The Son of the Man who Put the Saud in Saudi Arabia

by Mark Steyn
Ave atque vale
July 18, 2017

I see that Prince Abdul-Rahman bin Abdulaziz al Saud died the other day. If you’re having trouble keeping track of your Saudi princes, well, I don’t blame you. Unlike the closely held princely titles of the House of Windsor, the House of Saud is somewhat promiscuous with the designation: there are (at the time of writing) over 10,000 Saudi “princes” running around the country – and, in fact, at this time of year, more likely running around Mayfair and the French Riviera, exhausting the poor old blondes from the escort agencies. I believe that’s Abdul-Rahman at right, although to be honest all Saudi princes look alike to me, except that some wear white and others look very fetching in gingham. As I once remarked to Sheikh Ghazi al-Ghosaibi, the late cabinet minister, he was the only Saudi I knew who wasn’t a prince.

Abdul-Rahman was a longtime Deputy Defense Minister, whose catering company, by happy coincidence, held the catering contract for the Defense Ministry. The first Saudi prince to be educated in the west, he was a bit of a cranky curmudgeon in later years, mainly because of changes to the Saudi succession that eliminated any possibility of him taking the throne. But he nevertheless held a privileged place as the son of Ibn Saud, the man who founded the “nation” and stapled his name to it. When I say “the son”, I mean a son: Ibn Saud had approximately 100 kids, the first born in 1900, the last over half-a-century later, in 1952, a few months before ol’ Poppa Saud traded in siring for expiring.

Abdul-Rahman’s mother was said to be Ibn Saud’s favorite among his 22 wives – or, at any rate, one of the favorites. Top Five certainly. She also had the highest status, because she bore him more boys – seven – than any other other missus. They’re known as the Sudairi Seven or, alternatively, the Magnificent Seven. She also gave him seven daughters. They’re known as the seven blackout curtains standing over in the corner. This splendidly fertile lady’s name was Hussa bint Ahmed, and she was Ibn Saud’s cousin once removed and then, if I’m counting correctly, his eighth wife. But she’s a bit like the Grover Cleveland of the House of Saud – in that he’s counted as the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, and she’s the eighth wife and also either the tenth or eleventh. He first married her when he was 38 and she was 13. But he divorced her and then remarried her. In between their marriages she was married to his brother, but Ibn Saud was a sentimental lad and never got over his child-bride-turned-sister-in-law, so he ordered his brother to divorce her.

Don’t worry, though: In the House of Saud, it’s happy endings all round. Two of their daughters wound up marrying two of the sons of another brother of Ibn Saud. The Saudi version of Genealogy.com must be a hoot: “Hey, thanks for the DNA sample. You’re 53.8 per cent first cousin, and 46.2 per cent uncle.”

Anyway, all this Saudomy reminded me that on The Mark Steyn Show back in January I offered a few thoughts on Ibn Saud’s establishment of his alleged kingdom. This is the first time this has been aired in the wider world, so give it a click and see what you think:

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Analysis: Saudi Arabia’s troubling educational curriculum

(Photo credit FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

LONG WAR JOURNAL, BY DAVID ANDREW WEINBERG, July 20, 2017:

Editor’s Note: Below is Dr. David Andrew Weinberg’s testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Terrorism, Non-Proliferation, and Trade Subcommittee on July 19, 2017. Dr. Weinberg is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. A version of his testimony with footnotes can be read here.

Chairman Poe, Ranking Member Keating, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, thank you on behalf of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies for the opportunity to testify before you today about incitement in Saudi Arabia’s government-published textbooks for school children. It is an honor to be back, particularly because I first engaged with Saudi Arabia on this issue as a staff member for this body’s full committee.

Half a decade after 9/11, Nina Shea wrote in an outstanding Freedom House report that Saudi officials accepted their textbooks had problems but “have repeatedly pledged that reform is underway or completed.” That is still the case today.

Yet as the author of the most recent published study on incitement remaining in Saudi textbooks today, I can vouch that over a decade later Riyadh still has not persuasively shown that this problem has been resolved.

Unfortunately, U.S. policy has not been up to the task of convincing our Saudi allies to remove this incitement with greater urgency.

For example, I exposed in a 2014 monograph that the State Department appeared to have allocated half a million dollars in taxpayer funds to commission a two-part study on Saudi textbooks that was intended for public release but was instead withheld to avoid embarrassing the Saudis or the U.S. administration. Its detailed findings were hidden from public scrutiny for years and only raised with the Saudis at a senior level after the textbooks it had evaluated were already out of date.

In the testimony that follows, I will argue that this is particularly disturbing because incitement of this sort is not just a moral issue or a human rights issue, it is a national security issue. While Saudi textbooks are not the only significant source of incitement from the Gulf – or even in Saudi Arabia – they are an important bellwether and concern for U.S. policy.

I will then endeavor to present everything we know about incitement in the latest edition of Saudi Arabia’s official textbooks. Examples of such incitement include: (1) directives to kill people in response to their non-violent personal life choices, (2) messages that are undoubtedly anti-Semitic or anti-Christian, (3) lessons that are intolerant toward adherents of non-monotheistic religions as well as implicitly toward Shiite and Sufi Muslims, and (4) several other passages encouraging violence.

I will explain how Riyadh regularly oversells the success of its textbook reforms. I will then argue for why U.S. policy in this regard needs to change urgently. Next, I will refute some common counterarguments by those who claim that U.S. pressure cannot have a positive impact on the Saudi curriculum. Finally, I will conclude by offering a list of policy recommendations for Congress which could help encourage the Saudi government to address this issue in a more effective and timely manner.

Read more

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Saudi Arabia’s Troubling Educational Curriculum

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OUR SAUDI ARABIAN FRENEMY

By Melanie Phillips, July 7, 2017:

Saudi Arabia is our new best friend, right? Unfortunately, no. But my goodness, it’s complicated.

The Arab and Muslim world is in flux and chaos. The need to halt Iran’s drive for regional hegemony, and the resulting Shia dominance over the Sunni Islamic world, has driven the Saudis into a tacit alliance not only with America but also, even more remarkably, with Israel.

With the UAE, the Saudis are now also leading an economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar, the Sunni Gulf state which is nevertheless allied to Shia Iran and which the Saudis rightly accuse of being behind much of global terrorism.

At the same time, the designated succession to the Saudi throne has passed to a known reformer, Prince Muhammad bin Salman. The new crown prince reportedly wants to drag his country into the modern era in order to survive. That means reforming its economy and giving women more freedom.

The only question that really matters, though, is whether this young princely reformer will put Saudi money and influence behind the defeat of the fanatical Wahhabi Islam that his country helped promote, and through which Saudi Arabia has fueled the export of Islamic cultural conquest, terrorism and holy war across the globe.

The answer to that one is surely: in your dreams.

In Britain, the security service says there are 23,000 known home-grown Islamist extremists. This is likely to be a significant underestimate.

A report published this week by the Henry Jackson Society says foreign funding for Islamist extremism in Britain primarily comes from Saudi Arabia. It funds extremist mosques and other religious institutions and charities as well as extremist school textbooks.

As the report says, the kingdom is the fount of global Sunni Islamic radicalization. Over the past 30 years, it has spent at least £67 billion on promoting its hard-line Wahhabi interpretation of Islam around the world. In 2007 it was estimated to be spending at least $2b.annually on doing so. By 2015 that figure was believed to have doubled.

For years the kingdom supported the Muslim Brotherhood, the global Wahhabi organization whose aim is to infiltrate and Islamize the West and which gave rise to al-Qaida and ISIS.

The Saudis started to suffer blowback, however, when the extremists – also known as Salafists – turned on the kingdom. As a result, it has now outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, fights al-Qaida and ISIS and has developed anti-Islamist de-radicalization programs.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the Saudi government has furiously denied the Henry Jackson Society report’s allegations.

It insists that “we do not and will not condone the actions or ideology of violent extremism and we will not rest until these deviants and their organizations are destroyed.”

In this very wording, however, lies the problem. In the Islamic world, “deviant” and “extremism” mean different things to different sects. With definitions of orthodoxy which are in conflict with each other, Saudi Arabia and the jihadi groups it opposes accuse each other of deviating from the correct path of Islam.

The extremist Salafi strain itself consists of different sub-groupings. The “quietists” avoid political engagement; the “revolutionaries” mobilize Muslims to fight a war of attrition against the West; and the “jihadists” wage violent holy war. Yet they all have the same extremist theological roots.

The result is that, while the Saudis may be fighting some Salafi groups that threaten the West, they may be supporting other Salafi groups that are hostile to the West but not to Saudi Arabia.

Through a combination of financial interests and the need to prop up the House of Saud for fear of something worse taking over, the British government has always gone to considerable lengths to avoid confronting Saudi Arabia over its sinister record.

Last year, prime minister David Cameron set up an investigation into the sources of foreign-funded extremism in the UK.

The current prime minister, Theresa May, has been sitting on this report for months. The government has admitted that it may never be published because its contents are “very sensitive.”

Which almost certainly means that it contains revelations about the extent of Islamist funding by Saudi Arabia, and maybe also by other Gulf states with significant financial investments in Britain.

The further complication is that Saudi Arabia has now become an important ally of Britain and the West against both strains of Islamic extremism – the Sunni Salafism of ISIS and al-Qaida, and the messianic Shi’ism which inspires the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Of the two, Iran poses by far the greater danger. Iran threatens Israel with genocide, has been in a self-declared war with the West since the regime took power in 1979 and is the leading state sponsor of terrorism around the world. Moreover, the Henry Jackson Society report names various extremist Shia centers in London with ties to the Iranian regime.

Iran presents the world’s principal terrorist threat. To fight it, the West needs Saudi support. Saudi Arabia, however, is itself a menace to the West. Yet it badly needs the West’s support. So now is the time to rein it in.

Britain should halt all foreign funding of mosques, university Islam departments and other Muslim institutions and charities. And it needs to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood – just as Saudi Arabia has done.

My enemy’s enemy may be my friend; but sometimes it may be my enemy and my friend at one and the same time.

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Report: Saudi Arabia Funding Extremism, PM May Accused of ‘Kowtowing’

Getty Images

Breitbart, by Liam Deacon, July 5, 2017:

An extensive new report has drawn a link between recent terror attacks and the foreign funding of UK mosques, mainly coming from Saudi Arabia, which “is heavily involved in exporting an illiberal, bigoted Wahhabi ideology.”

The document also slams the Prime Minister Theresa May, who visited Saudi Arabia earlier this year, for “kowtowing” to Saudi Arabia by “suppressing” a government report into the funding of extremism in the UK. Last month she was accused of a “cover-up”

The inquiry was authorised by former Prime Minster David Cameron in 2015 in exchange for Liberal Democrat support for bombing Islamic State in Syria. It was initially due to be shown to then-Home Secretary Mrs. May and Mr. Cameron.

The Henry Jackson Society, who produced the recent report, is now calling for a public inquiry into the Gulf States allegedly fuelling Islamist extremism and even terrorism in British mosques.

The think tank list “numerous” example of violent jihadists who have been linked to foreign-funded mosques and preachers, some of whom have travelled to fight with Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Labour MP Dan Jarvis, a former soldier, said in a statement: “This report from the Henry Jackson Society sheds light on what are extremely worrying links between Saudi Arabia and the funding of extremism here in the UK.

“In the wake of the terrible and tragic terrorist attacks we’ve seen this year, it is vital that we use every tool at our disposal to protect our communities.

“This includes identifying the networks that promote and support extremism and shutting down the financial networks that fund it.

“I’m calling on the Government to release its foreign funding report, and guarantee that the new counter-extremism commission will make tackling the funding of extremism a priority.”

The report explains that Saudi Arabia has been using its wealth to export its ideology since the 1960s, and “this funding has primarily taken the form of endowments to mosques and Islamic educational institutions…”

Adding: “A number of Britain’s most serious Islamist hate preachers sit within the Salafi-Wahhabi ideology and are apparently linked to Islamist extremism sponsored from overseas, either by having studied in Saudi Arabia as part of scholarship programmes, or by having been provided with extreme literature and material within the UK itself.”

BREAKING: Gulf States Give Qatar List of Demands To Restore Diplomatic Relationships – All Demands Target The Muslim Brotherhood…

 The Last Refuge, by Sundance, June 22, 2017:

The latest development, in the ongoing Arab state GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) initiative to stem the destabilizing behavior of Qatar, is a list of demands presented to Qatar. If you have followed the regional issues for the past few years you’ll quickly identify how each of the demands cuts to the core of the destabilizing issues.

Included in the demands:  ♦Shut down al-Jazeera, ♦stop cooperating with Iran and ♦expel Turkish military provocateurs (Erdogan).  The binding thread that connects each of these demands is the effort to stop Qatar from supporting/assisting the Muslim Brotherhood.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kuwait has given Qatar a list of demands from Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations that includes shutting down Al-Jazeera and cutting diplomatic ties to Iran.

That’s according to a list obtained by The Associated Press from one of the countries involved in the dispute. The document says Qatar has 10 days to comply with all demands.

