Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Doran Doran

Hatchet jobs are a tool of all newspapers, but a favorite particularly of the London-based Saudi press. The latest victim is Michael Scott Doran, who may soon be joining the National Security Council as senior Middle East policy-maker to replace Elliott Abrams, who will become deputy national security adviser. (Disclosure: Doran is a friend and someone I will be among the first to congratulate if he is indeed appointed.)
In this case, Jihad al-Khazen of Al-Hayat has taken a knife to Doran,
accusing him (in an abysmally translated English version of an Arabic article) of being "not only a supporter of the Israeli Likud party and known for his anti-Arab and anti-Islamic opinion, but also a dedicated member of the opposed side. All his writings reflect a hostile feeling, especially against Saudi Arabia."
We even learn, rather titillatingly, that "his articles, conferences and interviews blend venom and lubricant."
Two things bother the Saudis in Doran: first that he wrote an influential
article in the January-February 2004 issue of Foreign Affairs where he argued that the Saudi royal family was divided between Crown Prince Abdullah and Interior Minister Prince Nayef. As Doran put it:
The Saudi state is a fragmented entity, divided between the fiefdoms of the royal family. Among the four or five most powerful princes, two stand out: Crown Prince Abdullah and his half-brother Prince Nayef, the interior minister. Relations between these two leaders are visibly tense. In the United States, Abdullah cuts a higher profile. But at home in Saudi Arabia, Nayef, who controls the secret police, casts a longer and darker shadow. Ever since King Fahd's stroke in 1995, the question of succession has been hanging over the entire system, but neither prince has enough clout to capture the throne.
This hit the Saudis in a particularly sensitive spot, because it demolished the pretense of unity in the royal family (something essential if the regime is to survive against its many foes) and suggested that senior princes were bickering over the succession to King Fahd, who was effectively reduced to the state of a cucumber after suffering a stroke a decade ago. That a family which could once depose a king for incompetence (King Saud) cannot do so another who is utterly incapable of leading his kingdom, suggests there is some truth to Doran's thesis. After all, if Crown Prince Abdullah has been unable to succeed his half-brother, that's because his other half-brothers, including Nayef, have not endorsed it.
Khazen's rebuttal of this argument is so constrained by the official Saudi line that Fahd is in fine form as to be downright hilarious: "Based on my personal knowledge, I can say that the Crown Prince only follows the orders of the King. In turn, the Minister of Defense executes orders received from the Crown Prince. The traditional and well-known hierarchy prevents the establishment of any power centers, as those mentioned by Doran."A second thing that bothers the Saudis is that Doran, despite his purported hatred of Arabs, has shown particular interest in and sympathy for the fate of the kingdom's Shiites. Saudi Shiites are second-class citizens at home, and Doran has written about this in the past. Indeed, Khazen alludes to this irritating hobby of Doran's in his piece, but apparently doesn't quite know what to do with it.
Doran was set upon last year by another commentator plying the waters of the London-based Saudi press: In a pair of articles in Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Mamoun Fandy, an Egyptian, attacked Doran personally for his Saudi article, albeit less ham-fistedly than Khazen. Nonetheless, like Khazen's screed, it had all the trappings of a contract hit, where the arguments were thin and the insinuations thick.
Doran has become a favorite target of many groups. He was at the center of a
furor at Princeton University, where he teaches, because some professors thought he leaned too much to the right. The Saudis can't stand him because he won't toe the official line they have tried so hard to peddle of a kingdom united in its animosity toward Islamist terrorism. Post-colonial academics and those who still weep at the altar of the late Edward Said (particularly his nephew, Usama, whom Doran beat out of a job) dislike Doran because he is close to the conservative Princeton Middle East historian Bernard Lewis and represents what they hate most about the Bush administration.
You know the value of a person by the quality of his enemies, so Doran should be a happy man today.
Posted by Michael Young at May 24, 2005
Khazen’s comment:

By the end of this year I will have lived in London as long as I lived in Beirut. I am becoming too democratic for an Arab, or democratic enough to publish the above.

I have this to say. I don’t know much about most things, but when it comes to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians my knowledge is second to none. It is first hand. As to Doran and his defender Michael Young I can modestly state that I have forgotten about Saudi Arabia more than they ever will remember.

Over the years I have had scores of private meeting with Prince Abdullah and Prince Nayef as well as other government leaders. I have kept hundreds of pages of written notes. In the case of Prince Nayef, my meetings with him start about midnight and end at about five in the morning when he performs the Fajr prayers before going to sleep. Michael Scott Doran has never had and will never ever have similar access to Saudi leaders… or people, so I hereby reiterate that Doran is ignorant of Saudi affairs and his article in Foreign Affairs reflects his ignorance in every line… okay every other line.

Secrets of Posner - Part 2

Al-Hayat 2005/06/6

In his two books "Why America Slept" and "Secrets of the Kingdom" Gerald Posner refers to Abu Zubaydah as the third man in al-Qaeda. But then the terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is mentioned and Posner refers to him as "an even higher ranking" al-Qaeda man. How is this? If he is higher than Abu Zubaydah were does that leave Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Usama bin Laden himself? Who is second? Who is first in this overcrowded room?
This is nothing compared with the more outrageous claims by the author. Since his first book he must have discover that Prince Ahmed bin Salman was a businessman and a very successful thoroughbred owner and that no one believed that he could possibly have any kind of connection with al-Qaeda, so Posner comes up in his second book with a new twist to the old lie. He claims that Prince Ahmed might have been "a conduit of information for someone higher ranking" like his father Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz. Posner knows that Prince Salman is governor of Riyadh but then goes on to say that "he is one of the Kingdom's most influential ministers…"
He claims that Prince Salman's office overlooks Sahat al-Adl, or Justice Square. It does not. Posner is talking about the Prince's old office. For over ten years now Prince Salman's office overlooks the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque. Sahat al-Adl is on another side and anyway the big window of the office is behind the Prince's desk and visitors cannot see through it.
With his wealth of knowledge, Posner claims that Prince Salman, Prince Sultan and Prince Abdullah (in this lopsided order) are "the de facto rulers of Saudi Arabia". Where does that leave the King, or Prince Nayef among others? The book claims that the governor of Riyadh has "strong ties to the religious conservatives, particularly those in the regional strongholds of Buraydah and Darriya".
Is there more than one Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz in Saudi Arabia? Is there one who is governor of Riyadh, another a minister and a third with political and religious alliances? Posner talks about Prince Faisal bin Salman and says he is the head of a media company that is violently anti-American and anti-Israli disseminating propaganda. Now this is becoming personal; I was the first editor-in-chief of Asharq al-Awsat and I hired every single member of the editorial staff. Posner should know about propaganda as his book is a classic case of cold war disinformation and shear ignorance.
He is ignorant enough to claim that Prince Feisal bin Salman is the head of education in Saudi Arabia. I feel bad that I did not congratulate him on this exalted position, or Prince Salman on his cabinet position.
All the above is contained in the first chapter of the book, which ends with Posner quoting himself. When I saw some of the outrageous mistakes made I went to the Notes at the end of the book and discovered that he also quotes the clown Stephen Schwartz and Dore Gold, a one time ambassador of Benjamin Natanyahu to the UN, so I don't need to explain his objectivity and humanity.
All this expertise however, does not help Posner and in the short second chapter he talks about the history of the House of Saud and their country. He knows that "bin" means "son" in Arabic, but after he mentions Imam Mohammed bin Abdul Wahab he starts referring to him as al-Wahab not realizing that Abdul Wahab is one word and that al-Wahab (Giver) is one of the 99 names of God in the Koran. The poor Imam must be rolling in his grave at the thought of him being called God.
More serious is mixing up Ibn Saud, the popular name of King Abdul Aziz, and Saud. The index lists the names of all the Saudi kings. The index guides me to this line, Ibn Saud eldest son and heir was also named Saud. Of course, Ibn Saud is Abdul Aziz, which is definitely not Saud. Posner also refers to Crown Prince Feisal visiting New York in 1944, a year when the Saudi Crown Prince was Saud.
The worst case of ignorance, one that destroys any semblance of real knowledge or
research, is Posner's presentation of Wahhabis and Wahhabism. He does not seem to
know that there are four sects of Sunni Islam and that Imam Mohammed bin Abdul
Wahab was an interpreter of the Hanbali sect found mostly in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It
is by far the smallest of the Sunni sects. Posner says that Sayyid Qutb, "a prolific Muslim
scholar, who did a watershed six volume commentary on the Koran, setting the guidelines for modern Wahhabi adherence." Of course Sayyid Qutb was a Shafei like all Egyptians,
and extremist Wahhabis reject his thinking altogether. I may add that the Lebanese are
Shafei, the Palestinians Malki or Shafei, the Sudanese and Moroccans Malki, the Iraqis
and Afghanis Hanafi.
All the detailed ignorance is contained in the first three chapters, in 37 pages out of a
254-page book. I could not continue and I would not have reviewed the book to the
readers had I not known that Posner is seen in the US as an expert and an authority in his
chosen field. He is not. If he is then I can claim that I am a Talmud scholar.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Secrets of Posner - Part1

