Is David Ignatius Falling For Saudi Propaganda?
Is David Ignatius Falling For Saudi Propaganda?
Washington Post columnist and occasional novelist and diplomat, David Ignatius, is one of the best informed and wisest of commentators on Middle East affairs. Thus it is with concern that in yesterday’s Washington Post in a column titled, “A new chance for Middle East peace?” he seems to have fallen for third rate propaganda largely being pushed by the Saudi government, although also backed by the UAE ambassador (closely allied to Saudi Arabia in their anti-Iran and anti-Qatar escapades), as well as “the White House.” I can appreciate that in recent years hopes for any kind of Israeli-Palestinian peace deal have simply been absent, so maybe he is indulging in some sort of optimistic thinking with the idea that pushing any sort of plan is better than having none. But I fear that not only is he being a pollyanna here, but joining a herd of suckers for drivel coming out of the Saudi PR machine, which wishes to puff up new Saudi Crown Prince, Muhammed bin Salman (MBS) as a wonderfully progressive and open-minded reformer. Yuck.
Indeed, what is probably the most dramatic point here is that indeed MBS has apparently been going around saying that “resolution of the Palestinian problem and peace with Israel are ‘crucial for the future of the Middle East.'” This is indeed louder than what has been heard from Saudi leaders previously, although the late King Abdullah did put forward a peace plan that involved the Israelis moving back to the 1967 borders, a plan that went nowhere. So, peace noises out of the Saudis are not exactly completely unprecedented.
The more detailed part of the column where Ignatius shows his usual ability to ferret out information not previously reported by others is that the specific plan being pushed involves using a UAE-based Gazan Palestinian named Mohammed Dahlan to get Hamas to moderate its demands on Israel in response for a bunch of economic aid, including a power plant to be built across the border from Gaza in Egypt. No evidence that the current Hamas leaders in Gaza will go along with this is provided and, and it is admitted that Dalhan has long been at odds with Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO leader who is in charge of the West Bank.
I grant that Ignatius recognizes that MBS has his flaws, “has made brash moves that have caused him trouble, including the war in Yemen.” But this is all supposedly offset by his “youthful and dynamic leadership” as touted to Ignatius by MBS’s younger brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, now Saudi ambassador to the US, with the UAE ambassador also weighing in. Ignatius recognizes that underlying this push from the Saudi-UAE-Egyptian axis and possibly Israelis is a common enmity shared with the Trump administration toward Iran. Ignatius does not discuss the increasingly failed effort by these to isolate Qatar, which has just reopened diplomatic relations with Iran, or the dangerous apparent moves by the Trump administration to undo the Iran nuclear deal.
Maybe all this would be wonderful, but frankly it looks like a bunch of wishful thinking amounting to poor propaganda given today’s reporting. In the first section of today’s WaPo is a story about the trip just concluded by Jared Kushner to that neck of the woods, with Ignatius’s story clearly representing some PR for it based on what Kushner thinks he is doing, with Kushner and MBS big pals by all reports. This is their big plan. But in a story misleadingly titled “Kushner’s Mideast talks called ‘productive'” it turns out that mostly things look like they are not going anywhere.
A meeting with Mahmoud Abbas had a bottom line that Abbas is not going to do any serious talking unless the Trump administration accepts the two-state solution, and the story made it clear that Kushner did not do that, and the administration more generally has not done that. It also notes that the Netanyahu government is becoming distracted by an increasing corruption scandal, so may be unwilling or unable to do anything at all out of the ordinary. Maybe there will be mumbling in Gaza, but the idea that we are on the verge of some great breakthrough in Palestinian-Israeli relations looks to be a joke, despite Ignatius playing pumpboy for the trouble-making Saudi crown prince’s propaganda who seems so able to get lots of people in Washington to spout his nonsensical and dangerous drivel at the drop of a hat (or a sword).
This is disappointing. David Ignatius should know better.
“Yuck?” That’s it?