The list says Qatar must immediately close Turkey’s military base in Qatar and end military cooperation with the NATO member. It also demands an unspecified sum of compensation from Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut ties to Qatar this month over accusations the Persian Gulf country funds terrorism. The U.S. has been urging them to produce a list of demands. Kuwait is helping mediate. (link)

Additionally, a reputable and reliable source for news and information within the region, specifically well-connected to the MB issues, provides the following:

This list of demands could have been personally written by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi because it is exactly what he needed to do when he expelled the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt and restored stability in the aftermath of Mohammed Morsi’s chaos.

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Saudi Game of Thrones: King Appoints Son Crown Prince After Power Struggle

Saudi Interior Ministry via AP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, June 22, 2017:

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz made a surprise announcement on Wednesday morning that his son Mohammed bin Salman, 31, would become the new crown prince of the kingdom.

As it happens, Saudi Arabia already had a Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef. Nayef is over 25 years senior to Mohammed bin Salman and was also the deputy prime minister and interior minister of Saudi Arabia. He was stripped of all these positions at once.

He appeared to handle his demotion quite well, having no doubt seen the writing on the wall ever since Salman became deputy crown prince. “I am content,” said Nayef to his replacement, as quoted by Al Jazeera. “I am going to rest now. May God help you.”

To the dismay of the Western world, Nayef was considered one of the most pro-American of the Saudi royal family. He received counterterrorism training from the FBI and Scotland Yard in the eighties, maintained good relations with U.S. officials, and was instrumental as both an operational leader and spokesman in the Saudi war against al-Qaeda after 9/11.

His commitment to fighting the terrorist group did not waver after a 2009 suicide bomb attack against him. The CIA was sufficiently impressed with his work to give him a counterterrorism medal in February, personally awarded by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

The new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been nicknamed “Mr. Everything” because he has been put in charge of just about everything in Saudi Arabia. He was the chief architect of the “Saudi Vision 2030” plan intended to make his country less dependent on oil money, a plan regarded as the biggest change to the Saudi economy in the country’s history.

Nayef, on the other hand, has been nicknamed “The Prince of Darkness” because of his role in Saudi intelligence. Saudi dissidents find nothing whimsical about the nickname, as they blame Nayef for using the al-Qaeda crackdown as a pretext for imprisoning the politically inconvenient.

The Saudi Vision 2030 plan put Mr. Everything at the helm of some $2 trillion in overseas investments on the reasonable proposition that breaking the country’s dependence on oil would involve buying a tremendous amount of stock in companies that do not sell oil and are not headquartered in Saudi Arabia. Among his many duties, Salman is the chairman of the national oil company, Saudi Aramco – the first member of the royal family to have such a direct role in managing the all-important corporation.

Mohammed bin Salman was popular when the reform program was launched, and he remains popular today. The UK Daily Mail notes that Saudi Arabia’s enormous youth population sees him as a rock star, a symbol of hope and prosperity for the future.

The Daily Mail floats rumors that Salman and Nayef were engaged in a fairly bitter power struggle behind the scenes, and it might not be over yet, even after the king moved to resolve it in Salman’s favor before his death. The deciding factor might simply have been that the king likes Salman better, and is impressed by his charisma, erudition, and 16-hour-day work ethic.

Another advantage to Salman is that his youth and energy suggest a certain stability for Saudi Arabia for decades to come. The previous king, Abdullah, was the world’s oldest monarch at the time of his death in early 2015 at age 90; King Salman is currently 81. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman puts a younger face on the monarchy and might well end up occupying the throne for five decades.

Middle East Eye cites analysts who say the king wanted to reassure Western governments, regional allies, and business partners there would be “continuity in foreign and economic policies.” There was evidently very little confidence that Nayef would have offered such continuity.

Also, Middle East Eye observes that Nayef had a testy relationship with a crucial Saudi ally, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, while Salman and Zayed have become close friends.

Most intriguingly, a Saudi citizen told MEE that President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia played a role in reshaping the monarchy, as King Salman took the occasion to convince Trump the new crown prince is “the right horse to back” despite Nayef’s favorable reputation in Washington.

The monarchy moved quickly to secure Salman in his new position, announcing that 31 of 34 royals supporting his ascension and arranging a meeting in Mecca for them to formally pledge allegiance within a matter of hours. The senior Islamic council swiftly endorsed the decision, followed by welcomes from the leaders of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim allies. The Saudi stock market added its congratulations by climbing over five and a half percent.

