Tawhid vs. Taqarub
December 29, 2003 11:04 AM   Subscribe

The Saudi Paradox. "Saudi Arabia is in the throes of a crisis, but its elite is bitterly divided on how to escape it. Crown Prince Abdullah leads a camp of liberal reformers seeking rapprochement with the West, while Prince Nayef, the interior minister, sides with an anti-American Wahhabi religious establishment that has much in common with al Qaeda. Abdullah cuts a higher profile abroad -- but at home Nayef casts a longer and darker shadow."
posted by homunculus (9 comments total)
The piece reads like the result of a weekend with a primer on Wahhabi ideology and Lexis-Nexis, to say nothing of the simplistic analysis: Abdullah = Good, Nayef=Evil. The only axis of analysis is the relationship to the West, never mind questions of tribalism, dynastic interests, struggles within the family for control over resources, ministries, etc. The Saudi state is a complex animal, and the single axis analysis is nowhere near rich enough to make sense of it.

The shame is the CFR has people (Gause, for instance) who actually understand Saudi politics. But they don't pump out four FA pieces a year on widely disparate topics. What is this guy's area of expertise again?
posted by ednopantz at 1:02 PM on December 29, 2003

ednopantz: This guy is a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton. That does not mean, of course, that he knows what he's talking about.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:14 PM on December 29, 2003

skallas - check out what snopes has to say about the famed bin Laden flight. What you assert is half-truth.
posted by pejamo at 1:30 PM on December 29, 2003

monju_bosatsu :

I do know that he is an Assistant Professor of NE Studies. That doesn't mean all that much. I'm really skeptical of anyone who claims mastery of as many topics as he does. What does his work on 1940s pan-Arabism have to do with Saudi family politics? Methinks he grossly overestimates the role of external factors in Saudi politics and underestimates family, tribe, centralization/decentralization, resource control, etc., as befits someone who is basically interested in how the Arabs as a whole react to Israel. In other words, he isn't an expert on the primary subject matter of the article.
posted by ednopantz at 2:09 PM on December 29, 2003

skallas: The Saudis are nobody, they don't even have their own bodyguards. If US elites wanted the current Saudi oligarchy removed, they'd be gone within seconds. Killing aristocratic rulers is not exactly without precedent. Money is only virtual, bank accounts can be frozen. Saudi Arabia may have a carrot, but they don't have a stick. The US does. If Sept. 11 had been a Saudi inside job, the whole country would have been leveled to the ground. MAD works for terrorism, too.

That the US don't remove the Saudis, in spite of their gross human rights violations which are on par with those of the Taliban, is one of the strongest indictments against US foreign policy that should tell everyone that human rights or moral considerations play no role whatsoever in the high level political decision making process.

Michael Moore is a nice guy, but his belief that the US are somehow "blackmailed" by Saudi Arabia is a convenient myth that points the finger away from intelligence agencies, oil corporations and investment bankers at home. The problem is that when people think "the US", they usually assume that elites in the US will act in the interest of the whole US economy. That is incorrect. Notice that the oil price hasn't exactly been going down in recent months.
posted by Eloquence at 2:16 PM on December 29, 2003

skallas: The dollar has been falling constantly against the Euro in recent months, and most of it had nothing whatsoever to do with the Saudis. Such trends are not random, they are the result of deliberate currency manipulation. US economic interests do not allow the Saudi oligarchy to play with the US dollar. But if they want to do it themselves, they can just pull a few strings here and there. A cheap dollar benefits some (particularly exporters, but also segments of the currency market, obviously), a high dollar benefits others.

Again, if this currency manipulation hadn't been supposed to happen, the Saudi empire would no longer exist, period. It's a matter of minutes to make that decision. American interests cooperate with the Saudis because it's a productive working relationship - for them, not for anyone else.

A quid pro quo is an equal exchange, and that is certainly not what's going on here -- it's no more "equal" than US cooperation with Saddam in the 1980s. But the Saudis are a lot easier to remove than Saddam. As for the September 11 report, it is pointless to even speculate about the content of the censored pages. The real scandal is not the censorship, which is to be expected given the proven degree of corruption and immorality in the present US administration. The real scandal is the complete and utter failure of the media to ask questions about the attacks. You can't have a democracy without free media. And the only free medium is the one we're using right now.
posted by Eloquence at 3:10 PM on December 29, 2003

skallas -

from snopes - Whether these accounts are all describing the same flights or different flights (and hence the several-day difference in departure dates), the key is point is that none of them has a flight of Saudis leaving the U.S. while the ban on regular air travel was still in effect.

from your post - Considering Bush decided to fly out the 24 or so bin Ladens on Sept 12th 2001

Snopes doesn't deny that they left, just that they left while the flight ban was still in affect. Snopes cites sources and several articles - you cite nothing. What's a fellah to do?
posted by pejamo at 3:14 PM on December 29, 2003

No, but it ain't Prince Abdullah either.
posted by Eloquence at 4:51 PM on December 29, 2003

Here are some more details, via Debka.
posted by kablam at 6:47 PM on December 29, 2003

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