1. Saudi Arabia:
Jackson Diehl writes that the Saudis may be next unless they do something. Maybe they'll reform; maybe they'll help stymie the change in Bahrain.
Abdullah has no love for Obama; he spurned the U.S. president's request for help in the Arab-Israeli peace process and fumed at Obama's turn against Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak. According to the New York Times, the last of their two phone calls during the Egyptian crisis "ended in sharp disagreement."
Still, I'm betting that Abdullah would rather be a Gorbachev than a Brezhnev. Rather than invade, he's more likely to embrace the strategy of trying to get ahead of the Arab wave of change before it is too late.
Diehl puts some hope in Adel al Jubeir, who is extremely westernized. (He's also as I recall, as is normal for someone of his background, extremely anti-Israel.)
But if Diehl was sounding a warning, someone may have been listening or anticipating his column. The NYT features
A Saudi Prince’s Plea for Reform By ALWALEED BIN TALAL BIN ABDULAZIZ AL-SAUD
Moreover, Arab countries have been burdened by political systems that have become outmoded and brittle. Their leaderships are tied to patterns of governance that have become irrelevant and ineffective. Decision-making is invariably confined to small circles, with the outcomes largely intended to serve special and self-serving interests. Political participation is often denied, truncated and manipulated to ensure elections that perpetuate one-party rule.
Disheartening as this Arab condition may be, reforming it is neither impossible nor too late. Other societies that were afflicted with similar maladies have managed to restore themselves to health. But we can succeed only if we open our systems to greater political participation, accountability, increased transparency and the empowerment of women as well as youth. The pressing issues of poverty, illiteracy, education and unemployment have to be fully addressed. Initiatives just announced in my country, Saudi Arabia, by King Abdullah are a step in the right direction, but they are only the beginning of a longer journey to broader participation, especially by the younger generation.
Prince Alwaleed is, of course, famous for his post-9/11 offer of $10 million aid to NYC which Mayor Giuliani rejected after Alwaweed suggested that 9/11 is partly America's fault.
There have been a few news stories about the Saudis including this from the WaPo:
16 miles away, Saudi Arabia's watchful eye looms over Bahrain unrest
"Saudi Arabia fears a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain," said Kristin Smith Diwan, an assistant professor at American University who studies Islamic movements in the Persian Gulf region. "It's about empowerment of the Shia and what that might mean for Shia in the eastern province" of Saudi Arabia, she said, in addition to fears about Iran's influence, which she deemed largely unjustified.
"In this current crisis, none of the solutions look good for Saudi Arabia," Diwan said. "A crackdown in Bahrain would be destabilizing. A reform itself would be destabilizing, unless Saudi Arabia was willing to make some reforms."
More on the eastern province of Saudi Arabia here:
The eastern province, by the way, is where the oil is.
2) You may recall in 2004 a group of former diplomats made the news when they condemned the Middle east policies of George W Bush.
The group was organized by the anti-Israel Council on the National Interest. Though they had a very clear agenda, for some reason their stunt was treated as news as a sign of deep discontent in the American foreign policy establishment.
I was surprised to learn that something similar recently happened in Turkey.
Interesting, even as a New York Times story (yesterday) holds up Turkey as an example of what we should be rooting for in Egypt, no one the MSM seems much interested in internal dissension in Turkey.
It's not just how things are reported that reveal the bias of the media, it's also what is (and isn't) reported.
3) NYT: Protests are being held around the region
The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that was banned for decades but is playing an active role in politics here, also pledged to hold protests in Cairo and across the country with similar demands.
After the MSM's studiously ignoring anything about about the Brotherhood, this sentence suggests that it is more influential than we've read until now.
More from around the region in the NYT:
The Washington Post reports that regimes in the Middle East are buying protection.
It might be against protesters. It also might be ...
Amid all the change sweeping the region, the multibillion-dollar business of arms sales to the Middle East may remain the one constant. The rich Persian Gulf states - particularly the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia - are scooping up as much weaponry as they can. Some of it could, in theory, be turned on their own populations. But diplomats and defense industry representatives say the goal is to defend against Iran and to secure energy infrastructure that has become even more valuable with oil topping $100 a barrel.
There's been a tendency to downplay Iran's growing influence in the region. This acknowledges that remaining regimes are concerned about it too.
4) Even as most of the MSM is ignoring Sheikh Qaradawi, Jeffrey Goldberg isn't.
Daily Alert has a summary and a link.
5) A new meme emerging from the anti-Israel left: (h/t Yaacov Lozowick and Martin Kramer who tweeted this.)
Beinart’s take on the situation — and I do not think it is an unusual one among American Jewish leftists and American leftists in general — is equal parts wishful thinking and willful self-deception. His thesis, to the extent that one can be gleaned from Beinart’s grab-bag of homilies, is that Israel is opposed to the Egyptian revolution because it is opposed to Arab democracy. The reason Israel is opposed to Arab democracy is that a democratic Arab world would make it much harder for Israel to do evil unto the Palestinians. Beinart presents no evidence whatsoever that this is actually the case, and it should be noted that the Israeli government has thus far declared no opposition to democracy in Egypt, though it has expressed strong concerns about where the current upheaval in that country may be leading. In Beinart’s eyes, however, even this elementary skepticism is simply incomprehensible and unconscionable. While he admits that “a theocracy that abrogated Egypt’s peace treaty with the Jewish state would be bad for Israel,” he informs us that this is “unlikely” because Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood “abandoned violence decades ago, and declared that it would pursue its Islamist vision through the democratic process.” He asks, “Might the Brotherhood act differently if it gained absolute power? Sure, but it’s hard to foresee a scenario in which that happens,” and reassures us that “Mohammed ElBaradei, the closest thing the Egyptian protest movement has to a leader, has called the peace treaty with Israel ‘rock solid.’” Indeed, Beinart appears to believe that Israel’s concerns about radical Islam are caused by nothing more than paranoia and craven self-interest.