Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Mohammed bin Salman Speaks about Israel and Obama

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s extended tour of the United States reminds me of a trip that China’s Deng Xiaoping made to America in 1979. In Deng’s case the trip signaled a turn away from Communism and toward free enterprise. In the case of MBS, the trip signals a major geopolitical realignment. It also shows MBS's seriousness about economic reform and social liberalization.

One notes that a leader who can spend weeks away from his country feels confident of his hold on power. He is not worrying that someone might try to replace him in his absence.

We have watched with great interest the Saudi turn away from terrorism and fundamentalist Islam toward liberalization and a better alliance with America. We lauded the Saudi-American détente and the declaration of a joint war against Islamist terrorism in Riyadh last May. The media downplayed it because it was a Trump diplomatic success.

We are no longer sufficiently naïve to believe that one summit meeting will change the course of history. Yet, the work being done by MBS has been moving his nation in the right direction.

I was intrigued by his mention of the fact that some of the princes who were arrested during his recent crackdown were supporting terrorism. We had all suspected as much and are interested to hear his confirmation:

Yes, there are people from Saudi Arabia who financed terrorist groups. This is against Saudi law. We have a lot of people in jail now, not only for financing terrorist groups, but even for supporting them. One of the reasons we have a problem with Qatar is that we are not allowing them to use the financial system between us to collect money from Saudis and give it to extremist organizations.

Happily, we can read the transcript of Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with MBS in the Atlantic. Via Zero Hedge and Maggie’s Farm.

The Crown Prince made news by the way he presented himself, knowledgeable, well informed, in control.  He made news by declaring that the Jewish people have a right to their own state.

Goldberg writes:

Another key—though sub rosa—member of Prince Mohammed’s alliance is Israel, a country about which Prince Mohammed did not have a bad word to say. In fact, when I asked him whether he believed the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland, he said: “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.” According to the former U.S. peace negotiator Dennis Ross, moderate Arab leaders have spoken of the reality of Israel’s existence, but acknowledgement of any sort of “right” to Jewish ancestral land has been a red line no leader has crossed until now. 

He continued to renounce any anti-Semitism that has emanated from Saudi Arabia:

Our country doesn’t have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend—he married her. Our prophet, his neighbors were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia coming from America, coming from Europe. There are no problems between Christian and Muslims and Jews. We have problems like you would find anywhere in the world, among some people. But the normal sort of problems.

Israel is a big economy compared to their size and it’s a growing economy, and of course there are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan.

Evidently, he is reaching out to Israel and to Jews around the world. He sees clearly the advantages of having Israel as a strategic ally.

George Bush had an axis of evil. MBS has a triangle of evil:

First in the triangle we have the Iranian regime that wants to spread their extremist ideology, their extremist Shiite ideology. They believe that if they spread it, the hidden Imam will come back again and he will rule the whole world from Iran and spread Islam even to America. They’ve said this every day since the Iranian revolution in 1979. It’s in their law and they’re proving it by their own actions.

The second part of the triangle is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is another extremist organization. They want to use the democratic system to rule countries and build shadow caliphates everywhere. Then they would transform into a real Muslim empire. And the other part is the terrorists—al-Qaeda, ISIS—that want to do everything with force. Al-Qaeda leaders, ISIS leaders, they were all Muslim Brotherhood first. Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of ISIS. This is very clear.

As it happened, President Obama offered his moral support to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and entered a deal that relieved sanctions on Iran, provided it with planeloads full of cash to promote terrorism, and offered it a glide path to the possession of nuclear weapons.

MBS offered his analysis of Obama’s naiveté. Need I mention that this aspect of his conversation has largely been ignored:

President Obama believed that if he gave Iran opportunities to open up, it would change. But with a regime based on this ideology, it will not open up soon. Sixty percent of the Iranian economy is controlled by the Revolutionary Guard. The economic benefits of the Iran nuclear deal are not going to the people. They took $150 billion after the deal—can you please name one housing project they built with this money? One park? One industrial zone? Can you name for me the highway that they built? I advise them—please show us something that you’re building a highway with $150 billion. For Saudi Arabia, there is a 0.1 percent chance that this deal would work to change the country. For President Obama it was 50 percent. But even if there’s a 50 percent chance that it would work, we can’t risk it. The other 50 percent is war. We have to go to a scenario where there is no war.

Evidently, the Iran nuclear deal was produced by ignorance and extreme misjudgment.


Sam L. said...

Obama always seemed to me to be some kind of disconnected from reality.

Anonymous said...

He wasn't even familiar with reality.

Deana said...

This change in Saudi Arabia is simply astonishing to watch. I’m excited for them quite frankly.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall listening in on world leader conversations when Obama did that demonic Iran deal.

Anonymous said...

MbS: "Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend—he married her."

That would be the daughter of the chief of Khaybar. After the battle, when the loot was distributed, she was given to a Muslim soldier. She then told Muhammad that, being a chief's daughter, she was to good to be the slave of a common soldier. Muhammad then offered to marry her if she would convert to Islam. True romance.

(And what happened to the poor soldier who'd lost a slave girl? Did he get some compensation?)