Malcolm X: Rap, Race and Islam

22 February 2015
Published in Blog

By Laith Saud

February 22, 2015

This past weekend, the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination passed – with less notice than it deserved. Yet so much of Malcolm X’s life: his words, his tone, his courage, remain relevant. And many of his struggles as a black man and Muslim man in America persist. Fifty years after his death, we may have a black president, but American culture has regressed. Malcolm X remains a touchstone to discuss American music, television and popular politics – not to mention race relations and Islam.

X and American Music

Malcolm X was assassinated in New York City on February 21, 1965. We have all seen Spike Lee’s biopic (if you haven’t, you should), so we know where and how. The anniversary of his death also falls within black history month. But there are no school closings, holidays or statues commemorating Malcolm X like his contemporary Martin Luther King Jr. But Malcolm X’s legacy might have more deeply penetrated subaltern culture than King’s. As an Arab-Muslim kid growing up in very white Indiana, rap music appealed to me. At the time, rap was far from mainstream or widely played on radio or MTV. Rap was too subversive, political and even angry – all of the frustration of the silenced were improvised into street poetry. Public Enemy, Eric B. and Rakim, KRS-One and the early Ice Cube and 2Pac – many of whom also made references to Islam in their music - were political. The connection between golden-age rap (mid 80’s – early 90’s) and Islam comes directly from Malcolm X.

Africa is the only Muslim majority continent in the world. In the 1950’s and 60’s, many black-Americans turned to Islam for many reasons; to return to Africa ‘in spirit,’ to protest the legacy of slavery of which the Church was a part and to invoke Islam’s strong message of social justice. Rap from the mid-80’s to the early 90’s reasserted the voice of black awareness, strength, and American hypocrisy. Malcolm X was a powerful symbol in this respect. “No Malcolm X in my history text, why’s that? Cause he tried educate and liberate all blacks. Why is Martin Luther King in my book each week? He taught blacks, when they get smacked, turn the other cheek.” 2pac, 2PACALYPSE NOW. “Ice Cube is outgunned, what is the outcome? Will they do me like Malcolm? Ice Cube The Predator; both albums are inspiringly political, centered on one prominent feature of American culture – that rights and privileges of America do not extend to blacks, thus our claims to American exceptionalism and universalism are hypocritical. It is this very premise that has carried on into the #BlackLivesMatter and #MuslimLivesMatter campaign today.

Malcolm X once asserted: “no matter how much you hear it talk about democracy, America is as racist as [apartheid] South Africa…the only difference between it and South Africa is South Africa preaches separation and practices separation, America preaches integration and practices segregation, this is the only difference they don’t practice what they preach, whereas South Africa preaches and practices the same thing. I have more respect for a man who let’s me know where he stands, even if he’s wrong, rather than one who comes up an angel and is nothing but a devil.”

This speech can be found on The Predator album, just after Ice Cube’s song ‘Who Got the Camera;’ a song documenting the nature of police brutality in black neighborhoods. The album, produced in 1993 in the wake of the LA riots, still stands as one of the greatest hip-hop records of all time – it was timely and decades ahead of its time. None of these quotes or songs can be found in most (but not all) mainstream rap albums today. Mainstream media prefers black music/videos that privilege consumption and vacuous Hollywood celebrity. Rappers are rarely street prophets anymore, but more so royal court profiteers, who celebrate ‘getting paid,’ yet remain silent on the conditions in black America that make that nearly impossible. Would we be better off if Malcolm X was still around?

X, American Media and Islam

Malcolm X was a radical. He was famously pictured with AK-47’s and openly discussed militant resistance to white society; yet he was also a public intellectual. He was interviewed by Mike Wallace, did numerous television interviews, debates and spoke at some of our most prominent universities. Likewise, James Baldwin debated William F. Buckley and Muhammad ‘Ali refused to be drafted, but still found places to express himself as a public political being. Do we have public intellectuals today? And if so, who is the last radical intellectual to have access to mainstream television? I’m not saying radical politics are the only politics or even good politics, but such voices from dispossessed communities straighten the political spectrum and insure more well rounded-discussions for democracies.