I have posted previously about MBS pretty harshly. To repeat some of that, those touting his supposedly “visionary” progressiveness claim he wants to improve womens’ status, privatize state-owned industry, and loosen up some other social regulations. As it is, he has done zero for womens’ rights, his privatization involves selling off 5% of ARAMCO, not a very big deal frankly, and the supposed loosening of social regs has largely involved some restrictions on male athletics, which is popular among the young males who think MBS is cool, but that is about it. But he gets all kinds of breathless reporting despite the total mess he has made in Yemen, which is a humanitarian disaster, not to mention his very aggressive threats against Iran based on very little and the failed boycott of Qatar, basically a farce.
The only people knowledgeable on ME, and that includes Israel / Palestine/Gaza are the Saudi insiders and Iranian insiders who control ME conditions outside of absolute revolutions (which get controlled in short order by these two adversaries).
Certainly no observer n NY no matter how much they visit the ME or think they get insider information on the subject is the least bit knowledgeable. The can allege they are but that’s just self promotion.
Neither the Saudi insiders nor the Iranian insiders tell anybody else what their policies are or what conditions they require to resolve any internal ME disputes.
Abbas is a care-taker puppet .
Hamas’ leader, whomever, whenever, is a mouthpiece.
The U.S. is a peripheral player allowed to play around the edges as much as they want, but only as long as they don’t cross the invisible lines drawn by Iran and the Saudis. And since the 1972 7-day War the U.S. hasn’t crossed any of the lines.. in case you haven’t noticed. The U.S. can play “negotiator” for all the PR they can get out of it but it’s always purely PR… nothing else.
Lest you forget the Peace Accords that almost came to be when Arafat backed out after Israel’s unprecedented conditions were suddenly rejected by Arafat. Arafat got the word from on high… no peace… Palestine would remain the pawn.
“Ehud Barak, at the Camp David 2000 Summit in July 2000. Due partly to his own politics (Barak was from the leftist Labor Party, whereas Netanyahu was from the rightist Likud Party) and partly due to insistence for compromise by President Clinton, Barak offered Arafat a Palestinian state in 73 percent of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian percentage of sovereignty would extend to 90 percent over a ten- to twenty-five-year period. Also included in the offer was the return of a small number of refugees and compensation for those not allowed to return. Palestinians would also have “custodianship” over the Temple Mount, sovereignty on all Islamic and Christian holy sites, and three of Jerusalem’s four Old City quarters. Arafat rejected Barak’s offer and refused to make an immediate counter-offer. He told President Clinton that, “the Arab leader who would surrender Jerusalem is not born yet”.
The ostensible condition is “full right of return” and compensation with interest. In any other words: Obliteration of the Israeli state.in the ME. A democratic non-Muslim state in the midst of royal dictatorships can’t be condoned and accepted without creating problems for royal dictatorship tradition.
Barkley, I forgot to say, “Bullshit.” n response to your statement:
“David Ignatius, is one of the best informed and wisest of commentators on Middle East affairs.”
You can think this if you want… I’ve no issue with what you think but simply say you’re in error in your thinking. It is simply not the case that “.. Ignatius is one of the best informed and wisest of commenters on …” the ME. No commenter is, and he’s no different than your own, or my own or Abbas, or Trump. Why pick his bs any more than Trumps?
If the Saudis cared about Gaza they would be spending money without pandering to Tel Aviv, this flies only in NY!
How long before the Salafists realize they lose more by allying with Tel Aviv than they could ever gain against Iran?
Given Saudi successes in Syria and Yemen they’re only chance is sidling up to Israel, and betting the US is dumb enough to continue defending al Qaeda.
Gosh, it sure is great to have an expert like you to pass judgment on who knows what about what in the Middle East. However, you should keep in mind that
1) There was no ME war in 1972. There was a 7-day war in 1948, the 1967 war took 6 days, and the Yom Kippur War in 1873 lasted 19.
2) Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia has drawn any lines visible or invisible that the US dares not cross. When did all that happen, during the nonexistent 7-day 1972 war perchance?
