The Growing Tension Between Saudi Arabia and the West

March 24 2022

On Wednesday, two out of three British-Iranian hostages were released by Iran, following Britain’s payment to it of a $530 million debt. Their release, as Nigel Farage writes, is wonderful news for the prisoners and their families, but the manner in which it was arranged should cause great alarm. The former U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo called the debt repayment “blood money” and predicted that Iran will use the funds to “terrorize Israel, the UK, and the U.S.” Farage explains the context of the hostage negotiation and suggests that it might further damage Western relations with Saudi Arabia, a key regional rival to Iran.

At the very least, the timing of the hostages’ release prompts serious questions. Why has Britain chosen this moment to repay Iran the money? It could have done so at any time since Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was first imprisoned in 2016. The answer is that the British government is hoping to repair relations with Iran. It shares Joe Biden’s enthusiasm for rebooting the Iran nuclear deal. . . .

On the same day the aforementioned British hostages were released, Boris Johnson visited Saudi Arabia and held talks with Mohammed bin Salman and the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed. The purpose of this trip was to persuade bin Salman and bin Zayed to commit to increasing energy exports from the Middle East so that the West can cut its reliance on Russian oil.

Things did not go well.

First, three executions were carried out in Saudi Arabia shortly after Johnson landed in Riyadh. They followed the 81 executions which took place there last weekend. The Saudis would not have ordered these killings while a visiting foreign premier was on their soil unless they wanted to send a message to the West. Second, Saudi Arabia announced that day that it is close to agreeing with Beijing to price some of its oil sales to China in yuan and not dollars, thereby damaging the U.S. dollar’s dominance of the global petroleum market. If nothing else, this is hugely symbolic and shows deep unease with Biden’s administration. Johnson left the Middle East emptyhanded. He got precisely nothing in return for his visit.

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Read more at Newsweek

More about: Iran, Oil, 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