The political transition in Saudi Arabia may not have been as smooth as it has been made out to be. Muhammad Bin Nayif’s selection as the Crown Prince of the Crown Prince was intended to solidify the Sudayri clan’s hold on power. Furthermore, the news that Khalid At-Tuwayjiri (whose father, `Abdul-`Azis ran the diwan of `Abdullah for decades before he was succeeded by his son) fled the country indicates that Salman and his allies moved quickly to eradicate the power center of Abdullah and his sons. It is not unlikely that Prince Muqrin will soon be replaced as Crown Prince.
There is so much to say about the crime against Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper, AND the ensuing affair. Much has been said already, and protests were held, and pens were brandished all over the world. One of the more curious reactions can be found in an article in Dissent magazine by Michael Walzer, in which he reproaches the left for failing to take on Islamic fundamentalism or radicalism or whatever people call it (the official danger in France is now labeled “radical Islam,” provided that radical Islam does not have oil and gas wealth to buy arms from the French government).
There is always a story or an angle about Hezbollah that gets the attention, first, of the Saudi media, and then consequently of the Western media. Readers of Arabic are struck by how the themes, stories, and perspectives of the Saudi/Hariri media invariably become the stories of the Beirut correspondents of US (and to a lesser degree, French and British) media. The Hariri assassination story always originated from rumors and leaks in the Saudi royal yellow press, and was regurgitated by the Western media’s Beirut correspondents.
In his new book “World Order,” Henry Kissinger reveals the extent to which classical Orientalism lives on the mindset and worldviews of thinkers, writers, journalists, and scholars. New scholarship on the Middle East hold little sway in comparison to the classical Orientalist literature which validates the worst impressions and misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims. In Kissinger’s new book, in the section dealing with the Middle East he seems totally indebted to the writings of Majid Khadduri.
For too long, the totem of elections was sold to the people in the Middle East—those who live outside the pro-US tyrannical regimes in particular. In the decades of the Cold War, the whole premise of the US position was the belief in the moral and political superiority of the West vis-à-vis the Soviet Union due to the holding of regular and frequent elections. Yet, the American electoral system is probably one of the worst, corrupt model of democracies, not only due to the influence of big money ($4 billion in the last election cycle alone) but also due to the elitist Electoral College and the rigid rejection of proportional representation in order to preserve the two party dominance. The preservation of the first-past-the-post electoral system winds up wasting millions of votes, and renders all third parties insignificant and irrelevant.
The Arab world has reacted to the CIA torture scandal in two ways: 1) the regimes were completely silent. Neither the Syrian regime (the only regime that now stands in opposition to the Saudi-US regional order) nor the members of the Saudi-led coalition reacted to the scandal. The Iranian Supreme leader issued a strong denunciation of the US government while the new Afghan president disingenuously feigned “shock” as if he never heard inside of his country of the various war crimes committed by US troops and contractors. 2) At the popular level, there was close attention paid on social media and many circulated the various links to the full text of the report as well as to the analysis of the scandal from American and European media.
Long before there was Edward Said, there was a man named Fayez Sayegh. He was one of the most visible spokespersons of the Palestinian cause in the West. There is very little about him on the web (he died in 1980) but I was able to watch a full hour of an episode of Firing Line featuring Sayegh (available on Amazon Instant Video). He clearly was a masterful debater and knew how to speak to a Western audience. Sayegh and Sami Hadawi also worked through the Arab Information Office to disseminate information and arguments in defense of the Palestinian cause in the Western world. Their booklets and pamphlets on the Palestinian question remain classic in the field. Hadawi’s “Bitter Harvest” is still one of the best introductions to the Palestinian problem.
Make no mistake about it. The Sisi court which reversed previous court and government decisions in Egypt regarding the culpability of Hosni Mubarak and his family in cases of murder and corruption did not only come from inside Egypt. It was part of the package deal that installed Sisi in power. Saudi Arabia is now in charge of arranging and re-arranging the Arab regional order according to its wishes and the wishes of Israel. Saudi Arabia expelled Qatar’s influence from the Arab world and is now making sure, by force, coercion and diplomacy that the Qatari regime would no longer pose a threat to its influence. In Tunisia, the Saudi regime funded the As-Sibsi political party as a way to reintroduce the Ben Ali regime but without Ben Ali.