3) It certainly is too bad that the 2000 negotiation failed to reach agreement, but there have been agreements reached in 1977 (Camp David) between Israel and Egypt, the 1994 Oslo Accord, as well as the slighly later agreement between Jordan and Israel. The first and third still hold, more or less, while the Oslo Accord is largely kaput, even though elements of it are still sort of in place.
4) That know-nothing Ignatius is based in Washington, not NYC.
Well, the Saudis are Wahhabis, not Salafis. No, they are not the same, even if lots of people in the media think they are. Last I checked, one of the few wise things done by the Trump admin was to largely end support for the al Qaeda elements in Syria, although who knows what is really going on with that? Probably Longtooth does.
Not sure what keeps changing with your ID that we have to approve you almost every time.
Barkley.. in can’t resist :responding to your comment to my comment:
“Gosh, it sure is great to have an expert like you to pass judgment on who knows what about what in the Middle East. However, you should keep in mind that:
Barkley, your right about wars and dates and how long they lasted, but since the 1972 war what’s changed re: Palestinian State and Israel?
And why hasn’t anything changed if the US has anything more than a peripheral and mostly just PR role in “negotiations”. when the Saudi’s and Iran decide what is acceptable and on what terms.
Do you really think Abbas, any more than Arafat, has any actual say in the matter? or that Hamas is an independent entity not controlled by Iran?
You’ve been reading too many WPo and NYT and whatever other propaganda commenters who write for your uneducated consumption.
Hook, line, and sinker Stand back and see what’s really going on and read the “experts” opinions for what they are — pure bs conjectures and beliefs.
The only thing the US can and attempts to do in the ME is
1) maintain oil flows
2) keep Russia and China from having more influence (and that only to insure 1) above for US interests, and for US Arms sales). .
3) keep Israel from being over-run and pushed into the sea or obliterated. It’s the public excuse for US having reason to be “involved”.in the ME… keeping that democracy safe from the royal dictators.
All the negotiations.. Oslo, Camp David, etc. are PR politics. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian’s have any unilateral power what-so-ever.
Do you really think the US has any influence to resolve a centuries old war between two religious sects that support the excuse for maintenance of dictatorships in the ME? Do you even think the US has this as an objective? or has ever had this as an objective?
The US uses Israel as it’s pawn and the Saudi’s and Iran use the Palestinians as their pawn. The whole idea is to maintain a semblance of balance of powers in the ME to keep the oil flowing reasonably unobstructed to the west and China to keep global trade going in order to keep the global economies from collapsing.
Oh dear, you have gone off the deep end again, Longtooth. The sign is that after agreeing that I am right about the dates and lengths of the wars you continue to talk about a nonexistent 1972 war Most of the rest of what you say is largely wrong but not worth wasting time explaining why, although it is true that the US has an interest in keeping the oil flowing from the ME.
Have a good evening.
The Egypt-Israeli Peace occurred because Israel had obliterated the Egyptian defenses, surrounded one of it’s major entire Army’s and defeated them outright, occupied the entire Sinai and Gulf of Aqaba down to and including, Sharm El-Sheikh and the headlands, held both sides of the Suez, and were within 50 miles of Cairo when the ceasefire was called.
The US acted only as a go-between with Kissinger playing the go-between diplomat role. Egypt had to agree to Israel’s terms or Israel would have just pressed forward with more reinforcements to Cairo and let the surrounded entire Egyptian nth (3rd?) Army starve and die of thirst in the Sinai. Israel’s air force controlled the sky’s unopposed and Cairo was a sitting duck. Egypt’s allies were already defeated and unable to help and Jordan was just trying to keep Israel from further incursions into Jordan across the East Bank. Iraq and Syria’s air forces were no longer.
As military successes go it’s a classic in the history of warfare.
So don’t try to make it sound like the US negotiated the Peace Agreement .. those were Israel’s terms or else. And Jordan had already agreed with Israel even at the outset of the war not to fight if Israel wouldn’t attack either.. this was a one-one agreement between King Hussein and PM Golda Meir..
