Britain Shouldn’t Drop Its Alliance with Saudi Arabia

As the U.S.-Saudi alliance seems in peril over the death of Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen, Ed Husain—a longtime critic of the House of Saud—urges the United Kingdom not to waver in its support for this troublesome ally. (Free registration may be required.)

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, amidst the rise of al-Qaeda, it was clear who had the upper hand in the Middle East: extremists of all hues. The Saudis were funding the spread of Wahhabism; and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was thriving. Yet today, for the first time since the 1960s, neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor Wahhabism can rely on Saudi financial support. Both are on the defensive, struggling for long-term survival. . . . But there are other, more entrenched enemies.

Iran champions the forces of theocracy, imposing a hardline religious interpretation through use of government force. . . . There is now a firm Iranian crescent in the Middle East surrounding Israel and the Sunni Arabs. This threat makes it vital that London doesn’t turn its back on the Saudis. So if Britons felt wronged when watching [the Saudi crown prince] Mohammad bin Salman (known as MBS) high-five Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit earlier this month, worse is yet to come if they lose the trust of our Gulf Arab allies. . . .

We now have a once-in-a-century opportunity to shape the future of a global shift toward peace and co-existence. MBS has weakened the extra-legal religious police in his country, removed extremist clerics from many mosques, and allowed for musical concerts. Yes, he is an authoritarian reformer. Conversations, therefore, with him in private should not be about the last skirmish, but the next reform: where are his female advisers? When will school textbooks be revised? After religious extremism is uprooted, how can secular Saudis engage in a parliament within a constitutional monarchy? When do Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs who live and work in Saudi Arabia worship with their own, new religious institutions? . . .

MBS needs the West, particularly Britain, to help win the war of ideas. By helping him triumph and reform toward modernization, we save our own country and civilization, too. Skirmishes and battles must not distract us from winning the long war.

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More about: Iran, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom

Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank