The sheikh says Twitter is bad, and that anyone using it "has lost this world and his afterlife." A bit extreme, but I understand the sentiment.
Myself, I would have put it in a more Wordsworthian way. I think that most social media are a sordid boon, and that late and soon, twitting and spending, we lay waste our powers.
So I say: Tweet less, live more. Technology is only liberating if you control it, rather than the other way around. We should not confuse data with meaning.
I don't know what to believe. Juan Cole makes a pretty good case that the facts of the matter make it look like it was not really run by the Iranian government, mainly because of the sloppiness of the accused, which is said to be uncharacteristic of Iranian overseas operations. On the other hand, one thing I learned in two decades as a reporter was never to underestimate the potential of people to screw up, especially large organizations. I mean, who would have believed that people in the White House would hire a bunch of semi-competent "third-rate" thugs to break into the Democratic Party's national offices?
The new issue of West Point's Counterterrorism Sentinel carries an interesting analysis of Saudi Arabia in the context of the Arab spring by Toby Craig Jones of Rutgers University. He concludes with this warning:
Saudi Arabia's rulers have demonstrated that they feel a sense of urgency, but their political instincts are taking them in the wrong direction. The reformers are right that the existing system is deeply dysfunctional, anachronistic, and no longer in touch with the interests and desires of the vast majority of Saudi citizens. It is hard to see how resorting to a well-worn political strategy will restore confidence in an ailing system or ensure that there will not be future and perhaps more confrontational challenges to regime power. The kingdom's leaders have yet to learn the most important lesson coming from Cairo, Tunis, Sana`a and Manama: although Arab authoritarian regimes have proven durable in the past, they are no longer invulnerable to the demands and pressures of their own people.
My friend Nir Rosen was gobsmacked by the first sentence of an article in the Friday edition of the Wall Street Journal that said, "Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates … fear the U.S. is opening the door for Islamist groups to gain influence and destabilize the region." Here is his comment.
By Nir Rosen
Best Defense guest media critic
Saudi Arabia fears "the U.S. is opening the door for Islamist groups to gain influence and destabilize the region"?
Saudi Arabia? The most extreme Islamist state in the world (now that the Taliban are removed), the sponsor of extreme Islamist movements from Africa to Europe to Asia? The opponent of Arab and Muslim progressive and liberal thought for decades?
The Saudis are worried about Islamist groups? No. The Saudis used to import Muslim Brothers from Egypt to teach in Saudi Arabia, and that was only after the Wahhabis relaxed a bit and were willing to accept the more moderate Muslim brothers.
This is not about Islamism; this is about regional alliances. Whether it's the Muslim Brothers or the Communist Party of Egypt who takes over after Mubarak, we can be certain that the new regime will be less of a puppet and less part of the American, Saudi, and Israeli alliance in the Middle East than Mubarak was. This is what the Saudis fear, that the architecture they have carefully crafted with the Americans is crumbling -- with Iraq ruled by the hated Shiites, Fatah in Palestine a joke, Iran ascendant, the Saudi proxies in Lebanon a failure. This has nothing to do with Islamism. The authors have it all wrong.
Stand back and watch John McCreary analyze a minor news event and detect the deep historical trends underlying it:
Turkey-Saudi Arabia: On 9 March, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan received the King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam in Saudi Arabia, according to Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency today.
The King Faisal International Prize is presented to scientists and others who make contributions to Islam and a positive difference in the world. At the award ceremony, Erdogan said Turkey has strived to establish peace, stability and security in the region and the world.
Comment: To recap the action, the Saudis gave the supposed leader of a secular state -- Turkey -- an award for his service to Islam. That would seem to clinch the argument in Turkey's constitutional court about Erdogan's service to Turkey's secular constitution and history. The Saudis openly encouraged Erdogan's erosion of the legacy of Ataturk.
STRATFOR's thesis is the Saudis are looking to Turkey to act as an ally in restraining Iranian pretensions to regional hegemony. The Turks have their own leadership aspirations which involve pursuing a neo-Ottoman strategy that joins Sunnis and Shias under enlightened, of course, Turkish leadership.
Even if the Turks do not cooperate much with the Saudis, the Turkish-Persian rivalry for regional dominance is rooted in thousands of years of history. The Arabs are clever enough to revive that old dispute while sitting on the sidelines. Erdogan and the Iranian Ayatollahs are arrogant enough to fall for the bait.
KAYHAN OZER/AFP/Getty Images
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.