Solving the Riddle of Saudi Arabia, and of September 11

After writing books centered on Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinians, Iraq, and Syria, the great Arab scholar Fouad Ajami tackled Saudi Arabia. His book on the subject, titled Crosswinds, did not appear until after his death in 2014. Martin Kramer examines Ajami’s assessment of this country, whose great wealth, the latter once observed, “only underlined a painful gap between what a society can buy and what it can be.”

[A]fter the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and America’s massive entry into Saudi Arabia, something changed. The Saudis, who had always let oil make their case, had to justify themselves. Ajami began to pay closer attention. . . . What appealed to him? “The Arabs of the Peninsula and the Gulf littoral were the products of a pragmatic world.”

Sure, there was dissent in Arabia, for which Ajami always had an ear. . . . But . . . no one imagined it could metastasize into something world-shaking.

In 2001, this generalization failed. “Fifteen of the nineteen”—this count of how many of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis became a ringing indictment of the kingdom. Here was rage, alright, and Osama bin Laden gave it a prominent Saudi face and a voice. Ajami had to revisit the whole question.

The 9/11 Commission, he wrote, had failed to crack the 9/11 “riddle,” but that wasn’t the fault of its members: “the country is opaque, the walls of its privacy are high and prohibitive.”

Read more at Caravan

More about: 9/11, Fouad Ajami, Middle East, Saudi Arabia

Hamas Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security