Maybe that generation, who grew up without TV saw TV as an extension of papers and books. Where evidence had to be provided and arguments made, they weren’t afraid of radical politics. But the generation that has grown up on TV, thinks of TV as the purveyor of images and images now stand in for argument. Malcolm X famously ‘converted’ to ‘mainstream’ Islam after doing the pilgrimage to Mecca, his experience revealed to him the deep humanity of Islam. What would he say today about Islam being incessantly reduced to the images of ISIS? He warned us “If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Which brings me to Islam, after another week of Islam and Muslim bashing, we should take pause and think of Malcolm X’s life as anecdotal evidence of the general spirit of Islam. In 1964, when Malcolm made his pilgrimage, he was a Black Nationalist firebrand, who insisted that whites and blacks could not live together. It was his visit to Mecca that changed his views on race. It was there, the symbolic heart of Islamic belief and practice, that he broke bread with blonde blue-eyed Muslims. He came back a changed man and testified to Islam’s prowess in bringing about ethnic and racial harmony. Contrast this real experience to the simulated reality of Islam fabricated on television, where 1.5 billion human beings are reduced to 10,000 ISIS bandits. If Malcolm X were alive today – would all of those self-proclaimed Progressives who bash Islam have bashed him? Accuse him of being ISIS? He elevated humanity by having the courage to reach out, sadly, only to be killed the following year. His spirit for truth, justice and debate would not have been met with the respect it deserves – in fact, today, we probably never would have heard of him. His voice would’ve been silenced by the barrage of silent images of masked, anonymous men who claim to be of the same faith as Malcolm X. But Im glad we heard from a man with no mask, who spoke of Islam, justice and history. RIP Brother Malcolm.                   


Laith Saud is a Senior Fellow at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies and co-author of An Introduction to Islam in the 21st Century. You can follow Laith on Twitter


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Why Is The US Media Helping Terrorists?

21 January 2015
Published in Blog

By Laith Saud

January 21, 2014

Terror. Just the word conjures up images that have splashed across your screen for two weeks. Terror. CNN has devoted literally over three-hundred hours to the Charlie Hebdo attack in France recently. Terror: an enterprise that does not exist without attention. Terrorism is more spectacle than reality in the United States. And the incessant obsession with terror, narrowly defined as any criminal act carried out by any Muslim, insures that terrorism will happen again, sooner or later. Yes, the media shares responsibility for terrorist acts.

As I said, terrorism is a spectacle in the United States. A conversation carried out in both horror and security, like one does with fellow passengers as you slow down past a car accident. You all recognize the horror and remain grateful that its not you, but could have been. Then, with the spectacle behind you, you speed up never thinking you will suffer an accident that day - or ever.

No one presumes an accident is inevitable. In fact, people rarely concern themselves with accidents, but driving is far more deadly than terror. The chances of dying in a car accident are 1 in 19,000; of drowning in your bathtub 1 in 800,000; of getting struck by lightning 1 in 5,500,000. The chances of being killed in a terror attack? 1 in 20 million. That’s right, 1 in 20 million. You have a significantly higher chance of being killed by lightning than you do a terrorist, but you wouldn’t think that watching CNN this past week. Even in Hebdo coverage hour 299, CNN was still reporting the attacks as ‘breaking news.’ If you really fear for your safety, the Weather Channel is of more use to you than any ‘terror analyst’ on CNN.

From the Twin Towers to the Twin Dummies

On September 11, 2001, in a dramatic way, terrorists (who happened to be Muslim) made an impression on television with the attacks on the Twin Towers. Notwithstanding the extent to which the Bush administration exploited 9/11 pursuant to the invasion of Iraq; the quantity of media coverage was natural, the attacks were a spectacle and surprising in scope and destruction. Over thirteen years later and all it takes is two guys with assault rifles to turn the entire world upside down. I will get to how this perpetuates terrorism later, but I just want to remind the reader, two guys with assault rifles. It has been said with all seriousness that freedom of speech is under threat as is all of Western Civilization.

Will world leaders and journalists really stand by the assertion that freedom and civilization are under threat because the dead-end twins managed to acquire a few rifles? It is all too easy to acquire weapons and kill and if that is all that is required, it will happen again. Terrorism is an enterprise and it requires money and success. Western media in its self-importance and correlating racism made the Charlie Hebdo attacks spectacularly successful; which brings me to my next point, anything that commands the kind of attention the media has devoted to terrorism will assuredly generate more acts for such attention. Let me be clear, as I do not want to be equivocal – the media is in large part responsible for terrorism. Two dead-end losers in Paris, two men who have done more harm to Muslim interests than anything, two men who would have lived and died completely unknown, are now known across the world. Their photos, their bios, their love lives are associated with an imagined and fantastic ‘existential’ threat to Western Civilization.

