Obama in Saudi Arabia, Exporter of Oil and Bigotry

The Islamophobia festering in the U.S. is fed by extremism fostered by the Saudis.

Comments: 203

  1. Saudi, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey are all going the wrong direction. But Saudi is leading the parade.

  2. For many Americans, when they hear the word "Muslim" they are in fact thinking about the Wahhabi sort of Muslims, the strictest and most fundamentalist, whose religious leaders try to recreate the 7th century.

    They are not thinking about fashionably dressed business women at the next table in the restaurant--also Muslims (but definitely not Wahhabis). They're not thinking about my cousin's husband who campaigns for Bernie Sanders. Or the young guy who delivers pizza in my neighborhood, who is thrilled and amazed to see people discussing politics and an election and not getting killed or jailed for it. Not everybody thinks the 7th century was great; these people don't want to go back to the old days.

    The Islamic world is large and encompasses many various traditions, beliefs, and cultures. We need to start making some distinctions, so that people can better understand where the problems are. We don't need to waste time and taxpayer money hassling the wrong people.

    So thanks for helping to bring some clarity to this problem.

  3. Making such distinctions is good and useful. But this particular distinction is almost always framed the way you frame it: The "bad" muslims are Wahabbist, 7-century types who represent a tiny fraction of muslims generally...and the rest of the muslim world reflects a wide range of values and opinions that includes the 'fashionably dressed business woman at the restaurant' at the other end of the spectrum.

    That framework suggests that as a whole, Saudis, & muslims generally, are really no different from western non-muslims: After all, we in the west also have groups of people, (some not so small), who kill in the name of god, or who preach extreme bigotry from pulpits, and we also have fashionably dressed business women who dine in restaurants, and a wide range between.

    But that characterization is not fair. For example, over 50% of Saudis support the teachings of Osama Bin Laden, by name, in polls taken since 9/11.

    That fact does not excuse bigotry against muslims, nor indicate that muslims cannot coexist peacefully with the west. Rather, it says that you are right to seek objective truth, even if it reveals uncomfortable truth.

    The truth is that "most" Saudis, at present, do not share even our most sacred values. That is not bigotry: It is truth. And truth is essential to defeating bigotry. The alternative is the political correctness that you reflect in your comment, which always, ultimately, undermines its own good intentions.

  4. @ MaryC - MaryC what a rare breath of fresh air in comment land where anti-Muslim generalizations dominate day in and day out, sometimes with 1000 recommends. I have been a volunteer at the Red Cross here in Linköping, Sweden for 16 years, working often at "Läxläsning" (Help with homework) where the single largest group of high-school students visiting consists of mostly Somali born females whom I have often referred to in talking with them, some my very good friends, as the High Fashion Hijab Sisters (Somali walaalo). Their hijabs are statements of strong individual identity, their dedication to learning is a statement to their commitment to helping others, especially in the Swedish health care system.

    I long for the day when a New York Times OpEd presents exactly what you present here. If we had a commenter's blog I would recommend your comment as a candidate for full-scale presentation.
    Larry
    Only-NeverInSweden.blogspot.com

  5. "We don't need to waste time and taxpayer money hassling the wrong people." Why would the United States spend any taxpayer money to "hassle" anyone over their religion. Is it a function of government to hassle anyone?

  6. Thank you for writing a balanced column that supports religious freedom (and condemns Islamophobia) while also detailing SA's role in promoting terrorism around the world. A rare balanced look at these issues!

  7. That's quite a limb you're going out on there, Mr. Kristof. Be careful lest you be forced to turn in your Regressive Left card.

  8. You're right. He'll need to provide some balance in his next op/ed piece, citing the kind of extremist hatred that results in bombings in Oklahoma City and at clinics that provide abortions here in the U.S. Hypocritical Muslims in Saudi Arabia have lots of company within our so-called "Christian" community.

  9. 52% say religion plays too big a role? How quaint. 80-90% here want to close the gun show loophole. A fat lot of good that does. Call me when either number goes up to 100. Even then it may not matter as long as King Salman or Mitch McConnell is still kicking.

  10. A phobia is an unreasoning fear. Fear the radical version of Islam, is perfectly rational. That is true of at least the radical wing of Shia Islam as well, since its leaders promote terrorism world-wide.

  11. Everything said is true, but before we push for reform (nice thought but probably not possible), do we have a stable government to replace what is there now? We sort of have created a mess in Eygpt, Libya and Iraq.

  12. Harriet: How can you say we created a mess in Egypt, Libya and Iraq, haven't you been paying attention to the current election publicity? All three are stunning accomplishments of former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and her almost mystical good judgement . And, she achieved these world shaking victories while taking just a very little time out from dramatically improving the lives of every woman and child on this planet . There was a period during which she had to strain her busy schedule to stop by Wall St. and pick up cash filled suitcases. We are talking total dedication here. Please pay better attention.

  13. Is there some definitive research on wheather and how the rise in terroristic type violence is related to religous extreemism, extreem disparieties in income, or, both. I suspect both, AND that large income disparities are highly correlated with and possibly cause religious extreemism.

  14. Thank you, Mr Kristof, for what must be said.

  15. Dear Mr. Kristof,

    The U.S. has long empowered genocidal dictators and terrorist regimes in Saudi Arabia (our bombs are murdering people in Yemen as we speak), Egypt and China because the megalomaniac greed of OUR Wall Street bankers and corporate CEOs. If you look at Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, or China, and don't like what you see, just look at OUR leaders, the Donald Trumps as well as the Hillary Clintons.

  16. Americans are not responsible for Islamic sexism or for Islamic splits that go back hundreds of years.

  17. Scary, because in this country we are still fighting misogyny. And it's getting worse with immigrants that, unlike the ones that built this country, are mostly from non-Western countries where the debate for women's rights does not even exist.

  18. You nailed it Nicholas : "As the land where Islam began"

    If any other religion had a faction of extremists killing people, you would hear emotional denunciations in Jerusalem, at the Vatican, Tibet ... wherever the seat may lie.

    Mecca, Medina ... silent. Business as usual.

  19. This is true. The Imams in Saudi Arabia brainwash the young with hate and the elderly with fear. They teach the young to hate the freedoms and cultures of Western civilizations and this, of course, is fine with the Monarchy. Until the people are freed from the poison of religion this will continue. Their religion is not the only one that teaches hate but theirs is the one that teaches it to its most extreme destructive level.

  20. Indeed - The Saudis appear to be wolves in sheep's clothing. Wouldn't trust them one iota.

  21. While visiting Java I was shocked at the difference in customs between old javanese muslim traditions and the more recent hijab wearing puritanical sort. I asked people around about its history. But just looking around was enough to get an answer. Specially in poor or traditional areas you can see small madrasas schools financed by saudis. Now when I say Saudis, Is this the Saudi government? Individuals? Organizations? It gets murky and I let that to experts to discuss. But it is undeniable the damaging effect they have had over the last 70 years in the region and everywhere I suppose.

  22. "Specially in poor or traditional areas you can see small madrasas schools financed by Saudis. Now when I say Saudis, Is this the Saudi government? Individuals? Organizations? It gets murky and I let that to experts to discuss."

    Doesn't really matter...they're all working hand in hand.

  23. It is about time the Saudis started getting called out on this. We have been in bed with that backward regime for far too long and it has done us plenty of damage.

  24. In the cheer'm on get let down relationship with B. Obama this one falls in the get let down big time. Given the tone in Washington on the Get the Saudi Bill this is no time to be flying off to "stand with our Saudi brethren".(GHWB) Anyone who denies Saudi complacency in the 9-11 attack has their head buried in the sand. My only problem with the current bill in Congress is that it took the gutless wonders in Congress 15 years to well up the strength to go after the real perps. So do what you may Barack, but in my opinion this is a new low in diplomacy.

  25. I traveled throughout Indonesia in the 1970s, as most people know the most populated Muslim country in the world. I can't recall ever seeing women in hijabs, and I even stayed in a cheap hotel right across the street from a mosque in Surabaya -- where by the way the men would assemble one evening a week in a large meeting room with a communal black and white TV to watch a weekly episode of "Bonanza."

    Now when I see news footage of something that took place in Indonesia, I see the women predominantly wearing hijabs. I've read this is the result of heavy Saudi cash propping up severe Wahabi madrassas there to indocrinate the Muslim populations into the Saudi brand of 7th Century desert Islam.

    As a side note, one day while walking the streets of Surabaya I stumbled upon to my surprise a very small synagogue that dated back to the Dutch colonial period. I was told the owner of the property lived in Jakarta, and there was a very small population of Jews that used the synagogue from time to time, with a lone Muslim caretaker to maintain the building when not in use. I learned recently that Islamic extremists burned the synagogue down several years ago.

  26. A few months ago the NYTimes had a column about a small group of Orthodox Jews in, I forget, either Brooklyn or Queens, who lost their synagogue, being unable to to continue the costs as their congregation had gotten smaller and smaller.
    They moved for a few years to a storefront synagogue, but again, were driven out by a combination of cost and the landlord wanting to rent it out to a retail store willing to pay a higher rent.

    It was at that point that a local mosque's Iman hear of their plight...and invited them to sue the mosque for Jewish ceremonies once weekly!
    The two have been close friends, a Jewish community and a Muslim community, ever since.

  27. Wahhabism is the backbone of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boka Haram, and the Taliban. It is an extremist sect of Sunni Islam. It's source for funding and it's origin is Saudi Arabia. Islamaphobia is a mistake. Most Sunni and all Shiites are NOT Wahhabi. We should fear Wahhabism and end its capacity to spread its primitive brutal beliefs around the world. Wahhabism originates in Saudi Arabia, and the Saudis lie when they say they are fighting ISIS while they fund Wahhabi schools and missions.

  28. Excellent point JW. If Saudi funded madrassas manage to turn the once secular styled societies of Indonesia and Malaysia into Islamists, then the largest population of Muslims in the world will have been converted. I believe app. 90% of the worlds Muslim population resides in Austral Asia.

  29. Nickolas: It's about time you wrote this column. It should have been clear to everyone since 9/11. The Saudis (including the Saudi Bin Ladin) have transformed Islam into the religion of hate and violence we see all over the Arab world.

    If we had redirected the $4 billion from mistaken wars to building a better Saudi government, we would be much better off. And I see no reason not to allow the lawsuits against the Saudis to go forward, just like the one just completed against Iran. A pox on both their houses! (...although I do believe more Iranians are pro-Western than Saudis, and their government is about halfway to democracy...far further along than Saudi Arabia).

  30. "If we had redirected the $4 billion from mistaken wars to building a better Saudi government" etc etc...
    Have you any idea how ridiculous this sentence is? Just for starters, Saudi oil income was over $100 billion in 2015. Money is hardly an issue.
    And how did we do at "building a better Iraqi" government?

  31. I like Mr. Kristoff's "attempt" at balance.

    Start out by claiming that most Americans are Islamophobes, then acknowledge that maybe, perhaps, possibly there might be some reasons.

    That should have been the starting point.

    One aspect leads to 3000 people being killed on 9/11 as a result of planes slamming into the WTC. The other leads to a college senior being asked (without being killed) to disembark an airplane.

  32. Kind of ignores the hundreds of anti-Muslim incidents in the U.S. just in the last year or so, ranging from demanding Muslims get off airplanes for the crime of being Muslim, to people who proclaim "religious freedom" to justify anti-gay discrimination but who suddenly all go quietly when a small Muslim community is denied a necessary permit to build their mosque (the first such permit denial in 19 years), to people smearing bacon onto the doorways of the Muslim Center in Omaha (along with trying to smash out the glass doors), to physical assaults to actual murders...

    9/11 was a horrible terrorist attack. It in no way justifies the discrimination and violence against Muslims in America.

  33. Kristof is about thirteen years behind the times on this issue. Dore Gold wrote about the Saudi support for extremist strands of Islam in his 2003 book Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism. It's nice to see that Kristof is catching up with authors who have been writing about this topic for over a decade.

  34. What? Nicholas Kristoff admitting Israel turned out to be right -- and someone from Likud no less -- while the progressive Left turned out to be wrong? Are you kidding?

  35. I lived in Saudi for 2 years when King Abdullah was alive, working on starting a big new research University that was his vision. There was constant tension between the King and other Saudis who saw a path to modernity and the religious conservatives. The Haia patrolled the mall in Jiddah, in their short robes with their little sticks, eyeing women in Abayas who were eyeing mannequins in bikinis.

    It was fascinating, people were friendly and curious, and my only negative experiences were a couple of unbelievable nights trying to get out of the Jiddah airport, and the imposition of a fatwa by Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Nasser al-Barrak which authorizes and demands that we who promoted "The Mingling of the Sexes in Education" be killed. Sigh... I carry a copy of the Fatwa (English translation) in my wallet for those interesting bar discussions.

    Nicholas, a couple of your books are by my feet. Please keep trying to bring your wider perspective on the real world to all of us in America. You express the only truly balanced view I have seen of the complexity of Saudi. And America.

    ...In The Woods In Vermont

  36. I'm halfway through an 8-session class on Islam. Just like there are those who corrupt Christanity, there are too many who corrupt Islam. Sorry I don't have the title handy, but one of Karen Armstrong's books is a good place to start on this corruption.

    Of course, the West should take some blame for this with all of its interfence in the Mid-east from the Crusades to the break up of the Ottoman Empire.

    What does the Bible say? "Ye shall reap what you sow."

  37. Oh, yes the west is to blame...for starting the Sunni/Shia split the muslim civil war that's gone on for well over 1000 years. And we are to blame for horrible treatment of women, gays, apostates, infidels. It must have been a gloriously lovely time in the free lands of the Ottoman Empire. Take a trip to one of the many Islamic theocracies in the middle east and enjoy a trip to the past.

  38. The Bible also proscribes penalty of death for violating the Sabbath, disrespecting your parents, committing adultery, taking the Lord's name in vain and other infractions. Luckily, Western civilization treats this as allegory -- not literal truth. The problem in the Muslim World is that they are having a hard time making the same transition.

  39. Nicholas, Good article, we certainly need to do whatever we can to reduce the role of Saudis in Islamic extremism. Their global reach and previously full wallets have allowed them to spread their fanatical Wahhabism to almost every Muslim group around the world. With Obama's visit it seems a good time to start taking steps to counteract this influence, but most of the proposals I have seen seem hasty and not thought through. Can you suggest concrete steps the US can take now that are politically palatable and perhaps do not require legislation?

  40. Another issue is that Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi teachings, which they have aggressively spread throughout the Muslim world, provided a ready-made philosophical platform for ISIS and other extremists. Among other things, Wahhabism treats Shiites as apostates and provides justification for all manner of abuses and injustices.

  41. The spread of Saudi Wahhabi teachings, and the extremism it's inspired, was done with the active support and participation of the Reagan Administration, as a direct reaction to their intense dislike of Iranian Shiites.
    After the hostages were released, the Reagan Administration encouraged anything that seemed aimed at Iran, including promotion of extremist Saudi Wahhabism.

    And now isn't much better. After a Shiite Yemeni government developed, the Sunni Saudi government, using U.S. supplied bombs and aircraft, proceeded to bomb Yemen to dust, killing literally thousands of innocent men, women and children (and at least three Doctors Without Borders hospitals and clinics thus far).

    Sadly, we want/need their oil and they want our weapons and money...it makes for a very bad combination.

  42. And there is NO such thing as Islamophobia.
    A phobia is an irrational fear.
    In Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, San Bernardino, Brussels and Paris in just the last few months tens of thousands were killed in the name of Islam as were thousands girls raped and enslaved while their male family members were beheaded and burned alive.
    Be fearful or be ignorant.

  43. A statistical estimate based on population sampling indicated 500,000 Iraqi civilians died as a consequence of the American invasion of Iraq. Not to justify the barbarism of ISIL, but do you think folks in the Middle East might have a little USofA-phobia?

  44. If I fear all white people, I'm a bigot. If a white person then commits a terrible crime, no, it doesn't prove I was right. There are a billion Muslims in the world. Some thousands of them are apparently pretty dangerous. Being afraid of Muslims in general is irrational--a phobia.

  45. Maybe then that should be MALEphobia?

  46. Here here. It's about time we start saying what is clearly the truth: Saudi Arabia is a medieval country that does not share our values, and though they gladly sell us their gas, they are NOT our friends.

  47. Agreed. Although I think you mean, "hear, hear."

  48. Wrong. The US largely is not getting its oil from KSA or the wider Middle East for some time now. The oil price is of course influenced by KSA since its the biggest producer, but the US nowaday's has a huge influence on the price of oil because of shale oil. What the US does is subsidizing China's and India's, and to a lesser extend, Europe's thirst for Arabian oil by deploying troops there to keep Iran in check, fight terrorist etc etc.

    You hit the nail though with categorizing it as a medieval country. MIDEVIL will do too.

  49. When our liberal elite expresses concerns about certain aspects of how Islam is practiced, then they are legitimate concerns. If any one else expresses the same concerns, then they are a bigot showing their Islamophobia.

  50. There's a considerable amount of real estate between recognizing legitimate concerns and banning an entire religion from entering the U.S., don't you think?

  51. LOL. Rule of thumb: If the concern is expressed in the NY Post or Fox News, it's hate-speech. If it's in the NY Times or on MSNBC, it's justified.

  52. Because what is being expressed is a concern over the actions of some muslims, not all muslims. Saying that all muslims are guilty is bigotry.

  53. If I read between the lines here, it sounds like what you are saying is that "Islamophobia" is horrible and awful and disgraceful and..., um..., (not entirely unjustified...)

  54. Getting kicked off an airplane for speaking Arabic is not technically 'Islamaphobia' but Arab-phobia. While the implication is that Arabic speakers are Muslim, that, of course, is not necessarily the case. It's quite possible that an Arab speaker would be Christian -- particularly if they come from Iraq, Syria or Egypt, to name three places with small but significant Christian populations. For that matter, there are other ethnic and religious minorities, who also speak Arabic and are not Muslim.

  55. Yes, there are Christians in the Middle East, and having largely succeeded in eradicating Jews from the Middle East (outside of Israel, of course) the Arabs are busy eradicating Christians from the Middle East. Your distinction is basically pointless.

  56. The passenger that overheard the exiled passenger speaking Arabic also spoke Arabic and was alarmed by various specific statements that had been communicated by the passenger that was removed.

  57. Your sophistication notwithstanding, such things happen because someone thinks that anyone speaking Arabic is probably a Muslim and any Muslim is probably a terrorist.

  58. I'm glad that you're glad that President Obama is visiting the kingdom; why am I unable to find any reporting by your newspaper as to the why of it, or even, for that matter, the mere fact of it?

  59. John, turn to the front page (at least, digital edition) of today's NYT.

  60. "Saudi Arabia should be renamed the Kingdom of Backwardness."
    How about Daesh lite

  61. Nothing "lite" about it. They behead more people yearly than Daesh.

  62. I don't know, check out the hands on the babe in the picture.

    Geeze what a lousy place to be a teenager.

  63. If you want to set the record straight on Saudi Arabia, the first thing you need to do is lose the term "Islamophobia." Islamophobia, or the irrational fear of Islam, is a made up, nonsensical word. It is perfectly rational to fear the misogyny and brutality that's been at the heart of Islam since the beginning. Unless you admit that, you're missing the boat.

  64. Saudi Arabia, the heart of Islamic orthodoxy, has a population of 29 million. Indonesia has 202 million Muslims, and India has 138 Muslims - virtually all of them peaceful and tolerant. To say that misogyny and brutality lie at the heart of Islam is, minimally, misreading the statistics.

  65. Bravo! The term itself is so stupid as to render any decent conversation impossible. Saudi Arabia is just a crooked gas station in a bad neighborhood.

  66. Would it be more accurate to say that misogyny, brutality and a certain fatalism lie at the heart of the social, legal and political cultures of Arab countries, which is justified or promoted by their version of Islam? Lots of countries, for instance, carry out the death penalty but why does crucifixion still take place in Saudi Arabia in 2016? That’s the sentence awaiting Ali al-Nimr (he will be beheaded first and then crucified).

    Statistics… Recall the Pew Research Center survey in 2013 which turned up stats like 64% of Egyptians support the killing of apostates; 75% of Palestinians are okay with stoning, and 58% of Jordanians believe hudud is appropriate for some crimes.

    Countries like Indonesia and India are more tolerant than Arab states because they have chosen a secular model of governance rather than have Sharia law dominate every facet of life. These countries also recognise other religions and philosophies because historically Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, etc., have played their part. That’s why the largest Buddhist monument in the world can be found in Jogjakarta and the current president is a Chinese-descended Christian.

    But this tolerance is threatened when Saudi-funded madrassas and clerics tell locals that their version of Islam is inferior, full of superstitions, and that they need to remove the Hindu-Buddhist-animistic traditions to which they have grown accustomed. If only the Saudis could practise the Islam of Indonesia!

  67. "Islamophobia" is not killing anyone and has never killed anyone.

    On the other hand, Muslim terrorist acts have killed thousands of people in just the past few decades and there is no end in sight.

    Any clearer as to which is the more damaging?

  68. Those terrorists are no more Muslim than the Americans who attack mosques and call for discriminatory laws against Syrian refugees can properly be regarded as Christian.

  69. Your first statement is in fact false. Second, since 9/11 white male Christian extremists have killed far more Americans than Muslims have. Third, the overwhelming majority of people killed by Islamic extremists (most following a perversion of Islam) are in fact Muslims. Why do you think all those migrants are fleeing the Mideast??!?

  70. Christian phobia here in the U.S. has never killed anyone...

    But per FBI statistics, more Christian terrorists have killed more Americans in the U.S. since 9/11 than have Muslim terrorists in the U.S..

    And from the perspective of a great many, Americans using long-range bombs and drones have killed many more thousands innocent Muslims than have Muslims killed Americans.

    A very worthwhile discussion might be to ask if we're creating the very Muslim terrorism we decry, through our attacks against Doctors Without Borders hospitals in Muslim nations, or against wedding parties, killing dozens of children...

