
July 12, 1991

It is now a little more than half a century ago that George Antonius (an Alexandria-born Greek Orthodox writer of Palestinian background) published his manifesto, The Arab Awakening. All the grand themes of Arab nationalism were foreshadowed in Antonius's work: the "secularism" of the Arab nationalist movement, the primacy of the PanArab movement over "smaller" loyalties, the fragmentation of that movement at the hands of the colonial powers, and the presumed centrality of the Palestinian question to the entire Arab world. Antonius wrote with an Anglo-American audience in mind.