By Thomas L. Friedman
Nov. 20, 2018, 666
President Trump speaking to reporters on Tuesday.
Tom Brenner for The New York Times
President Trump speaking to reporters on Tuesday.CreditCreditTom Brenner for The New York Times
“I really wrestle with this question: What is the worst thing about President Trump’s approach to foreign policy? Is it that he is utterly amoral or that he is such a chump? Because the combination is terrible — a president who is an amoral chump is the worst thing of all. He sells out American values — awful enough — but then gets nothing of value in return.
Trump presents himself as a tough, savvy deal maker, and then he lets all these leaders play him for a sucker. The word is out on the street: “Hey, guys, get in line! Trump is giving away free stuff! Just tell him you’re fighting Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood or that you’re a friend of Sheldon Adelson’s, and you get free stuff!”
Last May, Hanukkah came early for Israel when Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a dream of every Israeli prime minister — for free! Trump could have gone to Bibi Netanyahu and said: “Bibi, here is the deal. I am going to make your dream come true and move the embassy. But in return you’re going to freeze all Israeli settlements in the heart of the West Bank.” Then Trump could have told the Palestinians: “You’re not going to like this. I’m moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. But I am getting you something no American president ever got you — a freeze on Israeli settlements beyond the settlement blocks.”
Instead, Trump gave the embassy move away for free. Well, I shouldn’t say that. He got millions of dollars in donations for the G.O.P. from right-wing Jewish megadonor Sheldon Adelson — who lobbied for the move — and warm applause from evangelicals. So Trump got something, but America got nothing.
WASHINGTON — I was having dinner here once with a Saudi muck-a-muck. Midway through the interview, he passed an oblong velvet box across the table. Inside I found an expensive piece of jewelry.
I began laughing and explained that I was a reporter and could not take such baubles. The Saudi said he understood.
About 10 minutes later, I felt a knocking against my knee under the table. It was the oblong box, offered more covertly.
The Saudis are experts on emoluments. If you don’t take their favors one way, they find another way to try to co-opt you.
By Jamal Khashoggi
October 17 at 7:52 PM
A note from Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor
I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.
I was recently online looking at the 2018 “Freedom in the World” report published by Freedom House and came to a grave realization. There is only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as “free.” That nation is Tunisia. Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait come second, with a classification of “partly free.” The rest of the countries in the Arab world are classified as “not free.”
As a result, Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative. Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change.
“I have three thoughts on the Jamal Khashoggi saga.
First, I can’t shake the image of this big teddy bear of a man, who only wanted to see his government reform in a more inclusive, transparent way, being killed in some dark corner of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by a 15-man Saudi hit team reportedly armed with a bone saw. The depravity and cowardice of that is just disgusting.
Second, I do not believe for a second that it was a rogue operation and that Saudi Arabia’s effective ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is very hands-on, had no prior knowledge, if not more. And therefore, not as a journalist but as an American citizen, I am sickened to watch my own president and his secretary of state partnering with Saudi officials to concoct a cover story. The long-term ramifications of that for every journalist — or political critic in exile anywhere — are chilling. By the way, I don’t think they will get away with it.
This leads to my third point: How should America think about balancing our values and our interests going forward? The best way to answer that, for me, is to go back to the basics. I always knew that M.B.S.’s reform agenda was a long shot to succeed, but I was rooting for its success — while urging the Trump administration to draw redlines around his dark side — for a very specific reason. It had nothing to do with M.B.S. personally. Personally, I don’t care if Saudi Arabia is ruled by M.B.S., S.O.S. or K.F.C.
It had to do with how I defined our most important national interest in Saudi Arabia since 9/11. And it is not oil, it’s not arms sales, it’s not standing up to Iran. It’s Islamic religious reform, which can come only from Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.”
David Lindsay: Thomas Friedman, thank you for this excellent sorting of the conflicts. The most popular comments tear you apart for apparently being too pro Mohammed bin Salman in years past, and I have no idea if they are right. I do note that they are attacking what you have not written about here, instead of addressing what you have written about. I try to read all your columns, and I do not remember thinking you were a Pollyanna about Mohammed Bin Salman, but a cheerleader for reform. Of that sin, I stand as guilty as you. Should we have invaded Saudi Arabia instead of Iraq? That should be an intesting topic, should you choose to analyze it for us. Or, are we competent to invade anywhere intelligently, after WW II? Sun Tsu wrote thousand of years ago, that invasion should be the absolute, last resort, after trying everything else, and is proof of failure of military intelligence and espionage.
The events of 1979 diminished the status of women, pluralism and modern education across the Arab-Muslim region, and they fueled religious extremist groups like Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and ISIS, whose activities have brought ruin to so many innocent Muslims and non-Muslims alike — and so many metal detectors to airports across the globe.
I know a bit about 1979. I began my career then as a cub reporter in Beirut, where I promptly found myself writing about the following events: the ayatollahs’ takeover in Iran, creating a hard-right Shiite clerical regime bent on spreading its Islamic revolution and veiling of women across the Muslim world; and the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by puritanical Sunni extremists, which freaked out the Saudi ruling family. The family reacted by purging music, fun and entertainment from their desert kingdom, strengthening the hold of the religious police over their society and redoubling the export of the most misogynist, antipluralistic interpretation of Islam to mosques and madrasas from London to Jakarta.”
Yes, Great piece by Thomas Friedman.
Here is a top comment I endorse:
David Underwood is a trusted commenter Citrus Heights 18 hours ago
“Iran was a very progressive country before the Eisenhower/Churchill engineered overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 for the benefit of British Petroleum, Standard Oil, shell, and four other petroleum companies known as the Seven Sisters.. Iran has not known Democracy since. The Dulles Brothers and their virulent ant communism were the motivating force behind this as Iran was seen as becoming a Socialist state.
But the descent of Islam begins with the crusades and through 1492 with the expulsion if the Umayyad’s from Andalusia by the Christian forces. It was the progressive culture of the times, it gave us the numbers we use and algebra. It had hospitals and advance medical treatment of the times. But the Umayyad and Sassanid factions were enemies due to different interpretations of the Koran. The Saudi Sunni’s are descendants of those Umayyad’s. But they long abandoned the progressive ways of them.
Christianity is as much responsible for the retreat of Islam as they are themselves. Arabic literature was the prime source of learning around the Mediterranean and the libraries were destroyed by the Christians. Many of their great mosques were either destroyed or defiled such as the one in Cordoba.
The Iranians are descendants of the Persians, indo Europeans, the Saudis are Semites. They both have histories if learning an knowledge, hopefully their young will return to these roots.”