The Middle East is Changing

So, Iranian forces in Syria attacked Israeli targets and Israel, naturally, responded – a big thing and important in itself, but this struck me:

Bahrain has backed Israel’s right to “defend itself”, following dozens of Israeli airstrikes on Iranian military targets in Syria overnight.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa said on Thursday that it backed Tel Aviv’s military response to attempted Iranian missile strikes on an Israeli army base, early Thursday morning, in the occupied Golan Heights.

“As long as Iran has breached the status quo in the region and invaded countries with its forces and missiles, so any state in the region, including Israel, is entitled to defend itself by destroying sources of danger,” the minister, whose country is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, said on his official Twitter account…

Bahrain is a tiny country and is allied with Saudi Arabia mostly for protection against Iran. So, no surprise that Bahrain would be pleased to see Iran harmed, but it is massively surprising that an official of the Bahrain government would publicly declare Israel – which, officially in most Muslim countries, doesn’t even exist – has a right to self-defense. This is a sea-change in Arab attitudes.

What I think has really broken the log-jam here is the fact that Trump pretty much dropped the Palestinian issue like a bad habit. As long as our actions in the Middle East were always tied to a theory that we had to remain somewhat neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict – and thus had to pretend that the Palestinian leadership was a key element – we were tied to a false idea, and thus couldn’t really move. Trump moved; now, everyone is moving. Its been a couple decades since anyone in the Arab world really gave a darn about the Palestinians and while no one would object to a permanent peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, everyone with any sense at all knows the Palestinian leadership has staked out an impossible position (return to the 1967 border, return of “refugees” to Israel and, of course, still rhetoric about marching on Tel Aviv one day), and so there’s no chance of it right now. So, let’s move on until the Palestinian leadership changes.

And as people are able to move on – as people no longer have to pretend that a few fanatics in Gaza have to be appeased in order to do anything – the political realities which have existed at least since the Iranian revolution are rising to the surface…and are being dealt with. I’m not saying they are being dealt with properly – there’s a lot of confusion and an outsider like me really can’t judge all that well – but they are being dealt with. Saudi Arabia is determined to check Iran (wise move, Saudi Arabia) and in that effort, ignoring a powerful Israel which is also determined to check Iran would be foolish. I think we’re still a ways away from an Israeli Embassy in Riyadh…but I don’t think that far away. The times, they are a-changing…and it is Trump, the Agent of Change on Steroids, who is making it happen.

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Open Thread

There have been reports floating about that Saudi Arabia and the Vatican have agreed to build churches for Christians in Saudi Arabia. These reports are currently being denied by the Vatican:

The Vatican has denied making a deal with Saudi Arabia to build churches for Christian worshippers in the Arab country.

Reports in Middle Eastern media claimed a historic agreement had been made between Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa of the Muslim World League.

But a spokesperson for the Vatican said the report was ‘false’…

But the fact that even rumors of such a thing exist indicate the sea-change which is currently taking place in Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. We can’t say for sure where all this is going, but it seems pretty clear to me that bin Salman wants to reform his Kingdom. Don’t expect pluralist democracy and casinos in Riyadh any time soon, folks. The Saudi people, themselves, are very conservative in outlook. But I think we will see ever more relaxation of the extremist Islamist activity which has ruled to social and political roost in Saudi Arabia for some decades now. It appears that once upon a time the Saudi monarchy cut a deal with the Islamists (ie, don’t try to overthrow the monarchy, we’ll let you be as Islamist as you like)…now, it seems that this deal is being undone.

There are quite a large number of Christians in Saudi Arabia. I once knew a priest who had actually said Mass for them. All very, very quiet – the Christians keep their heads down and as long as nothing is out in the open, the authorities look the other way. Most Christians there are foreign or children of foreigners…Saudi Arabia having quite a lot of immigrants who do the more difficult and dirty work of living. But, I also understand that even some Saudi natives have converted – which is something almost unheard of in history. Any attempt to actually open a Church in Saudi Arabia will be done with great care on both sides, to prevent an overt reaction. I’ve long said that the cure of Islamism is to have a Church in Saudi Arabia (a Synagogue, too…but let’s take it one step at a time). Once that happens, then there can be real peace between Islam and the West. I hope this all works. I think it will work; but, we’ll just have to see.

Rosie O’Donnell is alleged to have done the same sort of campaign finance violations that got Dinesh D’Souza arrested. We’ll see if there’s equal justice under law.