    Kind of a which came first, the chicken or the egg debate, really...

  71. America's relationship with Saudi Arabia has its roots in oil. Numerous administrations going back to the 1940s have contributed to this poisonous relationship. the relationship was protected so the flow of oil from Saudi Arabia would continue unabated.

    I'm certain at some level Saudi Arabia can be tied to 9/11. Their virulent form of Islam continues the centuries long religious war underway in the Middle East. If they had no oil Saudi Ariabia and their corrupt Kings would be herding camels today.

  72. "America's relationship with Saudi Arabia has its roots in oil." it still is true, but we must acknowledge that it now linked to the massive arm deals that benefit the whole american industry

  73. The Saudis should take this seriously. When Nick waxes this politically incorrect, there’s a groundswell happening that shouldn’t be overlooked or minimized. If he’s this outraged, imagine how the Euros must feel: they might just declare a “Despise Israel AND Saudi” day.

    However, there’s RATHER too much oil money at risk for the Saudis and America to find themselves at permanent loggerheads – despite the kingdom’s support of the Wahhabi extremists who are at the source of all the friction.

    Oil-sodden greenbacks conquer all.

  74. One thing's for sure. On this trip Obama won't bow down to King Salman to kiss his ring like he did the first year he was in office -- a deep 90 degree bow at that. Check out the video on YouTube. Guess that was supposed to be part of Obama's "reset" with the Muslim world. Didn't quite work out, did it?

  75. " If he’s this outraged, imagine how the Euros must feel: they might just declare a “Despise Israel AND Saudi” day."
    NK makes a good case fore why we should re-evaluate our relationship tithe Saudi Kingdom - though there is nothing new in the content of his column - we have known of their intolerance and proselytizing behavior for many years while looking the other way, the hypocrisy born is our own shame to assume, not deflect upon others as you have by inventing a nun-existent (redundant emphasis) "despise Israel day" to adjunct a "Saudi" underpin all in the name of a derogatory moniker "Euros".
    It is such hubris that has brought us thus far.

  76. With the possible exception of the PDRK there's no country on the planet whose interests and policies are more inimical to those of the United States than Saudi Arabia. And yet we continue to treat its government as an ally because of oil, Israel and Iran. The secret's out and Americans have begun to notice. The House of Saud is a house of cards and there's no reason for us to ensure its continued survival.

  77. I agree with your description of SA, but there is still one reason for us to help its continued survival. It is the Libya example.

    All that oil will still be there, and all the money that flows to it. What if the place was run by ISIS or al Qaeda -- they are from SA, they are very like SA, they are inspired by thinking from SA, but they are much worse.

    SA now has one of the world's largest defense budgets. It is near 100x Iran's. That is potential for a world of hurt.

  78. @Mark: I hear you but the longer we continue to subsidize the Saudi royals the more we antagonize those same jihadists who are produced by those same madrassas that our oil revenues help to construct. We shouldn't use our own money to plant the seeds of the next 9/11.

  79. ??? Huh?? What does mollycoddling Saudi Arabia have to do with Israel, Stu? Which you may have missed has been an enemy of Israel since the Jewish state was restored in 1948, and only recently have their interests intersected over Iran. Can't help control yourself whenever anything remotely related to Israel is mentioned, can you Stu? Right away the reptilian mind takes over. One day Netanyahu will be gone, and a left of center government will try one more time to offer the Palestinians a great total peace offer they in their right minds would never refuse, just like in 2000 and 2008 ... but they'll refuse anyway. Then what will your excuse be, Stu?

  80. "there truly are dangerous strains of intolerance and extremism within the Islamic world — and for many of these, Saudi Arabia is the source"

    True.

    "its bigotry fuels our bigotry"

    Careful. "Fuels" is very close to "justifies" and will be understood that way by many.

    Willie Horton did not justify racism. No crimes of black criminals justified racism. Did they "fuel" racism in the narrowest sense?

    Outrageous behavior by Israel does not justify antisemitism. Does it "fuel" antisemitism in the narrowist sense?

    There will be plenty who will respond instantly "you can't say that" about blacks or Jews, but they'll nod sagely when it is said about Muslims.

  81. Gasoline thrown on fire does not justify the fire: it fuels it.

  82. You are correct. I criticize the government of israel, not the jewish people. Just like I criticize the government of the saudis and not the people. After all, one could judge christians on that same standard of all are guilty with what some christians do.

