Tag: Saudi Arabia

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Recently, there has been an outbreak cluster of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Saudi officials have gone so far as to shut the doors of some hospitals to contain MERS; recent headlines suggest they are making progress at getting it under control. Now, this year’s Hajj pilgrimmage to Mecca is […]

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Between a Rock and a Saud Place


Few international relationships are more susceptible to criticism than that between the United States and Saudi Arabia. One is the leader of the free world.  The other is antithetical to even the most basic human rights, let alone religious freedom or gender equality.  Saudi Arabia is the most influential Sharia state in existence, a mantle recently challenged by its Shia semblable, Iran.

The Saudi regime has successfully played a highly cynical game since at least the beginnings of the Cold War. After decades of conquest, Ibn Saud unified the modern (the word goes down hard) nation-state of Saudi Arabia in 1932. As stewards of the hijaz and rulers of one of the most conservative populaces in the world, it was incumbent on the Saudis to show their bona fides as good Wahabists. In the ensuing decades, they entrenched a medieval legal system and permeated all aspects of civil society with fundamentalist apparatchiks of the state.

Why Are We Backing the Saudi Campaign in Yemen?


yemen-airstrikesTwo weeks ago, I ventured a prediction:

Anyway, how do I bet what little I have left on “Saudis screw this up big time within two weeks? I’ll bet it all. I need the money.

The prediction was correct–that was an easy one–but I regret the insensate tone, not least because this is now yet another humanitarian catastrophe. UN estimates suggest 100,000 people have been displaced. It’s easy to dismiss Yemen as a perennially benighted hellhole, but kids who were born in Yemen have committed no other crime:

Michelle Obama, Saudi Arabia, and the Making of Political Dynasties


shutterstock_113392198Yesterday, Aaron Miller started a conversation about Michelle Obama’s decision to not bow to customs in Saudi Arabia. Before that, the illustrious Jon Gabriel expressed a desire to see my take on the issue (taking second place behind another editor, since this was a conversation shared with a few). Being fair, or honestly wanting to mull over exactly how I would approach this topic here, I did write about the manliness of Mrs. Obama elsewhere first.

Yes, that was a correct choice for a couple reasons. First, Mr. Miller brought up quite a few questions, but the last ones he posed — “Did the President learn something from his critics? Why cater to foreign customs then and not now? Or are the President’s concerns irrelevant to his wife’s behavior?” — seem particularly important  to my generally strategic mind. There was a significant change in the behavior of the president this time around in Saudi Arabia: no bowing. The clothing choice of Mrs. Obama was only part of the “big deal” on this trip, and was quickly observed by a journalist I know. Dustin Hoyt, host of “America Our Way” on Vigilant Liberty Radio was quick to observe something very important about not only the lack of head scarf:

However, with her choosing not to AND shaking the King’s hand, she showed some serious spine for America. It was great.

Is Biden the Punchline — or Is America?


Joe Biden is a punch line.

Our Vice President is more famous for his foolish pronouncements than he is for being second in command of the world’s greatest superpower. It has gotten so bad that a mere mention of his name provokes laughter, as late-night comics (and Clint Eastwood) can attest.

Actions Have Their Consequences in the Middle East


shutterstock_169881086About a decade ago, most of my time was occupied with editing literature and teaching aspiring writers how to craft essays that didn’t put readers to sleep. For a short time, I had two students that were of Middle Eastern descent. I was working with one of them and asked why she didn’t associate with the other student from the same region. Her reply was simple and to the point: “My family hasn’t associated with anyone from that family in generations.”

I’m guessing that she chose the word “family” because she had been in America long enough to pick up the local vernacular. If we had been somewhere else in the world, maybe she would have used the term “tribe” or “clan.” The point remains the same, and it is an issue that makes dealing with political issues in the Middle East so difficult for Westerners. The arguments, battles, and wars in that region often have histories that stretch back hundreds of years.

The current situation in Iraq is not just about what has happened in that region in the past 20 years, just like the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein dated back to when a map was arbitrarily drawn by the British. Beyond the history that is driving the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), there are current religious and political issues in play that are intertwined throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The lines on the map are near meaningless to anyone except Westerners.