You know me and polls – but some recent polling indicates that Trump and the GOP are starting to rise against the Democrats. My view remains that the number of GOPers now exceeds the number of Democrats in the United States for the first time since the 1920’s. If I’m right, then the pundit class will be shocked in November. If I’m wrong…so, what? I don’t make my living by punditry.

You might have missed Judge Ellis ripping Mueller’s team a new one:

A federal judge on Friday sharply criticized Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal case in Virginia against President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and openly questioned whether Mueller exceeded his prosecutorial powers by bringing it.

“I don’t see what relationship this indictment has with anything the special counsel is authorized to investigate,” U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in the Eastern District of Virginia said.

There’s nothing to investigate so, yes, Mueller is exceeding his authority – which was to investigate the paranoid delusion of Trump-Russia. So, anything he’s done is going to be outside the scope of that. Nice to see some judicial push back against Mueller’s flailing investigation.

Baghdad isn’t doing so badly these days. We did have a hand in this…and it shows what the Middle East still might become.

UPDATE: NY’s Attorney General has resigned over allegations of sexual misconduct. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you’re really missing out…we’ve got Tweets from Trump from years ago slamming the guy, we’ve got the AG’s Tweets about how he fights for women’s rights…and everyone is having a ball with it. More importantly, this is one of the guys who was supposed to get Trump. Seems to me that everyone who goes after Trump ends up losing.

And, Now, Back to the Fun…

Yesterday was an experiment and it will become permanent. I spent a day away from the Internet. No Facebook, no Twitter, no reading the news. It was wonderful. I’m thinking that I’ll give up the internet for Lent. Really, boys and girls, if you don’t do it, already, then make it part of your life: unplug from time to time. The ‘net has become like the TV in 1984.

Anyways…

John Kerry says that Iran isn’t allowed to use the bucket of money we’re giving them for terrorist operations. I’m sure you’ll all sleep soundly tonight.

Trump really messed up on his comments about McCain. I’ve got lots of problems with McCain. I hope he draws a TEA Party challenger. I think he’s often a bit of a jerk in the demeaning way he deals with GOP base. But, no matter how you slice it, McCain is a war hero. The recent poll showing Trump leading the primary field nationwide had a little tid-bit in it for the detail-minded: the day after Trump’s insulting comment broke, his support dropped like a rock. He won’t win a single primary and he’ll never be President.

Monk Rock? Well, we Catholics are rather dangerous, transgressive outsiders these days…

Saudi’s threaten military action against Iran. So, Obama has fundamentally transformed us – it is not backwards, corrupt monarchies taking a stand for decency in the world instead of the United States.

The Democrat party has decided that writing off the elderly vote is best – Obama Administration proposes to deny self-defense rights to people on Social Security if third party’s handle their bills.

Walker up by 9 in Iowa. Walker wins Iowa, NH and SC, he’s the GOP nominee.

Saudis Give Us Excuse to Ditch Them

From Turki al-Faisal in the New York Times:

The United States must support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations this month or risk losing the little credibility it has in the Arab world. If it does not, American influence will decline further, Israeli security will be undermined and Iran will be empowered, increasing the chances of another war in the region.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has…

Ok, deal – all we have to do is the right thing, and the Saudis will have to cut their ties with us.  Wonderful!  Best thing I’ve heard in months on the foreign policy scene.  No longer shackled to a corrupt, oppressive, Islamist monarchy which provides bags of money for the Islamo-fascist enemies of the United States.

The linked Op-Ed goes on to claim that bid for statehood by the Palestinians is just basic justice.  I can’t see it as such.  The people of so-called Palestine have indicated no willingness to engage the Israelis in a decent manner.  Whether this is because of a malevolent spirit on the part of the people, or because the leaders of the people are deliberately orchestrating the evil is impossible to know…but until there is a fundamental change in Palestinian actions, not much can be done.  The United States cannot – morally or strategically – mid-wife the creation of an entity determined to massacre the Israelis.  It would be good to see Israel go one full year without a single terrorist attack by Islamists.  No rocket attacks from Gaza or Lebanon; no attempted cross-border incursions; no attempt to run the Gaza blockade.  If that happens, then we could consider backing statehood.  Until then, nothing doing.

As for Saudi Arabia:  good riddance to bad rubbish, I say…unfortunately, watch as our foreign policy “realists” react with horror to the mere thought that the Saudi monarchy might be displeased with us.