The Saudis push back against the Obama foreign policy. May 25, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 35 • By HUSSAIN ABDUL-HUSSAIN
The Obama administration put a happy face on its Camp David summit last week, even as four of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s six leaders turned down Obama’s invitation to attend. The most significant absence, of course, was that of Saudi Arabia’s king, Salman. In his place, Riyadh sent Salman’s 55-year-old nephew, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and Salman’s 28-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, deputy crown prince and defense minister.
Both men are said to be responsible for the aggressive Saudi policies in confronting Iran, especially in Yemen, where Mohammed bin Salman is leading the campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthis. In other words, while snubbing Obama, King Salman also delivered a strong message through the two men who are in line to lead Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future. They’re not happy with what they correctly perceive as the White House’s pro-Iranian tilt in the Middle East—and they’re in a position to challenge it.
In Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, referred to in Western policymaking circles as MBN, the White House is likely to find an especially able statesman. MBN served as the deputy minister of the interior under his father and then won the top post himself, where he has distinguished himself as a tough-minded security official who proved instrumental in dismantling terrorist networks and providing U.S. officials with valuable insight into their workings. He has survived at least four assassination attempts.
But it is MBN’s studious navigation of court politics that landed him in the number two spot. Indeed, it’s something of a paradox that a man so skillful in handling intra-Saudi rivalries is now behind a foreign policy that, in contrast to Riyadh’s all-too-frequent navel-gazing, is remarkably activist. MBN owes his power to ambition, skill, and the fact that he has no sons to move into the line of succession, which has made him a useful ally in court maneuvering.
Saudi royal politics are typically inscrutable, since the Saudis do not make a habit of publicizing divisions within their ranks, and their disagreements are resolved in private. But here is the short version of what has happened in 2015: Since taking over earlier this year after the death of his predecessor, King Salman has engineered a new line of succession. The upshot is that we are witnessing something novel in Riyadh. For the last several decades, the succession question has dominated Saudi politics—which is hardly a surprise when 70-something monarchs name 70-something crown princes, and illness and sudden death become central concerns in policymaking circles. That instability often incapacitated Saudi decisionmakers and at times left an otherwise preoccupied Riyadh vulnerable to regional issues. But with a 55-year-old crown prince and a 28-year-old deputy crown prince, the royal palace seems set to enjoy a level of stability it hasn’t seen since the death of Ibn Saud, the regime’s founder, in 1953.
This is perhaps one reason why Riyadh seems more determined than ever to roll back Iranian influence in the Middle East. For once, they’re able to focus on external threats rather than who will inhabit the palace. For Riyadh, this fresh blood and surge of confidence couldn’t come at a better time. They’re concerned that the White House is downgrading the 70-year-long alliance with Riyadh in favor of upgrading relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Saudis have given up on the Obama administration. In return for helping the White House combat Sunni terror, Riyadh assumed the White House would keep its word and push back against Iran. However, the Obama administration has done exactly the opposite. It has paved the way for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon within the next 15 years and accommodated Iranian interests around the Middle East, from Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and Yemen.
But to hear the Obama administration tell it, Saudi Arabia’s biggest problem comes not from Iran but inside. It’s unemployment, lack of opportunities, and a faulty education system that ail the Gulf Arabs, Obama has said in several interviews. And that, says the White House and its various media surrogates, is why the Saudis create so many terrorists.
There’s no doubt that Saudi society is riven by a host of problems and that private charities from the Gulf Cooperation Council states have frequently filled the coffers of terrorist outfits. However, why the White House feels comfortable chastising an ally of more than 70 years while turning a blind eye to Iran is unclear. After all, every indicator, from suicide to drug use, birth rate to prostitution, shows that Iranian society is as bad as or much worse than the societies of the Gulf states. Moreover, unlike Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikhdoms, Iranian state institutions are actively exporting terrorism.
8:01 AM, May 14, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Barack Obama greeted Crown Prince Bin Nayef of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office yesterday by getting some names wrong. Here's how the president began the remarks:
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AND CROWN PRINCE BIN NAYEF OF SAUDI ARABIA BEFORE BILATERAL MEETING
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s wonderful to welcome back the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Nayef, as well as Deputy Crown Prince Salman. We are very pleased to have them both here today, as well as the delegation from Saudi Arabia.
9:02 AM, May 13, 2015 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
The early Cold War period might be called the Age of the Treaty Organization. The United States, scrambling furiously to respond to the fact that it had become the guarantor of the “Free World,” had discovered a surprising interest in entangling alliances of all sorts and in all parts of the world. NATO, of course, was the biggest pact of them all, but in 1954 the “Manilla Pact” created the Southeast Asian Treaty Organiz
3:30 PM, May 11, 2015 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
It was a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away: In July 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama made big, bold news by travelling to Berlin to – as The New York Times triumphantly recorded – “restore the world’s faith in strong American leadership and idealism.” With 200,000 Berliners waving
8:12 AM, Apr 16, 2015 • By MICHAEL WARREN
A prominent Pakistani-born women's rights activist is asking presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton, to pledge not to accept donations from foreign nations that oppress women. Raheel Raza, the Canadian journalist behind the documentary film Honor Diaries, is requesting all the presidential candidates, from both parties and both "men and women," to sign her pledge.
Unlike President Obama.12:08 PM, Mar 5, 2015 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI and STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Following the death of Saudi King Abdullah at the end of January, and the succession of his half-brother, now King Salman, 79, many observers of the desert monarchy have speculated on its future.
The politics of oil Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
"We can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.” As recently as two years ago, that’s what the president was saying—with his usual self-assurance—about the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and on oil in general. And he wasn’t the only one. The line was widely echoed on the political left, where the instinctive feeling is that petroleum is poison. It helped that the opposition, led by archvillainess Sarah Palin, was meanwhile chanting, “Drill, baby, drill.”
What more proof was needed?
Time to counter the Saudis with a tariff? Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
We are in a war with Saudi Arabia—and losing. The Saudis aim to regain substantial control of our oil supply by driving from the industry many of our shale-oil-producing frackers who have reduced the power conveyed to the kingdom’s rulers by the underground ocean of oil on which their palaces sit. And we seem prepared to let them do just that, by failing to do what is necessary to prevent a reversal of the major strides we have made to get out from under the boot of an avaricious oil cartel.
2:22 PM, Feb 3, 2015 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI AND STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Following the death of King Abdullah Bin Abd Al-Aziz, at 90 or 91, on the night of January 22-23, Saudi Arabia is very likely to continue its policies of opposition to Iran and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and its participation in the coalition effort against the Islamic State. These alignments are not an expression of mere rivalry between Sunni Saudis and Shia Iranians, or between Saudi fundamentalists and ISIS radicals.
9:45 AM, Jan 26, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Obama administration officials have been effusive in their praise for late Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz who died last week at the age of 90. Now comes word that chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E.
7:49 AM, Jan 23, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Westminster Abbey announced on Twitter that it's flying its flag at half staff after the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
"The Abbey flag is flying at half mast as a mark of respect following the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, King of Saudi Arabia," the church tweeted.
12:01 PM, Dec 17, 2014 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Imagine for a moment that you are a Saudi, Emirati, Jordanian, or Israeli. Your main national security worry these days is Iran—Iran’s rise, its nuclear program, its troops fighting in Iraq and Syria, its growing influence from Yemen through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.
12:04 PM, Nov 17, 2014 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
As Saudi Arabia undergoes its slow process of change, the matter of women and motor vehicles remains crucial. On October 24, Saudi women were summoned by a social media campaign to take to the roads in cars they own, typically, but do not drive.