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


Why Saturday Was a Resounding Defeat for Iran

Yaakov Lappin provides a concise and useful overview of what transpired on Saturday. For him, the bottom line is this:

Iran and its jihadist Middle Eastern axis sustained a resounding strategic defeat. . . . The fact that 99 percent of the threats were intercepted means that a central pillar of Iranian force projection—its missile and UAV arsenals—has been proven to be no match for Israel’s air force, for its multilayered air-defense system, or for regional cooperation with allies.

Iran must now await Israel’s retaliation, and unlike Israel, Iranian air defenses are by comparison limited in scope. After its own failure on Sunday, Iran now relies almost exclusively on Hizballah for an ability to threaten Israel.

And even as Iran continues to work on developing newer and deadlier missiles, the IDF is staying a few steps ahead:

Israel is expecting its Iron Beam laser-interception system, which can shoot down rockets, mortars, and UAVs, to become operational soon, and is developing an interceptor (Sky Sonic) for Iran’s future hypersonic missile (Fattah), which is in development.

The Iron Beam will change the situation in a crucial way. Israell’s defensive response on Saturday reportedly cost it around $1 billion. While Iron Beam may have to be used in concert with other systems, it is far cheaper and doesn’t run the risk of running out of ammunition.

Read more at JNS

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Iron Dome, Israeli Security, Israeli technology