The Moral Case for Restoring U.S.-Saudi Relations

Next month, President Biden plans to visit Saudi Arabia, where he will no doubt meet with its de-facto ruler, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS)—despite widespread objections (voiced previously by the president himself) that the kingdom should be isolated because of its dismal human-rights record. Of particular concern to those making this argument is the killing by Saudi agents of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Robert Satloff, however, argues that Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia isn’t an abdication, but an embrace, of moral responsibility:

What is so important to U.S. interests that it not only merits Biden’s travel to the kingdom but demands it? It is the fundamental decision by the leadership of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to end its support and funding of Islamist radicalism, to stop its decades-long export of extremist ideology, and to focus instead on a positive agenda of human development at home and the development of a relationship with Muslims around the world that urges them to have a healthy respect for the laws and norms of the countries in which they live. This is huge.

A word of context. . . . Dating from at least the 1978 takeover of the Mecca mosque by the ideological forebears of Osama bin Laden, Saudi strategy has tried to outflank the extremists by outdoing them, financing people and institutions that rivaled the extremists in their extremism. In reality, this was a protection racket that required the kingdom to pay an ever-greater price to stay just one step ahead of the radicals. As such, it was doomed to failure—and when all those young Saudi men rammed jetliners into the World Trade Center towers, it failed in horrific fashion.

Extricating themselves from the grip of extremism has been, for Saudis, an agonizingly slow process. The . . . most dramatic changes have come in the last five years, since King Salman elevated his son Mohammad as crown prince.

So, yes, President Biden, go to Saudi Arabia and shake MBS’s hand. . . . After all our country has been through these past 21 years, isn’t the real moral imperative not to shun MBS but to do everything in your power as president to ensure that the Saudi Arabia of tomorrow is definitively, conclusively, and irretrievably different than the Saudi Arabia of the past?

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Human Rights, Islamism, Joe Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy


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