You know in fact that the US had been trying to broker a deal to return the Sinai to Egypt have the ’67 war but had been totally unsuccessful. it took the Israeli’s to utterly defeat Egypt and the entire ME war-mongers to settle the matter. It was only finally settled after Satat gave Israel implicit agreement to a Peace and recognition of Israel and it’s right to exist. That occurred in 1977 only when Sadat had finally agreed to a Peace and the Camp-David agreement in 1979 was just a PR formality.
Quit trying to make it sound like the US “negotiations” or Oslo Accords or any other have had any effect what-so-ever. They’re PR pieces for public opinion survey approval ratings.
Aside from getting the Camp David year right (treaty in 1979, accord in 1978, I said 1977 from memory), you have much of the rest muddled. The Kissinger diplomacy ended the 1973 Yom Kippur war, not the 1967 one in which Israel conquered Sinai. Camp David was a very difficult negotiation and a very real deal, still holding despite all the frigidity involved, not mere “PR formality.” Do keep in mind that Sadat was assassinated in 1981 for agreeing to it and signing it and implementing it, much as Rabin would be assassinated for signing the Oslo Accord, that assassination probably being the beginning of the failure for it to be fully implemented. These are very serious matters and certainly did not involve Saudi Arabia or Iran manipulating anybody involved in it, indeed, neither of them had anything to do with any of the above.
Oh, I see… the 1973 oil embargo by OPEC led by the Saudi’s and Iran had nothing to do with the Israeli defeat of Egypt, so according to you
it “….certainly did not involve Saudi Arabia or Iran manipulating anybody involved in it, indeed, neither of them had anything to do with any of the above.”
So therefore since that war the US has had lots of influence over the Israeli v Palestinian issue and the Saudi’s and Iran have noting to do with it?
Gee, and who was it that caused Sadat’s assassination for his unilateral recognition of Israel against the express wishes of the Arab States… led by the Saudi’s and Iran? Hmmm.
All I can say, Barkley, is that you’re a sucker for the PR propaganda.
The attack by Egypt occurred in 1973… but my history says that the attack was just the visible start of Egypt’s plan to attack which was set in stone in 1972 by Sadat and his top military generals in secret. I’m not debating dates … they are ancillary to the issues discussed as you well know..
My original and still point of my comment on your post is that you think some author and journalist has insights and expertise in the ME when in fact only the insiders in Saudi Arabia and Iran know what’s actually going on.
What they report publically and to journalists in “interviews” is what they decide they want the general public to believe.
Why you would think otherwise is simply just amazing to me. And here we are 45 years since Egypt decided to attack Israel, and a few less years since Egypt recognized Israel under duress of absolute defeat thinking the US has something significant to do with the ME other than
1. Maintaining oil flows to keep the global economy going and upon which the US economy depend completely.
2. Keeping the Russians and China out of having influence in the ME.
3. Keeping the only democratic state in the ME from being pushed into the Sea.
Iran was not part of the 1973 oil export embargo against the US and the Netherlands for supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur War, only KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). did the embargo. Vis a vis the war it was a total sideshow, although it did trigger a quadrupling of world crude oil prices, which was probably going to happen anyway, although perhaps more gradually than did happen. But neither Iran nor KSA had or has anything serious until now maybe to say regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation, even as each has stuck its nose in various ways. The US has certainly had far more importance than both of them put together all along, and still does regarding that situation..
Sadat was assassinated by an Egyptian Ikhwan guy, with neither KSA nor Iran having any say or control over the Ikhwan. If you do not know who the Ikhwan are, well, as somebody who knows less than insiders in KSA and Iran, I am not able to tell you. But I do know they are not remotely controlled by Iran or KSA, and I am sure Ignatius knows this also.
Egypt attacked in both 1967 and 1973, but Israel ended up conquering Sinai in 1967 and then reconquering it in 1973. Sure, Sadat was planning it in 1972, but that does not make it a “1972 war.” Sorry.
