Fearing Abandonment by the U.S., the Saudis Look to Russia and China

Sept. 15 2021

Saudi Arabia has been in the news this week because of the recent release of a 2016 FBI report on the role of its subjects in the September 11 terrorist attacks. But there is other, more timely news from the country that the press has largely ignored: a military cooperation agreement concluded last month between Riyadh, a traditional U.S ally, and Moscow, a supporter of the anti-American Iran-Syria axis. Ilan Berman comments:

Since it took office some seven months ago, the Biden administration has upended practically every aspect of its predecessor’s approach to the [Middle East], with the 76-year U.S.-Saudi relationship one of the principal casualties. . . . The cumulative effect, as one prominent analyst put it, was an act of “diplomatic arson” in one of Washington’s longest-running partnerships in the region.

If those machinations gave Riyadh serious pause, the administration’s other regional maneuvers have given it still more. Take, for instance, team Biden’s tepid response to the “Abraham Accords.” . . . From the start of its tenure, the administration has been hesitant to recognize those agreements in any meaningful way—and quick to minimize them when it has had no choice but to do so.

That has had a chilling effect on other potential entrants, including Saudi Arabia, which at the tail end of the Trump administration was widely considered likely to become the next nation to normalize ties with Israel. Simply put, President Joe Biden’s lukewarm attitude toward Arab-Israeli reconciliation—and his apparent unwillingness to nurture any such rapprochement—has dramatically cooled Riyadh on the idea of taking such a significant (and for the Saudis, politically risky) step.

It’s no wonder, then, that the Saudis have begun looking further afield.

And not just to Moscow, notes Berman, but also to Beijing.

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Read more at Newsweek

More about: Abraham Accords, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter