My new article on the return of US pragmatism to Mid East policy

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For two core reasons: 

#1 – “Trump’s position makes Iranian adventurism throughout the Middle East far less likely. It also decreases the temptation of U.S. allies to engage in counter-productive and destabilizing unilateral military operations of their own out of a perceived need to project strength in the face of Iran.”

#2 – “by restoring alliances with traditional allies in the Middle East, Trump’s approach is far more likely to get significant contributions from them, furthering his America First agenda.”

Here’s the Link to the article.

Why It’s Not True to Say that the Saudi government “exported” Radical Islam

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I am reposting this piece that I wrote in November 2015.

 

November 2015.

As policy makers focus on what to do about the Islamic State  over the coming months — you will hear people talking about the  role of the Wahhabi version of Islam of Saudi Arabia, and what connection it has to the spread of this new wave of terrorism everyone is talking about.

For decades, there has been a school of thought that blames the Saudis for Al-Qaeda, or Salafism, and now, the Islamic State, as a result of some conscious strategy by the Saudi ruling class to “export” their version of Islam.

Here are eight links ( one two three four five six  seven eight)  from reasonable mainstream media outlets that state some variation of the thesis of this headline:

How Saudi Arabia Exported the Main Source of Global Terrorism

Central to this idea is that, if the Saudis did not take these actions to export their version of Islam, different things would be happening.  Such as:

  • Islam as practiced in many Arab countries would be more moderate
  • Certain radical mosques in say France, wouldn’t exist
  • Fewer Belgians would have traveled to fight in Syria.
  • Radical clerics would have less followers on Twitter.

I have always argued — and will argue in this post — that the spread of more conservative Islamic views across the Middle East, and amongst Muslims in the West, both now, and over the course of the last several decades, cannot be blamed on any conscious strategy by people or organizations inside Saudi Arabia.

It is merely a natural reflection of the “demand” for more conservative religious views.  People chose more conservative Islam because it is logical to them based on their personal surrounding environment.

Continue reading “Why It’s Not True to Say that the Saudi government “exported” Radical Islam”

Wise words on Saudi Arabia from an informed reader

The most informed voices on Saudi politics are quite often those working there over a long-term period, usually in business of some sort.* When there in that capacity, you are part of the system, and  Saudis will interact and engage with you, tell you things etc, in a way that won’t happen with journalists or academics there for a 1 or 2 week visit.

For that reason, I place a very high premium on the opinions of expats in Saudi Arabia for work and mid-level/ rising Saudi managers. A Western reader with elite Arabic skills and who has spent several years in Riyadh for business sent me the below comment after reading my August interview with Greg Gause.

I thought it was too insightful not to share with readers and he graciously allows me to post for RWA readers. Highlights by me:

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*Which is also why I consider this book, by an academic, who first worked in Saudi for business, one of the very best books I’ve read on Saudi politics to date.