  83. If we don't put a stop to the eroding separation of church and state in this country we will have the same problems with our society that the Saudi's now have. I agree that the Saudi Arabian government is full of bigotry but so are the states that have denigrated women by trying to defund Planned Parenthood, and LGBT citizens by trying to enforce laws to conform to their version of the bible.

  84. Very true. It's time for the NYT's to do an investigation and article on the erosion of the separation of church and state here. Perhaps a series to reeducate our people of why we have it and how it's now threatened by evangelical Christians.

  85. "As the land where Islam began, Saudi Arabia has enormous influence among Muslims worldwide."

    There should be a worldwide Muslim movement focused on doing something about the occupation of Islam's two holiest sites by an incorrect and harmful interpretation of Islam, an interpretation most Muslims would hate to live under. American Muslims should be leaders in this movement, because they are free to do so and because they have personal experience of a religious country with a different relation between religious and secular authority.

    Saudis see themselves as the real Muslims, who most exemplify how Muslims should live and govern themselves. This view of the Saudis is not shared by most Muslims, but their disagreement has so far not been adequately communicated, even to themselves. But in truth, neither the Islamic State nor Saudi Arabia represent an acceptable interpretation of Islam, since they both involve too much oppression and extremism.

    One way to show the Saudis that their interpretation of Islam is not acceptable is to organize a boycott of the hajj as long as the entity that administers it also promotes Wahhabism.

    The existence of such a movement would be among the strongest answers possible to our Islamophobia. It would help all of us distinguish between the Islam that is as legitimate as Christianity or Judaism and the false Islam of the Islamic State.

  86. It's of course not just Saudis.

    I've read that even in the more 'modernized' UAE with all its luxury shopping & hedonistic excess, you could be stoned for kissing in public.

    Dubai was definitely not the place to be opening an NYU.

    But wherever there's oil-soaked tuition dollars, or a willing mega-buyer of American-made armaments, there will be an ally, no matter what their hideous repressive laws.

  87. "Saudi Arabia should be renamed the Kingdom of Backwardness."

    Indeed, it is an insult to the oppressed people of that kingdom to call them "Saudis". What nation on earth is named after a tribe or clan? There is no such thing as a "Saudi" except in the sense of being a member of a tribe or clan that, quite literally, owns the denizens of their kingdom and their properties. To be disposed of as they wish. To call them "Saudi" while not having the rights and privileges of the tribe is an abomination of second class citizenry. In the case of the Shi'i minority, make that third-class citizens.

    In the case of Shaykh Nimr, not only was he beheaded, but his body was never returned to his family! Three others, all minors when apprehended, were also executed. Ali Saeed Abdullah Aal-Rebh, 18 at the time of his arrest, was dragged from his classes and executed for the crime of "helping to organize demonstrations through the use of his BlackBerry; attending an address of" Shaykh Nimr. The American media has been virtually silent on the fate of these minors.

    The Saudi tribe may rule the land where Islam began, but by any objective standard there is nothing whatsoever Islamic about them or their rule.

    That said, it is good to finally see the American media slowly awakening to the toxic poison that is the American-Saudi special relationship. Obama's frank comments to Jeffrey Goldberg were also refreshing. So thank you, Nicholas Kristof.

  88. Kudos for Kristof! Saudi Arabia is a medieval (or perhaps as you imply, med-evil) monarchy that practices a truly virulent form of Sunni Islam called Wahhabism that they have been promoting through madrasas throughout the Moslem world. They gave us Osama bin-Laden and most of the 9/11 terrorists and they have promoted the religious war throughout the Arabian peninsula (with the destruction of Yemen) and beyond by insisting that we oust Shiite Alawite Bashar al-Assad in Syria. And yet, because of their vast oil reserves, we've been afraid to challenge them until recently. Now that climate change is forcing a shift away from fossil fuels and hydraulic fracturing has led to our temporary energy independence, we can finally confront this menace. Perhaps President Obama can confront the Saudis and start the process toward peace and stability in this troubled part of the world that has spawned ISIS, another radical form of Sunni Islam, and mass migration of refugees into western Europe.

  89. Saudi Arabia epitomizes bending of our own values and principles for keeping an alley that has

    1) publicly beheaded innocent people whose only crime to protest nonviolently for human rights,
    2) does not have basic human rights for women and minorities,
    3) publicly stoned and enforced public lashings for women who have been raped, killed indiscriminately,
    4) criminally people in Yemen on their proxy war with Iran,
    5) been a financier of the Islamic Terrorist networks around the world, all the same time pretending to be our friend,

    And the list goes on.