Al-Hayat 2005/06/6

When Gerald Posner writes about Saudi Arabia I don't see before me a writer and his book but rather a man in a rubbish bin throwing litter in the air with the litter falling back on his head.
Posner has written a new book "Secrets of the Kingdom: The Inside Story of the Saudi-U.S. Connection" after throwing up the book "Why America Slept" in 2003 which I reviewed at the time.
The two books are joined by an idea stated in the first two lines of the Author's Note to the new book that "The Saudi petrodollars that have flooded into United States during the last thirty years have affected American business, politics and society." I say if it were only true and add from the note: It reveals some ways in which the Kingdom has manipulated American institutions and policies.
This is a lie. One only needs to go back to Forbes or Fortune and their list of the 500 wealthiest individuals or largest companies to see that there are men and companies that are richer than the Saudis or with a bigger annual turnover. A Saudi citizen's annual income is about 25% of an American's, and it is far less than the income of citizens of other Arab oil producers in the Gulf because of Saudi Arabia's much larger population.
Posner's book is in a sense that proverbial house in the New Testament, which was built on sand and collapsed under the first storm. I want to start my review of the book today and tomorrow with a note of my own:
I am not here to defend Saudi Arabia. I am not saying it is a democratic state. I am not praising private or public freedoms there, or the rule of law. I am attacking the other side because the Likudnik neo-cons intend to drive a wedge between the United States and Saudi Arabia and all Arabs and Muslims, and also for insulting (again) the memory of Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz. He is to me not HRH but a dear departed friend.
I beg the reader to remember this introduction as I continue.
In his new book Posner picks up from where he left off in the book Why America Slept. He again quotes extensively from Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaeda leader whose wild imagination led to hallucinate about the film Godzella and scenes of attack on the Brooklyn bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Abu Zubaydah's statements have been totally discredited but Posner repeats the lie in a Gobblesian manner so that people would believe it. He says that after Abu Zubaydah referred to Prince Ahmed and two cousins (also Pakistani Air Marshal Ali Mir) the three princes died in a manner presented by Posner as if to say that the Royal family kills its children.
The reasons for the deaths are well established but I want to settle once and for all the controversy about the death of Prince Ahmed as I knew him and his family for many many years and also the hospital and doctors. Prince Ahmed went into hospital for the simple treatment of hemorrhoids and once there decided to have a gastric ligation because he always suffered from a weight problem and was on a constant diet. This led to a heart attack and he passed away. No more no less.
Posner goes on to contest the findings of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States whose comprehensive report sold over a million copies and won The National Book Award. Posner has the gall to think that he could know more that the bi-partisan commission with its scores of investigators and multi-million dollar budget. The report did nor even mention the three princes, and Abu Zubaydah was cited in reference to the terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The report found no evidence the Saudi Government or officials financed al-Qaeda so Posner contested that as well.
The neo-cons and other Likudniks in the administration and think tanks are hell bent on damaging the historically close relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States. They have still to regain their composure on seeing President Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah walk hand in hand in the president's farm in Crawford.
Building a false case, Posner commits the most glaring of errors which make his whole work laughable. I am not laughing because the subject is very serious so I will continue with the mistakes tomorrow.

Jihad Khazen