“Saudi Arabia wants to improve Image; Here’s How”

Posted on Saturday September 16 2017

by Juan Cole:           “Saudi Arabia is alleged to be hiring a PR firm to improve its tattered image in the West .    As usual, such a campaign confuses substance with fluff and the money will be wasted.

I am sympathetic to Saudi feelings that they get an unfair rap. In my Engaging the Muslim World I argued that it is wrong to confuse the Wahhabi form of Islam that the Saudi regime favors with terrorism. The kingdom is pragmatic, and supported the secular nationalist regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, for instance. It is not that I agree with almost any Saudi policy, I am just trying to be even-handed.

The Saudis were not involved in 9/11, despite the desperate arguments of the lawyers of the 9/11 victims. The Saudis are innocent but have a lot of money, so it is profitable to railroad them. Saudi Arabia is heavily invested in US stocks and companies, and it was foreseeable that 9/11 would harm those investments pretty badly.

Al-Qaeda did it, not the the Al Saud. Bin Laden had been kicked out and deprived of his citizenship, and was plotting to overthrow the royal family.

Moreover, at least publicly, the Saudis under King Abdullah were against the Bush invasion and occupation of Iraq.

But since Crown Prince Muhammad b. Salman has emerged as the power behind the throne, the kingdom has been flexing its muscles and engaging in an astonishing adventurism that has roiled the region. But the heir apparent is young and inexperienced, and the kingdom has no checks or balances. It is not too late to step back from the brink.

So here are 7 policies the Saudi government can change if it wants a more positive image in the US press.

1. They have to end their savage and fruitless war on poor little Yemen, which has been bombed intensively by Saudi Arabia and its allies. The war has caused 600,000 cholera cases and 2000 cholera deaths, not to mention the people who have died being pummeled from the sky.

2. They have to give up on overthrowing the government of Bashar al-Assad of Syria and recognize that Salafism (the Sunni version of Wahhabism) wouldn’t work in Syria. There are too many powerful religious communities, from the Alawites to the Christians to Druze that just would not accept a Salafi state, and nor would most Sunni Syrians. Now that Russia has come in strongly to back al-Assad, funding anti-Assad hard line rebels will just prolong the country’s agony. Syria is resource-poor and poses no threat to Saudi Arabia. Let it go.

3. They should cease their effort to force Qatar to fall in line behind Riyadh. A divided Gulf Cooperation Council is a laughingstock, and it is highly unlikely that mere talking will resolve this one.

4. They should seek a diplomatic resolution of the stand-off with Iran. Actually if they stopped bombing Yemen and made peace with Syria, there wouldn’t be much reason to demonize Iran.

5. They should license churches for their Christian guest workers, the way Qatar has. There isn’t any reason in Muslim law that Christians can’t worship in the Arabian Peninsula. The Qur’an deplores interfering with or destroying churches and other houses of worship (The Cow 2:114).

6. Stop pushing climate change denialism. Petroleum is done; put a fork in it. The crown prince realizes that the kingdom has to move away from petroleum to fund its government. But guess what. The Empty Quarter would be perfect for a huge solar farm.

7. Let women drive.

Upcoming Speakers

  • Monday, December 17, 2018
    Kyle Parker
    Topic: The Magnitsky Act and its Impact
  • Monday, January 21, 2019
    Stephen Platt
    Topic: How China's Nineteenth Century Shapes its Present and Future
  • Monday, February 11, 2019
    Charles Sennott
    Topic: The Threat Against Journalists
  • Monday, March 18, 2019
    Alan Makovsky
    Topic: Turkey: Where Does This Lead?
  • Monday, May 13, 2019
    Gregory Gause
    Topic: Saudi Arabia: Reliable Ally?

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Announcements

Amb. Mendelson’s Slides Available Here

Posted on Monday October 29

Click the “Read Full Announcement” link below and then  to download the Slides that Ambassador Sarah Mendelson used in her October 29 presentation:  Click here.

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Posted on Wednesday August 29

By Michael McFaul.          “I thought I was done worrying about Vladimir Putin. I left Moscow in 2014 as the departing U.S. ambassador, after Putin spent my two-year stint deploying state-controlled media outlets and their surrogates to propagate disinformation about me. He’d been received tepidly in his campaign to retake the presidency from his ally, Dmitry […]

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“The Magnitsky Affair”

Posted on Tuesday August 28

By Amy Knight (New York Review):       “Last May, a money-laundering suit brought by the United States against Prevezon Holdings Ltd., a Cyprus-based real estate corporation, was unexpectedly settled three days before it was set to go to trial. The case had been at the center of a major international political controversy. Prevezon, which is owned by a […]

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“Why it’s time to stop calling these hurricane disasters ‘natural’”

Posted on Sunday December 31

by Kerry Emanuel:      “As the United States struggles to recover from two back-to-back hurricanes, it would be wise to reflect on why we keep having such calamities and whether they are likely to get worse. We must first recognize the phrase “natural disaster” for what it is: a sham we hide behind to […]

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“Saudi Arabia wants to improve Image; Here’s How”

Posted on Saturday September 16

by Juan Cole:           “Saudi Arabia is alleged to be hiring a PR firm to improve its tattered image in the West .    As usual, such a campaign confuses substance with fluff and the money will be wasted. I am sympathetic to Saudi feelings that they get an unfair rap. […]

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“The Theology of American National Security”

Posted on Friday December 4

by Andrew Bacevich         In April 2003, with Baghdad occupied by American troops, the top officials of the Bush administration were already dreaming of building bases in Iraq that would be garrisoned more or less in perpetuity. Everyone was too polite to call them “permanent bases,” so they were sometimes referred to […]

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Stephen Walt on His Forum Experience

Posted on Thursday August 9

We often write about our speakers after they appear at the Forum, but Steve Walt is the first one to write about us after speaking.  Click here for his latest Foreign Policy article.

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