Saudi Arabia Kicks Obama in the Groin Again
September 15, 2009
Maybe you haven't noticed. But Saudi Arabia hasn't at all played according to Barack Obama's script. Now, frankly, that doesn't surprise me. As you already know, I am a skeptic. And especially skeptical about Saudi intentions vis-a-vis Israel. Still, don't count on their intentions towards the Palestinians, either. They do not care a fig, as an Arabic saying has it. Riyadh will be constructive bi-al mish mish. Alas, apricots don't grow in the dessert. In conversations I had with Obama during his campaign he maintained a healthy doubt as to what they were and were not willing do.
Quote of the Day
September 08, 2009
Former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Turki al-Faisal: "Whether you like it or not, the destinies of the United States and Saudi Arabia are linked and will remain (linked) for decades." A good excuse to re-plug my recent print story on Obama and the Saudis.
The Soviets and Afghanistan, Cont'd
September 03, 2009
Matt Yglesias and Michael Cohen, both of whom have been asking very tough and smart questions about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, doubt that our copious care in avoiding civilian casulaties--as opposed to the Soviets' savage tactics--could make the difference between victory and defeat there. Quoth Matt: Maybe. That said, I don’t really think it’s a fair comparison. The Soviets had to fight a Mujahedeen force that was receiving open and full-throated support from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, plus substantial financial and material assistance from the United States.
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.
With Friends Like These...
August 30, 2009
King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud is the monarch of Saudi Arabia. He is 85, having succeeded his half-brother, the decrepit King Fahd, who succeeded his half-brother, Khalid, who succeeded... The founder of the "modern" Saudi state had 37 sons. Abdullah is the sixth of the male line to rule. No princesses, of course. It was King Abdullah before whom President Obama bowed during his April visit to Riyadh. It was also he from whom Obama got zilch in his quest for Arab assistance in easing the atmospherics--and really just the atmospherics--of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
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.
The King and O
August 19, 2009
At a world economic summit in London this April, Barack Obama had his first encounter with the king of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. With TV cameras rolling, Obama strode up to the elderly Saudi monarch, extended his hand, and smiled broadly as he bent at the waist in a swift but unmistakable bow. As the image rocketed around the Internet, the White House was quick to insist that the move had not been one of supplication. "It wasn't a bow," one aide told Politico at the time.
Obama Is Making A Big Mistake In Saudi Arabia
June 02, 2009
President Obama is on his way to Saudi Arabia, and Secretary Geithner is done with his major initiative in China. In part, this is just the U.S. normalizing its relations with the rest of the world and rebuilding some basic diplomatic niceness.
The Year of the Elephant
May 20, 2009
“YES, SOMETIMES I GO into the room with my advisers and I start shouting. And then they say, ‘And then what?’” The question hangs in the perfectly cooled air in Sa’ad Hariri’s marble-floored sitting room, where Beirut appears as a sunlit abstraction visible at a distance through thick windows. Hariri’s father, the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, martyr of the Cedar Revolution, arches his black eyebrows from a giant poster near the sofa, looking out at his son with a sidelong, mischievous glance. “It hasn’t been a joyful trip,” Sa’ad Hariri is saying.
The Next Afghanistan?
May 06, 2009
I am sweating through my abaya as I drive to meet the sheik. It is a hot afternoon in Sana'a, and the sun beats down through an arid blue sky. Wispy pink and blue plastic bags that earlier held an afternoon's worth of the narcotic qat leaf float over the congested streets like kites, and children run up to cars paused at intersections, hawking everything from full flatware sets to the tiny perfume samples one might rip from an ad in a fashion magazine. The university I'm heading for sits on a hillside on the outskirts of town, on land donated by the government in the 1990s.