Some other Middle Eastern powers were less enthusiastic about the shift in Saudi leadership. Iranian state media grumbled that Crown Prince Salman’s ascension was a “soft coup” in which the “son becomes the successor of the father,” which would seem to betray a fundamental Iranian misunderstanding of how hereditary monarchy works.

Reuters suggests Iran correctly sees Salman’s ascension as a sign of more aggressive Saudi policy toward Tehran and its projects, such as the Houthi rebellion in Yemen and whatever the Qatari royal family has been up to for the past decade. Nayef’s focus was on al-Qaeda, while Salman has been an outspoken enemy of Iran, supporter of Saudi intervention in Yemen, and critic of Qatar. In fact, he is seen as one of the prime movers behind Saudi Arabia’s decision to isolate Qatar.

The Saudis will probably let Iran’s criticism roll off their backs, but Turkey is more problematic. The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is fairly close to Nayef but still working on building a relationship with Salman. It is not going terribly well, as Salman has refused every Turkish invitation to visit Ankara since he was named deputy crown prince.

Erdogan has expressed support for Qatar, putting it at odds with one of Salman’s major policy initiatives, and he disagrees with Salman’s dim view of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Middle East Eye cites Turkey-watchers who foresee a potentially serious conflict between Erdogan and Salman over Turkey’s least favorite Middle Eastern faction, the Kurds. Either as a power play, or because he sincerely favors their cause, Salman may support the Kurds in Syria – which would inflame Turkish fears of the Kurds carving out chunks of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq to form an independent state. Turkish media is reportedly speculating that Salman will threaten to put Saudi Arabia’s chips on the Kurds unless Erdogan backs away from supporting Qatar.

CNN notes that if Salman does succeed his father, he will be the first Saudi king who is not the son of national founder Ibn Saud, who became King Abdul Aziz al-Saud. Naming Mohammed bin Salman as his heir allowed King Salman to reshape the line of succession for decades, and perhaps centuries, to come.

It also puts Saudi Arabia more firmly under the guidance of the most liberal leader it has ever had, with respect to everything from women’s rights to representative government. Granted, that’s a fairly low bar to clear in one of the world’s most repressive countries, but it’s good to see a future king trying to clear it at a moment when the United States is realigning Middle East policy back toward Saudi Arabia and its allies

Saudi-Qatari Dispute Rising

Front Page Magazine, by Ari Lieberman, June 12, 2017:

The dramatic schism witnessed last week between a significant bloc of Muslim nations led by Saudi Arabia, against the tiny peninsular nation of Qatar, has major regional implications. In addition to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and the Maldives all severed political and commercial ties with Qatar. Jordan and Mauritania followed suit shortly thereafter. The draconian measures severely curtail Doha’s ability to conduct air and maritime travel. In addition, nations that severed relations with Doha no longer recognize the Qatari Rial as a valid currency which means that Doha must deplete its foreign currency reserves if it wishes to purchase goods and services.

The punishing Saudi-led initiative, though dramatic, was hardly surprising. Qatar has long adopted policies that were incongruent with the Gulf Cooperation Council’s goals. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states did not look favorably on Qatar’s rapprochement efforts with menacing Shia Iran and neo-Ottoman, meddlesome Turkey. But most irksome for the Sunni states was Qatar’s cynical use of its propaganda media arm, Al Jazeera, to shill for the extremist Muslim Brotherhood.

The issue of Hamas was another sore point where interests between the opposing sides diverged. Qatar is Hamas’ main benefactor. In 2014, it pledged $1b toward reconstruction efforts in Gaza. But much of Qatar’s aid money is skimmed off the top by notoriously corrupt Hamas officials, who maintain rather luxurious lifestyles. Some of the aid money is channeled into military projects, like construction of terror tunnels, rather than legitimate civilian purposes.

Hamas is recognized by the United States and EU as a terrorist organization. During his recent trip to the region, President Trump in an address to several Muslim heads of state lumped Hamas with other recognized terror groups like Hezbollah, ISIS and Al Qaida. The group is a recognized offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, placing it at odds with several moderate Sunni nations like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Last Tuesday, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, explicitly stated that Qatar must stop supporting terrorist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Riyadh and its allies see both groups as destabilizing entities and have repeatedly criticized Doha for paying lip service to the war on terror while at the same time, providing financial, political and logistical support for terrorist organizations.

