The hand is quicker than the eye — or, are we mis-reading Arab misdirection?

Many, myself included, found it heartening that the Wikileaks cables showed that Saudi Arabia, and other Arab countries, were talking tough to American diplomats when it came to Iran.  That proved, we said, that, no matter what the leaders said on the streets, behind the scenes they were sensibly aware of their common cause with Israel and America, at least when it came to Iran.

Unfortunately for my peace of mind, Daniel Pipes is now suggesting the opposite:  he says that history indicates that what Arab leaders say on the streets is precisely what they mean, while what they say to American diplomats tends to be what they think those diplomats want to hear.  It’s misdirection, but not running missing the direction we thought it was headed.

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  • 11B40

    One of the writers dealing with the Middle East that I have had a chance to read is Fouad Ajami.  I have read his “The Dream Palace of the Arabs” and his “The Foreigner’s Gift”.  Two useful bits of education that I receive from him are that these are the lands of “I against my brother; my brother and I against our cousin; my cousin, my brother, and I against the stranger” and the importance of the “souk” or marketplace in the Arab psyche.
    The first bit augers no long-term alliances, not even familial. It’s about what the individual wants or feels entitled to that determines alliances.  The most obtuse of rationalizations is easily accepted and proffered. The tribal culture re-inforces that aggression produces rewards and protects against losses.
    The second bit establishes the old “good business is what works” fundamental.  Whatever results in your getting what you want from the other guy is okay regardless if it results is an extremely low ethical standard.


    In simple terms:
    Iran: 90% Shia and 9% Sunni
    Saudi Arabia: 5% Shia and 95% Sunni
    In more complex terms, the linked article (2006) asks the question:
    Can you tell a Sunni from a Shia?
    The writer focuses on Iraq  (65% Shia and 35% Sunni) but the question is just as valid for any other ME country. My brief point is … if you don’t know to whom you’re talking and understand the Arab culture/mind, you begin and end at a disadvantage.
    ….low ethical standard.
    Perfect summary.

  • Ymarsakar

    11B I’ve read similar pieces from Ajami, although it was an incomplete reading.

  • Ymarsakar

    But Book, aren’t you missing that the Obama idiots dont’ want to hear any yap from SA on the matter of attacking Iran?