Saudi Arabia, with the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the United States this week, opens a new front in its war with Iran.
The visit is a collection of firsts. It is the first trip by Prince Mohammed bin Salman — known universally as “MBS” — to the U.S. since becoming the heir to the oil kingdom’s throne in June 2017. (President Trump’s first presidential trip to the Middle East began with a stop in Saudi Arabia.) More importantly, it is the first time a senior Saudi official, let alone a ruling royal, will venture outside the U.S. capital to make official visits to Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Never before has a crown prince — especially one who runs Saudi Arabia’s government on a daily basis — come to America’s financial and cultural capitals to do business. Indeed, MBS is hoping to drum up support for his plan to offer five percent of ARAMCO, the Saudi oil producer, to Western investors as well as to make investments in software upstarts and media empires. This is a Saudi royal who sees no division between commerce and statecraft, between diplomacy and investment.
“Free speech can’t just apply to those you agree with,” the editor of Spiked Online, Brendan O’Neill, once said. Politically correct speech does not need protecting. The United States’ First Amendment exists precisely to protect the minority from the majority and to protect unpopular opinions from those who would silence them.
On March 2, French prosecutors decided that Marine Le Pen should be prosecuted for drawing attention on Twitter to the atrocities committed by Islamic State. They apparently decided that Le Pen’s message, even if factually correct, should not be heard.
Le Pen’s “crime,” the prosecutors allege, is that in a series of tweets, she posted disturbing images of victims of Islamic State, thereby exposing the crimes against humanity that group have been committing in the Levant.
Presumably, these were potential dangers about which she thought the public should be aware. They included the beheading of the British journalist, James Foley, who was repeatedly beaten, starved, and waterboarded before his throat was slit.
The number of Gaza residents willing to participate in Hamas’ riots along the border fence is dropping, as seen at last Friday’s protest. Hamas is no longer hiding the fact that the demonstrations are not intended to be quiet marches, but violent attempts to carry out attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians, damage the Israeli border fence and military equipment, and burn fields and forests.
We can assume that leading up to May 15, on which the Palestinians mark the Nakba (or “Catastrophe”) of their displacement during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, the border will heat up again. Hamas will encourage Gazans to head out for the “marches of return,” reminding Israel and the world that the Palestinians are still committed to the dream of return, which in essence means the destruction of the State of Israel.
As Hamas prepares for more rounds of violence, since it has nothing to offer the residents of Gaza other than that, the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah has been keeping mum. This is due in part to internecine Palestinian power struggles — primarily, the fight over who will succeed PA leader Mahmoud Abbas — but also because Abbas and his friends do not want and actually cannot escape the trap that they closed on themselves when they turned up their noses at the Trump administration’s attempts to kick-start the peace process.
In yet another long and disoriented rant, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday took his anti-Semitic sentiment to a new level.
Abbas told a Palestinian National Council session that the Jewish people – not anti-Semitism or the Nazis – caused the Holocaust through their “social behavior,” the Times of Israel reported.
According to Abbas, the mass genocide of more than 6 million Jews was a result of the Jews “social behavior, [charging] interest, and financial matters.”
Abbas also claimed that Israel is a European colonial project, that European Jews have “no historical ties” to Israel, and that “those who sought a Jewish state weren’t Jews.”
Denying Jewish identity and Jewish rights to any part of Israel are other forms of anti-Semitism that Abbas frequently embraces.
He also repeated his stubborn rejection of any peace plan proposal led by the Trump administration, even before it has been formally presented.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Iranian leaders are struggling, three months after anti-government protests swept the Islamic Republic, to ensure that environmental issues that helped spark a popular uprising in Syria in 2011 leading to a brutal civil war don’t threaten the clergy’s grip on power.
Like Syria, Iran has been suffering a drought that has affected much of the country for more than a decade, with precipitation dropping to its lowest level in half a century. Environmental concerns have figured prominently in protests in recent years, often in regions populated by ethnic minorities like Azeris and Iranian Arabs.
Unrest among ethnic minorities, who account for almost half of Iran’s population, have taken on added significance of late. Iran has reason to fear both Saudi Arabia’s activist crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, and US President Donald Trump, whose antipathy towards the Islamic Republic has been bolstered by the appointment of hardliner John Bolton as his national security advisor.