The Paris shooters have much more in common with the Columbine shooters psychologically, though their cultural references differed. And just as media coverage spurned copycat attacks, it will be likewise with terrorism.

Terrorism as Enterprise

For terrorist organizations to flourish, they require success and money. They require success in order to generate money. This type of attention is by definition success. If the Hebdo attacks were reported on the ticker at the bottom of our screen, we would not have noticed and thus cared. We would have dismissed it as a statistic, as we have the countless lives lost in Iraq, Syria and Nigeria during the same time frame. If the Hebdo attacks garnered little attention, they would have been a failure and would not have inspired re-enactment. During the first few days of the Hebdo incident, a white Parisian took over a post office and held hostages for hours. You never heard of it because he was white and the media is selective. But his timing was obvious; he thought by taking hostages two days after Hebdo, he would command the same type of attention (he was upset because his girlfriend left him).

CNN has to explain how as a world news organization it can legitimately devote over three-hundred hours to Hebdo at the expense of everything else that has happened in the world in that time. It really does. Anything that commands the kind of attention that this incident has insures replication – the act and the empowering attention are too lucrative. And CNN has become terror’s number one fundraiser.


Laith Saud is a Senior Fellow at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies and co-author of An Introduction to Islam in the 21st Century. You can follow Laith on Twitter


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Thomas Friedman Is What's Still Wrong In America

16 December 2014
Published in Blog

By Laith Saud

December 16, 2014

Thomas Friedman is at it again, displaying all of what is wrong in America. Upon this week’s release of the CIA Torture report, a report that should make us comprehensively rethink our policies in the Muslim world, Friedman turned the crises into yet another opportunity to lull us into a complacency. The report reveals the waste and lies that have perturbed American politics for ten years. But American pundits, like Friedman, encourage us to continue living the lie.

The CIA Torture Report: Raising Questions

Currently in Istanbul participating in policy events on the tragedy in Syria, I picked up an international edition of the New York Times. Friedman’s column is more prominent in the IE edition, above the fold, front page, with photo. I’m not sure why, perhaps it is presumed that a man so generously mustached may resonate in certain parts of the world. Regardless of Friedman’s fur, he is, in this case, the face of the Times. And the Times is the face of America. And this past week its most famous columnist celebrated the torture report as a showcase in American values.

The torture report outlines a decade of cruel abuse on the part of American servicemen and contractors on detainees. I say cruel, not to insist that torture is cruel, that would be redundant. It was cruel because the report makes it clear: it was entirely unnecessary. The CIA could not honestly report a single instance of torture resulting in intelligence; in fact, the CIA only obtained ‘actionable’ intelligence without torture. So the real question is why did we continue to torture, what was our obsession with continuing to torture detainees, even though years of experience demonstrated that it yielded nothing? In fact, members of the CIA deliberately lied to make it seem as if torture was the source of such intelligence. Again, why? If good intelligence was attained, why torture? And if torture failed at producing results, why lie about it to make it seem like it did? It would seem that somehow, someway, we wanted to torture those men and to continue to do so. This report is not an opportunity to be relieved that we found out, it is a responsibility to ask why and hold people accountable.  

First, why torture and pursue more reason to torture? The answer: Thomas Friedman.

American Media and American Thinking

When I say Thomas Friedman is the reason why we aimlessly tortured so many, I am obviously partly kidding. There could be only two possible reasons why torture continued at the rate it did, when there was absolutely no tangible benefit: A) The torture was a form of experimentation, to seek out the dynamics of torture if you will, to institutionalize it on those who are nothing more than ‘lab rats’ at Guantanamo Bay; or, B) those involved enjoyed it. Otherwise, why lie about the effectiveness of torture, when non-torture methods proved to be more effective? The ultimate underlying principle here however is Muslims are not human beings. They may be subject to torture for either experimentation or even fun.

The American media, illustrated by Friedman, have single handedly de-humanized Arabs and Muslims in this country. And this dehumanization is fueled by three general currents: arrogance, the Israeli narrative and economic interests. We see all three currents at work in the following statement by Thomas Friedman:

I think [the invasion of Iraq] was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie. I think that, looking back, I now certainly feel I understand more what the war was about […] We needed to go over there basically, and take out a very big stick, right in the heart of that world, and burst that bubble. […] And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going from house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying: which part of this sentence do you understand? […] Well, Suck. On. This. That, Charlie, was what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That’s the real truth.

