Commentary Magazine


An Inadequately-Clothed Emperor

Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal was interviewed yesterday on CBS This Morning, and was asked how strained the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. is (answer: “very strained”); what he thought about President Obama’s failure to strike Syria after his red line was crossed (answer: “[the whole world] saw it as a blinking”); and whether Saudi Arabia would like someone to strike Iran (answer: “Most of the countries in the region want Iran to be struck by the United States or by the western powers”). 

Then he was asked whether he had confidence the U.S. would execute a military option as a last resort, which produced this colloquy: 

PRINCE ALWALEED BIN TALAL: Frankly speaking, no, we don’t have confidence that the military strike would happen if Iran does not succumb to the pressure and the –  

CHARLIE ROSE: So you don’t trust the United States, you’re saying. The Saudi government does not trust the United States to do it. 

PRINCE ALWALEED BIN TALAL: I think at the more macro level, the whole trust issue on United States is very much on shaky grounds these days, not only from Saudi Arabia but also Europe. … 

The whole world has watched over the last year as the president of the United States: (1) took no action as a U.S. ambassador and U.S. personnel were killed in Libya on 9/11; (2) promised two weeks later, in a UN speech to representatives of every country in the world, that he would be “relentless” in tracking down the killers, but still has taken no action; (3) issued a “red line” in Syria and then blinked when it came time to enforce it; (4) lateraled his proposed “shot across the bow” to Congress; (5) avoided his “red line” commitment (and vitiated his “Assad must go” policy) by approving an agreement leaving Assad ensconced in power, free to continue his war by conventional means; (6) negotiated with Iran while disregarding the objections of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle East allies; and (7) exposed his word to his own citizens as unreliable (after which he expressed regret that “the way I put that forward unequivocally ended up not being accurate”). 

He has made other unequivocal assurances–he’s got your back, all options are on the table, he doesn’t bluff, no deal is better than a bad deal–but at this point it has become increasingly clear that he is an inadequately-clothed emperor, dressed in assurances that end up not being accurate. When a prominent Saudi prince answers a direct question as directly as he did on national TV yesterday, a critical point has been reached.