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07 June 2016


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Babak Makkinejad

I think that Saudi Arabia has been very successful in frightening Sunni Arabs everywhere that the Shia are out to get them. In Algeria, the popular notion, propagated by Saudis and other Gulfies, is that Iranians specifically is out to force them into the Shia religion and take away their religion from them.

Babak Makkinejad

Tony Blair is the enemy of Shia.

David Habakkuk

F.B. Ali,

Thanks for the link. I have much admired Ambassador Freeman, and what he had to say in these remarks about how we got into the morass in which we find ourselves seemed to me extremely cogent and illuminating.

Then however, in his discussion of how we might scramble out of the quagmire – as it were – I came across remarks about the role the Saudis might play that seemed to me, frankly, pie in the sky.

‘It will require the Saudis and their allies to back away from the policies based on Salafi sectarianism they have followed for the better part of this decade and reembrace the tolerance that is at the heart of Islam.’

As you know better than I – and as Alastair Crooke has pointed out repeatedly – the British ‘devil’s pact’ with the Saudi Wahhabists, which the United States took over, is hardly a recent development, but goes back a very long way.

A significant part of the history of events since the turn of the century seems to have to do with this ‘devil’s pact’ blowing up in our faces – and also those of the Saudi Royals.

The hope that, somehow, this means that those Royals can be expected to ‘change their spots’ has quite palpably been central to much ‘mainstream’ thinking in Britain – and continues to be so.

To more and more of us, however, the notion that they are likely to do so has come to seem about as credible as the parallel suggestion that the Israelis are going to get serious about the ‘two-state solution’.

In this connection, a piece just published by Patrick Cockburn, under the title ‘What Tony Blair Revealed During His Criticism of Corbyn Is Interesting’, may be relevant.

(http://www.unz.com/pcockburn/what-tony-blair-revealed-during-his-criticism-of-corbyn-is-interesting/ .)

The central point he makes is that although in the wake of the invasion of Iraq, Blair himself is almost universally reviled here, his successors have continued to pursue Middle Eastern policies based on precisely the same thinking that was responsible for that catastrophe.

‘Blair is often criticised for his close commercial and political relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies but what he does is no different, even if it is more blatant, than other Western politicians. The struggle to defeat Isis is taking so long because the US, Britain, France and others are trying to overcome the extreme Islamists without damaging their strategic alliance with the autocracies of the Middle East.’

However, I think these ‘Western politicians’ simply to not understand the revolutionary effects on non-neglible strands of opinion in their own countries of the impression they have created that they are not really serious about fighting the ‘Islamic State’.

They really are risking the appearance of a new narrative, which borders upon being one about treason.

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

He is also the most hated man in Britain, by a very long way. So, in terms of British public opinion, interventions of this kind by him are rather good news for the Shia.

Babak Makkinejad

I think this is fine as far as it discusses the mistakes of the NATO states in the world of Islam.

But, I think, the author's remedies are fantasies. To wit:

The author suggests that the Gulfies reclaim Iraq from the Iranian sphere by exploiting the differences between Najaf and Qum. This is like the Pope trying to exploit the differences between the Baptists and the Methodists to make the Baptists (re-)join the Catholic Church.

Or better yet, like Russia trying to exploit the differences between Italy and France to get Italy to join her in an alliance against the rest of EU.

The other fantasies are US leaning on either Israel or the Gulfies to mend their ways and they actually conform to that diktat.

I am surprised that he is unwilling to even discuss the proposal of Ali Shamkhani regarding American and Iranian spheres - he is an experienced diplomat and he is familiar with the Peace of Yalta which was based on exactly that in Europe.

FB Ali

David, I quite agree with you that Freeman's remarks re the Saudis are, frankly, poppycock (and not just the one you quote). His recommendations for what they should do in future are sensible, but are totally theoretical - there is no chance of the Saudis and their Salafi allies following them.

I ascribe this departure from the essential realism of the rest of his talk to the venue in which it took place. The Centre for the National Interest (it was previously known as the Nixon Centre) is probably the beneficiary of Saudi largesse (they are being very generous with donations these days), and it would have been awkward for him to be too blunt about their patron. He may also still have some connections to them.

Babak Makkinejad

I agree, good diagnosis of the disease, weak on cure.

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