The context of this statement is post 9/11. Notice, for Friedman, it did not matter that the Iraqi people were innocent and had nothing to do with 9/11. We needed to “take out a very big stick” and tell innocent Iraqi women and children from “home to home” to “suck on this.” The problem with arrogance is not offense; its self-satisfying nature always leads to ignorance and ignorance is not a laudable quality in public intellectuals. Furthermore, it leads to disastrous policies. Friedman’s attitude here typifies an ignorant mentality, a racist who perceives Arabs and Muslims as animals to be trained. I wonder how well that tactic is going for western war advocates. Newsflash: Iraqis are human beings, with quite a deep history. When Americans unwarrantedly invade a country with “big sticks,” humans will strategize, recruit, plan and resist. America lost the illegal war in Iraq, billions lost and thousands dead; yet the media has not wagged a finger in Friedman’s face, let alone a stick, for his zealous and explicit enthusiasm for war against Arabs and Muslims.

Racism is a crutch for a compromised intellect. And many such thinkers proliferate American media. Their weak nature is difficult to detect because the ability to be racist is always associated with power. America is powerful, whites are powerful, NY Times journalists are powerful. Yet Friedman’s power has nothing to do with intellect or achievement; they are the result of inheritance and association. Friedman’s fame arouse with his association with the Western establishment. He is a status quo vigilante. But he has separated himself in being an “expert” on the Middle East. Historically, the media has been hostile to Middle East experts from Arab countries, so those familiar with Israel disproportionality fill the void. Friedman is such a figure; here he is advocating Israeli policy on Southern Lebanon: "It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a non-state actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future."

Israeli experience will yield an Israeli view of the region. It seems to the likes of Friedman, Israel and Americas’ long-term strategy in the Middle East and world generally is to inflict pain on civilians with sticks.

Is it just me or is Friedman a maniac? Keep the mustache and change the name from Friedman to Hussein and Thomas would be considered a terrorist for speaking like that. Now, the CIA torture report reveals our continued failure to assess and correct bad policies that diminish America’s standing in the world. For all of Friedman’s inhumane non-sense, here would be an opportunity to call for accountability. But Friedman just pats us on the back for acknowledging wrongs, he does not call for a single person to be held accountable for what could only be considered a strangely sadist obsession with torturing Muslims. The message is clear, we care nothing for other lives. Such thinking, again, is not problematic because it is ‘offensive,’ it simply leads to bad policies.    

Friedman constantly defends an incompetent establishment. Without accountability, people do not do their jobs well. CEOs lie, then fail, then you lose your job. Presidents lie, then fail, then you lose your job. The CIA report is emblematic of a decade of wasted time, excessive spending on war and torture, while the American economy cannot provide healthcare and education to its citizens. Journalists should serve the public good, but Friedman:

The fact that no two major countries have gone to war since they both got McDonald’s is partly due to economic integration, but it is also due to the presence of American power and America’s willingness to use that power against those who would threaten the system of globalization–from Iraq to North Korea. The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. […] McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the US Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. And these fighting forces and institutions are paid for by American taxpayer dollars. (The Lexus and the Olive Tree)

This is a fundamental problem: A democratic society requires a vigorous press, debating different ideas. Today, the media, corporate America and the military industrial complex have coalesced around the idea that “everything is ok.” A provider of journalism Friedman is not; he is a marketing guru for the world as it is. And nothing dulls the edge of critical thinking more than the presumption that all is well. Credit cards give us the illusion of material success; Friedmans give us the illusion of moral and political success, while the public is dumbed down to a useless degree for a democracy. There are many things right about America. As I am in Istanbul now – an incredible, dazzling city – I can still see all of the things that makes America home and why I am grateful that is the case.

But when I speak to the average cab driver in Turkey, he is far more aware and nuanced about the region than Friedman is. Why? A cab driver struggles to live in a world, to survive. He has to think and adjust. When you write for the Times and are an establishment philosopher, you are untouched by challenge and continue to just live in your head. One of the weaknesses of being an American is the tendency to live in our own bubble. It is time we burst it towards a more prosperous future.         