The Saudi-led effort represents a concerted attempt to squeeze Qatar into making concessions. Undoubtedly, that includes Qatar adopting policies that are more in line with the goals of GCC, namely to thwart Iranian influence and curtail the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The pressure brought to bear by the Saudi initiative is already producing positive results. Qatar has asked several Hamas leaders-in-exile and operatives currently stationed in the country to leave. Hamas has tried to downplay the implications of the Qatari expulsion orders but it’s hard to overlook the ramifications.

But Doha is nevertheless sending out mixed signals.  On Saturday, Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, characterized Hamas as “a legitimate resistance movement.” He also said that as an independent country, Qatar had the right to support groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Over the years, Hamas’ allies have whittled down to three, Turkey, Iran and Qatar. Of the three, Qatar provides the terror group with the most financial support. It was hoped that Israel’s recent rapprochement with Turkey would translate into concrete efforts by Ankara to scale back its support for the terror group but this has not materialized. Iran, which remains the world’s premier state-sponsor of terror, continues to funnel money to Hamas despite a brief falling out.

The current economic situation in the Gaza Strip is abysmal. This is largely due to mismanagement, graft and rampant corruption by the Islamist governing authorities. There are chronic electricity shortages with four or five hours of reliable electricity supply on a good day. In addition, youth unemployment hovers at an astonishing 60%. A cut-off of Qatari aid would place enormous pressure on Hamas and lead to further economic decline, which could inexorably lead to widespread discontent among the masses within the Strip.

Hamas rules Gaza with an iron fist and maintains a zero tolerance policy for even minimal dissent. The few who dare challenge Gaza’s theocratic rulers are beaten, jailed and sometimes executed under the guise of being collaborators with “the occupation.” Nevertheless, with so many unemployed youth, and chronic electricity and water shortages, open challenge or even revolt is a real possibility.

Hamas may seek to stave off that predicament by deflecting attention away from the dire economic situation to its age-old bogeyman, the Israelis or in Hamas vernacular, the “Zionist entity.” It could create a crisis by launching rockets into Israel, thereby drawing an Israeli response which could quickly escalate to full blown war. Gaza’s population would then be spoon-fed Hamas crafted propaganda and Israel would then be blamed for the inevitable destruction and misery that is sure to follow.  Such cynical exploitation of the masses represents a ruthless Hamas tactic calculated solely on the basis maintaining the group’s survival and governing authority. The welfare of the population is of secondary or even tertiary concern.

But the Hamas wag the dog tactic is a double-edged sword. Since it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Israel was forced to battle Hamas on three occasions – 2008/9, 2012 and 2014. On each occasion, Hamas drew the short end of the stick and was decimated militarily. Nevertheless, during the 2014 campaign, Israel came under immense political pressure from the Obama administration to cease hostilities.

Obama held up a shipment of Hellfire missiles slated to be delivered to Israel and his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) briefly ordered the suspension of commercial flights to Ben Gurion airport. Many suspected that the FAA action was implemented under orders from Obama as a pressure tactic against Israel to induce it into accepting a ceasefire. In addition, during the course of the conflict, a disturbing transcript of an exchange between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu surfaced in which the American president browbeat Netanyahu over his reluctance to accept a ceasefire, brokered by hostile Turkey and Qatar, under less than desirable terms. His secretary of state, John Kerry, was picked up on hot mic blasting Israel with sarcastic references to Israel’s “helluva pinpoint operation.”

In sum, Obama’s fiercely hostile attitude toward Israel and his attempts to hamper Israel’s war efforts provided Hamas with some measure of political cover, and prevented an even more severe mauling than already inflicted on the terror group. But there is a new sheriff in town, one not inclined toward appeasing Islamists. Should Hamas begin stirring the pot, expect the administration to give Israel a freer hand to do what is necessary to crush Hamas.

Undoubtedly, Hamas is aware of the fact that it no longer has a sympathetic ear in the White House and many of its former Arab allies, including Egypt, have abandoned it. It is also cognizant of the fact that Israel’s military capabilities are unmatched in the Middle East and any provocation will invite devastating retaliation from which it may not recover.

In sum, if Qatar capitulates, Hamas will suffer and may consequently be forced to wag the dog to preserve its survival but the very war that it provokes may spell its demise. The unfolding drama between Doha and Riyadh has placed Hamas in a bit of a pickle and it’s safe to assume that its leaders are not sleeping well these days.

Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.

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