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.
Surprise, Saudi Arabia Not Excited About Carbon Cuts
April 08, 2009
At the climate talks in Bonn this week, Saudi Arabia's top climate negotiator told Reuters that, guess what, he wasn't thrilled with the move to rein in global greenhouse-gas emissions. "It's a matter of survival for us, also," Mohammad Al Sabban said. "So we are among the most vulnerable countries. Saudi Arabia has not done that much yet to diversity." Still, Al Sabban insisted that Saudi Arabia would try to play a constructive role in treaty negotiations this time around, even though the country has been accused of hijacking and filibustering discussions at past climate talks.
Iran Eyes Egypt And Saudi Arabia
December 12, 2008
I've often thought that June 7, 1981 was the day when the king of Saudi Arabia first blessed Menachem Begin, the prime minister of Israel who made the decision to have the air force take out the Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak. Thereafter the rulers of what goes in the Arab world for moderate states commended Begin's soul to the almighty. After all, he had saved them -not only Israel- from destruction. Of course, Saddam Hussein was a Sunni and so were they, although the tyrant was a madman who territorial and political aspirations against Iraq's Arab neighbors. Even without a bomb, the Ba
Debt Man Walking
December 03, 2008
For those Americans who are not daily readers of the Financial Times, the past few months have been a crash course in the abstract and obscure instruments and arrangements that have derailed the nation's economy. From mortgage-backed securities to credit default swaps, the financial health of the country has undergone a gory public dissection.
June 11, 2008
Within a few minutes of Noman Benotman's arrival at the Kandahar guest house, Osama bin Laden came to welcome him. The journey from Kabul had been hard, 17 hours in a Toyota pickup truck bumping along what passed as the main highway to southern Afghanistan. It was the summer of 2000, and Benotman, then a leader of a group trying to overthrow the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, had been invited by bin Laden to a conference of jihadists from around the Arab world, the first of its kind since Al Qaeda had moved to Afghanistan in 1996.
Madonna And Mecca
May 24, 2008
It is well known that Madonna and many other people,both serious and slightly frivolous, wear the thin redstring representative of the arcane texts of Kabbalismand also the popular fashion for Jewish mysticism.But who would have thought that the symbols ofKabbalah would arrive in Saudi Arabia and be taken upby its youth? It is not only the red string, themeaning of which can be fudged as a slightlyoutlandish fashion statement, but the attached jewelrywith Hebrew lettering, that seems to be a revoltagainst society, if even a mild one.This is a mild enough insurrection of the mind for allbut th
March 26, 2008
According to some popular Muslim accounts, the marble Kaaba structure at the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca was built first by the angels before God created mankind, reconstructed by Adam, and later rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael. It's safe to say that none of these builders could have anticipated the latest use of the Mosque's image, in a promotional DVD for the Abraj Al Bait Towers, a giant new skyscraper complex slated to be built just across the street from one of the entrances to the Grand Mosque.
The End of Big Oil
February 27, 2008
When historians one day dissect the long arc of humankind's use of fossil fuels, they may very well zero in on October 9, 2006, as a turning point for Big Oil. That's when it became clear that the major oil companies--the giants that had survived numerous predicted extinctions and gone on to ever-greater profit and influence--were undergoing a tectonic shift and would either reinvent themselves or die.
A Confused Kingdom
September 28, 2007
Last week, I wrote about The Hunting Party, a film that tried (and failed) to integrate geopolitics into a black comedy. This week, The Kingdom attempts the only slightly less daunting task of integrating geopolitics into an action film. (Rather see a movie that leaves out the geopolitics altogether? I'm afraid you have a fewfrustratingmonths ahead of you.) That The Kingdom manages, to at least some degree, to accomplish the feat is a tribute to its director, Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, The Rundown), who guides the film with poise and intelligence.
August 01, 2007
You don't think the Saudis are important. Think again. One fact that almost everybody seems to forget--or even not ever to have known--is that Saudi Arabian troops have never fought against Israel. Which is something you cannot say about Iraqi troops who fought in every real Arab war against Israel. Yes, it is true that, for years, Riyadh maintained a very hard line against Israel. It was a comfortable position.