Laith Saud is a Senior Fellow at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies and co-author of An Introduction to Islam in the 21st Century. You can follow Laith on Twitter


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Changing Alliances in the Middle East

24 November 2014
Published in Blog

By Laith Saud

November 24, 2014

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) made headlines recently by listing The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Relief and the Muslim American Society (MAS) as ‘terrorist’ groups. All of these groups share several things in common: They all unequivocally and officially condemn terrorism, they provide humanitarian aid, charity or advocacy to parts of the Muslim world and they maintain pro-Palestinian positions. The UAE’s recent designation of these groups has literally put it at odds with every major pro-Palestinian advocacy or civil rights group in the western world. Theories have been offered for why this happened, but we will see that the UAE’s motive to realign itself in the region means distancing itself from the Palestinian cause.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s Strategic Concerns

Many analysts argue that the motivating force behind the UAE’s ‘terrorist designation list’ is contempt for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB); in the United States, CAIR, MAS and others have often been associated with the MB, if for no other reason, their promotion of Islamic causes. Contempt for the MB does not however explain the willingness of the UAE to be so severe and frivolous as to denounce American Muslim civil rights groups as terrorist groups. It must be noted the United States does not list CAIR or MAS as such and in fact, seeks their assistance in combatting terrorism as well as improving relations with the Muslim world. A deeper explanation can be found in the regional re-configuration of alliances that directly affect both Saudi Arabia and the UAE.  With US overtures to Iran increasingly common, the Gulf is anticipating a new. Such reconciliation is perceived as being inherently inimical to Saudi and UAE interests, because of the Gulf’s large Shi’i population and Iran’s tremendous influence over Shi’is.        

The Rise of Iran

Since the 2003 American led invasion of Iraq, relations between the Arab Gulf States and the United States have increasingly strained. It was inevitable that removing Saddam Hussein would strengthen Iran in the region. Generally speaking, Iran is a predominantly Shi’i country and of great influence in the Muslim world. The east coast of the Arabian Peninsula and the west coast of Iran along the Persian Gulf create a horseshoe of potential political turmoil – illustrated by Bahrain, with the long time Shi’i protests there. The Gulf States were thus adamant in their opposition to the invasion, warning the US of the rise of Iran.

The invasion of Iraq initiates major political shifts in the region, however the sectarian consequences are the most widespread. I was born in Iraq, to a Sunni father and Shi’i mother – Iraq was a very secular and cosmopolitan society and at least one third of Iraqi marriages were between Sunnis and Shi’is. This all changed after 2003. American policies in post-invasion Iraq paved the way for extensive Iranian influence over not only Iraqi politics, but also society.

Several things contributed to this: Paul Bremer’s decision to disband the Iraqi army and police force, created a security vacuum filled by Iranian backed militias. Secondly, the most prominent political figures to accompany the American invasion were exiles that spent decades in Iran, cultivating ties with its regime. Today Iran exercises unprecedented influence in Iraq which has turned the latter – a once avid secular and influential state in the region – into an Iranian satellite with similar theocratic tendencies. This influence affects the whole Gulf region.

Iraq’s once strident secularism is now a shadow of its former self. Iranian influence underlies the ‘sectarianization’ of Iraq’s educational institutions. And Iraqi Sunnis are now a sidelined and persecuted minority in a mixed country, amidst predominately Sunni Arab countries. Arabs blame Iran for this persecution. In Syria, the Iranian ally Bashar al-Assad has been slaughtering Syrians en masse for three years, again, with the support of Iran. And finally, in Israel/Palestine, Iran has withdrawn support from HAMAS for the latter’s support of the Syrian revolution, turning Iran’s ‘resistance’ to Israeli occupation into a fig leaf covering for different Iranian ambitions in Iraq and Syria.   All of Iran’s gains in power over the last ten years have amounted to it losing a great deal of credibility in the Arab Street. Iran’s once popular image has been reduced to one of a realist state, maintaining strategic influence in Iraq and Syria through supporting violent militias and dictatorial regimes. This willingness on the part of Iran to show its cards has led to what some analysts refer to as the Iran-Iraq-Syria axis.  

The Arab Spring        

If 2003 is a pivotal year in Arab politics, 2011 is as well if not more so. 2011 is of course the year of the Arab Spring and during that period, traditional concerns over Israel or Iran were sidelined by a new threat – Arab Democracy. When in 2012, Egypt’s first free and unfettered election brought a member of the Muslim Brotherhood to power, Saudi Arabia and the UAE acted swiftly to curb MB power and interjected themselves into Egyptian affairs.

Turkey and Qatar on the other hand openly supported the democratic process in Arab spring countries, giving rise to the Turkey-Qatar axis, which is characterized by moderation and maintaining strategic ties with the United States, while still pursuing policies that are very appealing to the Arab Street – such as supporting Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s Strategic Horizon

 Turkey and Qatars’ open support for the democratic process made them de facto sponsors of the MB in Egypt, causing a fallout between Turkey/Qatar and the other Gulf states. But this only suggests that the alliance is strained, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have no interest in a protracted enmity between themselves and fellow Sunni neighbors, evidenced by recent events that have reconciled these regional powers. The real problem that Saudi and Emirati strategists are trying to get their heads around is the increasing cooperation between the US and Iran.

It must be remembered that the US and Iran have cooperated in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on the so-called ‘War on Terror.’ Analysts are advancing greater cooperation between the two. The UAE and Saudi Arabia seem more and more like outsiders looking in and should US-Iranian ties strengthen, they both fear American protection will wane, making them more susceptible to Iranian interference. Thus, these two rich states are now looking in the direction of Israel – with whom they share an ostensible mutual interest in combatting Iran’s rise.

The Saudi-UAE-Israel (and Egypt) axis is becoming increasingly obvious in the last few years. Both countries saw the rise of the MB as problematic. For Israel, the MB represented a stalwart ally to the Palestinian cause, a group that, although moderate, would never have been as compliant in assisting Israel in its illegal siege of the Gaza Strip, as deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak did. Yet this was the greatest fear of the Saudis and Emirates as well; these countries relationship with the United States is predicated on maintaining the status quo in the region and in world petrol markets.

The events of the last ten years or so have thrown traditional alliances into the mixer, with the US leading the way. The United States has reached out to Iran in an unprecedented way, including President Obama’s recent letter to Ayatollah ‘Ali Khamenei that stresses mutual interests in the region; this stress on mutual interests alienates Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Iran and the US have an expressed cause in fighting ISIS, but they are also in lockstep in supporting the avowedly Shi’i government of a mixed Iraq, the US has pulled back on its desire to see Iranian ally al-Assad go and the US is fighting al-Qaeda in Yemen, which assists the Iranian back Houthi rebels.

And these interests extend beyond the Arab world, into central Asia and the Caucuses – Saudi Arabia and the UAEs’ value to the US lay in the ability to stabilize the global oil market in barrel cost and shipping. Iran on the other hand possesses similar oil and gas wealth yet out reaches these Arab Gulf states in many other valuable ways, leaving the latter to look for new ways to maintain their strategic significance to the US or others. The answer to this problem is in Israel. And the Saudis and Emirates are increasingly speaking the “same language” as the Israelis.

As the US seemingly replaces the Saudis (and by implication the Emirates) as a long-term regional all these two Gulf states are situating themselves within a more pro-Israel axis, as we see emerging more and more out of Egypt and the pre-requisite to any future alliance with Israel means vociferously condemning pro-Palestinian advocates in the US and Europe, where demands for justice for the Palestinians is gaining ground. This is the major reason why the UAE took such drastic measures in condemning American and European civil rights and charity groups, to demonstrate definitively that they are leaning in a new direction. The Saudi’s may not have the same list of ‘designated terrorists,’ but they do lead the way in this new policy shift.

Of course, in the long run, the turn towards Israel will fail for three major reasons: First, demanding justice for Palestine is a fundamental part of the Arab worldview, in which Israel’s presence is a reminder of the colonial legacy – unless Israeli behavior and policy toward their Arab residents change, this will continue to be the case. Secondly, Israel is not as anti-Iran as perception might lead many to believe; the Israelis have shared interests with Iran over the last three decades

Lastly, whereas Iran’s place in the region can never be doubted, Israel’s inability to bring the Palestinian issue to resolution can only mean one thing – Israel’s future in the region is tenuous when we consider the fact that Israel faces several demographic challenges that it will eventually not withstand. (. In short, with time, Israel will become a moot point. In the meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and the UAEs’ pursuit of a short term solution for the long term problem of facing Iran will continue to pinch the Palestinians and their advocates, between the fingers of geo-politics. And we should all expect that more anti-Palestinian posturing will emanate from these countries in the same way as it has, at times, in the US.


Laith Saud is a Senior Fellow at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies and co-author of An Introduction to Islam in the 21st Century. You can follow Laith on Twitter


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