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

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat