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The Saudi Gambit

Watching the fallout of Cablegate, the most important thing that’s been revealed is the game that the Arabic leaders are playing.  They are supporting us on one hand but using us on the other—both to cement their power and to attack their enemies.

The Yemeni government, for example, is allowing us to attack targets in their country while claiming that they are doing it.  This is a dangerous gambit—trying to stifle AQ in their country while not appearing to side with the West.  The revelation of the secret campaign is perhaps the most dangerous revelation from the document dump, one that could put the Yemeni government in jeopardy from their own people since some of the attacks have resulted in civilian deaths.

Related to this is the revelation that the Saudi government has been encouraging us to attack Iran.  I don’t find this surprising at all: it’s simply part of the Sunni-Shiite conflict that we’ve been trying to stay out of.  Nor do I think this argues for going ahead and bombing Iran.  The opinions of extreme religious leaders of any stripe should not be used to guide our policies.  Sullivan:

Of course, the Sunni monarchs don’t want a “dirty, low-class Shiite” like Ahmadi wielding a nuclear weapon when they don’t have one. The humiliation! Of course, they want the US and/or Israel to do their dirty work for them, and also bear the brunt of the blame and blowback. Of course they want American men and women to lose their lives in doing their bidding, rather than Saudi lives. But equally they would never say such a thing publicly, because it would reveal the gulf between their self-interested cynicism and the views and fears and prejudices of their abject subjects, to whom they feed a steady diet of anti-Israeli and anti-Western propaganda.

And here’s a prediction I doubt Jeffrey would dispute: if such a war on Iran did unfold over the weeks it would take to do the job, these dictators would instantly and publicly back the anti-Israeli, anti-US and anti-Western wave that would emerge. They could not afford to do otherwise. The idea that the US should risk a tidal wave of Jihadist terror, a blow-up in Iraq, and a fatal p.r. blow in Afghanistan at the behest of the dictators and monarchs who funded Wahhabist terrorism and extremism for years is beyond absurd. It may make sense from an entirely myopic, short-term, Likudnik point of view. From any other perspective, it’s madness.

I’m forced to agree.  We tend to see the Iran question entirely in terms of terrorism and a threat to us.  But the game is much much more complicated than that.  Attacking Iran empowers Saudi Arabia, the source of much of Al-Quaeda’s personnel and funding.  It bashes down their enemy while simultaneously allowing them stir up anti-US fervor.  It gets us deeply involved in Middle Eastern tribal and religious disputes that we’re better off staying out of.  And it would almost certainly result in the end of one of the few rays of hope in the region—the Green Revolution in Iran.  The enthusiasm that the Saudis have for bombing Iran is actually one of the best arguments against such a strike. We shouldn’t be doing the will of people who like to cut their own citizen’s heads off,

I still haven’t made up my mind about what should be done about Wikileaks, however.  While this leak is damaging, my instinct toward open government is very hard to ignore.  I think Andrew Napolitano makes a good point here.  The crime was not really Wikipedia publicizing the information—the media are supposed to act as a check on government.  Most of them don’t, which is why the mainstream media is so hostile to Wikileaks.  But that’s supposedly their job.  The real crime was that of Bradley Manning, who got this information and leaked it to the press.  On this we can probably agree: he belongs in prison for a very long time.

Update: The top ten revelations from Cablegate.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 11/30/10 at 02:48 PM in War on Terror/Axis of Evil • Permalink


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