I would also note that while certainly the defeat of Egypt in 1973 made Sadat open to negotiating with Israel, it was not until five years after that war and two presidents later that those negotiations took place, and they were hard negotiations that involved some major changes, largely still in place, so much more than “mere PR.”
Regarding knowledge of Ignatius, I am sure that insiders in KSA know more about KSA than he does, and insiders in Iran know more about Iran than he does. But I would lay odds that he knows more about KSA and Israel than do the insiders in Iran, and that he knows more about Iran and Israel than do insiders in KSA, and very likely knows more about most of the other nations in the MENA than do the insiders in either of those countries.
Indeed, part of the problem is that the current ruling insiders in KSA seem to be a bunch of pompous incompetent fools, led by the 31 year old Muhammed bin Sultan, whose knowledge strikes me as being seriously inadequate. The fool pushed this horrible and disastrous war in Yemen, which Ignatius indeed dinged him on in the column. He has also completely messed up on this dumb embargo of Qatar, which he dragged some other nations into, which has been a full out failure. Qatar is a neighbor that is the only other Hanbali code nation in the world, and MBS was so stupid that he did this, although apparently encouraged by such numbskulls as Jared Kushner and Donald Trump.
As it is, this is where I entered with my concerns regarding Ignatius, who surely is aware of this but did not mention it in his column, and spouted this obvious propaganda about MBS being all visionary and wonderful, is that I suspect he really knows is a bunch of crap. What this makes me think may really be going on, which concerns me more than him being ignorant, which I doubt, is that he is toadying to his sources that are spouting this drivel to maintain access. I gather that journalists trying to maintain access to the White House are also having to do some toadying and spouting drivel to maintain that access. and this goes on in many admins. I suspect that this is what is really going on here; he knows better but is not pointing out the Qatar disaster and saying nicey nice things about this abysmal MBS so MBS’s brother, the new ambassador to the US, will continue to give him information, such as this stuff about Mohammed Dahlan, which I have seen nobody else reporting and is interesting.
I am not real clear on the relation to Salafism and Wahhab. However, the little I know is about 20% of Saudi population identify with Salafism, and there is a spectrum of militancy within Salafism.
I am not sure Trump knows what is going on in the environs of Tel Aviv, Damascus, Idlib, and Baghdad.
Trump and company have not slowed the rhetoric about Iran which is misguided from a reality perspective if not what is good for both US and Israel.
Yeah, Yom Kippur was 1973, I spent a lot of extra tours on duty while a fraternity brother was on a US Navy ship in the Med……… while it was “going down”.
Some people claim Wahhabism is a branch of Salafism, and they certainly overlap. Wahhabism is much older and is native to KSA. Probably 95% of Saudis are Wahhabist and it has been the official ideology of the Saudi royal family since 1744 when the wandering cleric, Mohammed bin Wahhab met the local ruler of Diriyah, now a ruined suburb of Riyadh, Mohammed bin Sa’ud. They formed an alliance in which Sa’ud promised to support the theology of Wahhab, who argued for the universal imposition of the strictest of the four Sunni sharia’s, the Hanbali code, with only Qatar having done that.
Salafism began in the 19th century originally as a modernizing movement in Egypt and eastern Libya, which sought to reconcile traditional Islamic thinking with modern science and rationality, partly as an anti-colonial strategy. The ideology became more conservative as the 20th century proceeded, more fundamentalistic, although it was never tied to advocating the Hanbali code as have the Wahhabis.
Nasser suppressed them during his Arab nationalist socialist regime starting in the 1950s as fundamentalists. A bunch of them at that point went into refuge into Saudi Arabia, where quite a few of them became high school teachers. This led to some convergence of Salafism and Wahhabism in KSA, which has been the source of the confusion.
More generally now Salafists include most radical Sunni movements such as al Qaeda, Taliban, and Daesh/ISIS. Some of these advocate imposing the Hanbali code, which was done in Afghanistan under the Taliban. I am not sure what Daesh has done or did in the areas of its caliphate’s control, although there is clearly strong Wahhabist influence on Daesh, as well as al Qaeda. Convergence has happened, but certainly historically there is a distinction between the two.
For the record, Iran was part of the OPEC price hikes imposed.
“The months preceding the 1973 embargo witnessed a marathon of negotiations over prices, taxes, and shares between governments of the oil-producing countries and the international oil companies (IOCs), which held long-term concessions. The pressure on oil prices started building up a few days before the embargo, when negotiations between the host countries and IOCs broke off. The Persian Gulf states, including Iran, reacted by unilaterally increasing the posted price by 70% on Oct. 16, 1973. The following day, members of the Organization of Arab Oil Exporting Countries (OAPEC), less Iraq, decided to use oil as a political weapon by cutting production without imposing any embargo. ”
“At the time, Iran was the world’s second-largest oil exporter and a close US ally. Weeks later, the Shah of Iran said in an interview: “Of course [the price of oil] is going to rise… Certainly! And how!… You’ve [Western nations] increased the price of the wheat you sell us by 300 percent, and the same for sugar and cement… You buy our crude oil and sell it back to us, refined as petrochemicals, at a hundred times the price you’ve paid us… It’s only fair that, from now on, you should pay more for oil. Let’s say ten times more.”
Smith, William. D. “Price Quadruples for Iranian Crude Oil at Auction”, New York Times, December 12, 1973.
If Iran wasn’t ‘technically’ part of the embargo, they were just as effectively part of it. Don’t play games with words. Iran was part of OPEC and just as much as part of the effect of the Embargo.
Sadat’s Assassination: “The assassination was undertaken by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad”
“.In Egypt, various jihadist groups, such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, used the Camp David Accords to rally support for their cause. Previously sympathetic to Sadat’s attempt to integrate them into Egyptian society, Egypt’s Islamists now felt betrayed and publicly called for the overthrow of the Egyptian president and the replacement of the nation’s system of government with a government based on Islamic theocracy ”
“According to Tala’at Qasim, ex-head of the Gama’a Islamiyya interviewed in Middle East Report, it was not Islamic Jihad but his organization, known in English as the “Islamic Group”, that organized the assassination and recruited the assassin ”
So an Islamic theocracy isn’t Iran’s form of gov’t and the cause of the Shah’s overthrow? And the Saudi Royals don’t obtain their “legitimacy from an Islamic theocratic system?
Which states, Iran or the Saudi’s supported Islamic Jihad? AKA Al Quida as the primary force?
Iran enjoyed the price increase and supported it, but the did not participate in the embargo. They eagerly and readily sold oil to the US at the new high price. This was when the Shah was in power and very friendly with the US. It is true that the embargo did include some other members of OPEC besides KSA, namely the Arab ones in the Gulf, the members of the sub-group, OAPEC, which I think no longer exists. The A is for “Arab,” and in case you did not know, Longtooth, Persians are not Arabs, they are Indo-Europeans while Arabs are Semites. So, sorry, you are wrong yet again. You are the one playing games with words, such as “effectively.” No, they were not part of the embargo.
So, it was Islami Jihadi not Ikhwan, but of course both want an Islamic theocracy. But neither of those groups had any connection with either Iran or KSA. Iran is and was run by Shia, and these guys are Sunnis, no connection at all.
As for the Saudis, well, I was in KSA when Sadat was assassinated. Sudanese and Egyptians there were upset while Palestinians and Iraqis and some others were very pleased. However, the Saudis, and I am talking very high level members of the royal family with whom I was dealing, yes, those notorious “Saudi insiders” you are so fond of, responded with just a raised eyebrow, their favorite move. They were basically neutral, not particularly liking Sadat but also not particularly liking seeing reasonably friendly heads of state assassinated, and they were friendly with him. They did not support and certainly did not directly influence the assasin, even if they were not surprised that it happened.
Sorry, Longtooth, but you are really much farther in over your head than you know. I even know stuff that David Ignatius does not know.
OTOH, Ignatius knows plenty I do not know. He is especially expert on Lebanon, a horrendously complicated place.