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Monday, October 28, 2013

Roger Cohen, "Fury in the Kingdom": Is There Any Limit to Cohen's Ignorance and Duplicity

Did you know that Saudi Arabia and Iran are at war? The fighting has spread from Yemen, where the Sa'dah War has raged on and off since 2004, to Syria, where Shiite Hezbollah militiamen from Lebanon, Shiites from Iraq (see:, Shiite Houthis from Yemen (see: and Iranian Revolutionary Guard "advisors" (see: are fighting Saudi financed Sunni rebels.

What is the reason for the war? Simple: At stake is Middle East hegemony. But why should there be any mention of this proxy war in Roger Cohen's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Fury in the Kingdom" ( Writing from Dubai, Roger Cohen begins by telling us:

"Here’s how the Saudis see it: President Obama has sold out the Syrian opposition, reinforced President Bashar al-Assad after having called for his departure, embarked on a dangerous duet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, played the wrong cards in Egypt, retreated from initial criticism of Israeli settlements that promised a more balanced American approach to Israel-Palestine, tilted toward the Shiites in the growing regional Sunni-Shiite confrontation, and generally undercut the interests of the kingdom."

Or, as my friend Saudi King Abdullah recently told me over the phone, Obama has thrown him under the bus.

Cohen's conclusion:

"It is hard to say whether Israel or Saudi Arabia is more anxious today over the possibility of an American-Iranian breakthrough. That possibility remains extremely remote. The right deal — one that prevents the Islamic Republic from going nuclear while drawing it back into the community of nations — is in the U.S. interest, but current Saudi fury is one measure of the difficulty and of a U.S. Middle Eastern policy that is falling short."

How short is US Middle East policy falling? My friend King Abdullah told me that if Iran obtains its first atomic bomb, he will build one, too. Hmm. Iran and Saudi Arabia, two antagonists with abysmal human rights records, both with atomic weapons? I suppose there's very little risk in that . . . not.

But what is most peculiar is that Cohen has already forgotten the hogwash he spouted earlier this month in a Times op-ed entitled "Bibi’s Tired Iranian Lines" (, in which he claimed:

"It is not just that the world has now heard from Netanyahu of the imminent danger of a nuclear-armed Iran for a very long time. It is not just that Israel has set countless 'red lines' that proved permeable. It is not just that the Islamic Republic has been an island of stability compared to its neighbors Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not just that, as Rouhani’s election shows, Iran is no Nazi-like totalitarian state with a single authority but an authoritarian regime subject to liberalizing and repressive waves."

Iran is an "island of stability"? In this earlier opinion piece there was no mention of the Sa'dah War and attempts to incite Shiites in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

And just what was the Green Revolution all about? Cohen seemed ready to forget the death of Neda, who was shot dead by a Basij militia member.

Iran is "no Nazi-like totalitarian state"? Cohen was also prepared to ignore the oppression of Iran's Kurds, Baha'is, Sunnis and Christians (see:, the hanging of Iran's homosexuals, and the stoning to death of Iranian women accused of adultery.

But now writing from Dubai, Cohen chooses to play both sides of the street and tells us that US Middle East policy is falling short.

Is there any limit to Cohen's ignorance and duplicity?

[No, King Abdullah is not my friend, and we did not chat over the phone. And by the way, just in case you were considering dancing on your next visit to Saudi Arabia, consider the following recent report from the BBC (

"A Saudi court has jailed four young men and sentenced them to thousands of lashes after one was filmed dancing naked on a car, Saudi media reported.

The four were charged with 'dancing on a vehicle in public' and 'violating public morals', reports said.

. . . .

The incident took place in Borayda, the capital of al-Qasseem province, north-west of the capital Riyadh, and a video was posted online, media reports say.

The man accused of dancing naked received the most severe sentence of 10 years in jail, 2,000 lashes and a $13,000 (£8,000) fine, the al-Sharq newspaper said.

One of his companions received seven years in prison and 1,200 lashes, while the other two were jailed for three years and sentenced to 500 lashes each.

According to local media, the public prosecutor objected to what he called 'light sentences'."


  1. To the reader who thought I really spoke with "my friend" King Abdullah: Sorry, I was of course joking. Given what I have written in the past about Saudi Arabia, I am confident that my head would be detached from my shoulders if I were to found anywhere near Mecca.

  2. I saw the headline of Cohen's column (can I say "garbage piece" here?) but my intelligent and delicate stomach shouted immediately: "Don't you dare." So, of course, I didn't read the garbage. The answer to your title question: "No."
    I just don't think it's ignorance. It seems to be monumental lack of ethics. Or ... another case of mad cow disease. There seems to be another outbreak in Britain which affects primarily sickly immoral politicians, such as Jack Straw. Personally, I am concern about Cohen's case because he possibly brought it here (New York). I wonder if our health authorities are aware.