    We need to stop our dependance on the house of Saud where we don't need to and have a fair and balanced relationship in the region, because right now we are only shooting our own foot in the long run by blindly supporting these loonies.

    Ps I am a Muslim American.

  90. Well said. I've always wondered why the discussion of terrorism focuses on the results instead of the causes. Surely Saudi Arabia's actions are part of the cause. It would also be in Islam's (and Saudi Arabia's) best interests to address the hateful speech of their virtually unmonitored and in many cases out-of-touch clerics. Most Muslims are law-abiding people who have aspirations and hopes that differ little from those in the rest of the world. Kristof's allusion to the young who want less religion in their lives is an example. Islam is likely to have difficulty retaining its adherents in the developed world and may find itself surrounding by poverty with no hope. I am not aware of other instances where a religion could have such a profound impact on the opportunities and well-being of a group of people, which is sad.

  91. Extremism should always be denounced, whether that comes from our "friends" in Saudi Arabia and Israel, or not. At the same time, it is a tricky situation when we denounce and consequently destabilize if the denouncement goes too far. How, exactly, do we turn off "spigots of incitement?" Stable regimes, whether we agree with them or not, might prove to be in the US best interest. Is that opinion too "cold war," perhaps, but disastrous wars in Iraq and Syria, and the extremism there, prove that point.

  92. Personally, I think it's stupid to blame a religion with billions of adherents for the violent behavior of a relative handful.

    But this whole middle east mess is a product of two things: Bush I's decision to invade Iraq and our dependence on oil as a society and economy. What kind of car do you drive to work Mr. Kristof? Or do you take the subway?

    Saudi Arabia isn't the only oppressive or violent culture in the world. There are terrorists everywhere. Drug dealers have killed a lot more Americans than followers of Islam.

  93. Playing the moral equivalency card in this case simply holds no validity. Wahhabism and the House of Saud are what they are on their own.

  94. Nick - it is refreshing to finally see someone in the liberal media, and the NYT in particular, acknowledge that there is more than knuckle-dragging bigotry behind westerners' skepticism about Islam. Whipped up by the Saudis and their extremist ilk, much of the Islamic world loathes the west and all we stand for, and a remarkable proportion support or at least rationalize the murder of westerners and other non-believers. Arab hatred of Israel has never been due to the presence of a few Jews in a sliver of the Middle East. It is due to resentment that a sliver of enlightened modernism and western technological capability shines in the dark ocean of backwardness that has been the Arab world for a thousand years.

    Liberal thought has engendered a remarkable self-loathing in the west, leading many to blame themselves/ourselves for everything that is not right in the world, and to create excuses for all the backwardness, violence and corruption still characteristic of the Muslim world and Africa. Recognizing that people and cultures are responsible for their own behavior is not bigotry, and taking reasonable steps to protect ourselves is not Islamophobia.

  95. Too many things wrong. 1st the saudis are not representatives of muslims in general. 2nd the jews stole land and killed arabs for that land, this after a history of the west stealing land from the arabs. deals like the balfour agreement where the western powers divided up the arab lands.
    And it is laughable to state the muslims had a 1000 yrs of darkness when quite a bit of our math and science came from them. If it wasn't for the muslims when europe came out of the dark ages, europe would never have had a renaissance.
    The west destroyed the culture of africa and the middle east, just like they did in the americas. recognizing the destructive behavior of the west is not loathing, but realizing the harm we have done. Complaining that those we have destroyed are backwards is bigotry.

  96. You should look in the mirror- the Saudi mafia clan like the rest of the oil despots in the region has been kept in power by your military dollars and elected officials in order to exploit the Muslim world.

  97. You got it exactly right. Saudi Arabia is a backward country, where radical Islam flourishes, as the royal family looks the other way so the fanatic clerics won't bother them. Wahabism preaches extremist rigid religious doctrine, incompatible with today's secular societies, trying to not only sow tolerance of others, but embrace our differences and diversity and preach inclusion in our common humanity. It is an outrage the continuous carnage by fundamentalist jihadists, killing right and left, in the name of an all-loving God. Bigotry doesn't explain it in its full measure, hypocrisy and irrationality come closer, religious violent fanaticism comes closer. ISIS, the Taliban, and similar groups, are blind to the only reality we are sure of, our life on earth, where truth and beauty combine to impart joy when we become one with nature. Unless the Saudis express openly their repudiation of radical Islam, and stop financing the jihadist's cruel and sadistic activities, they must be considered enemies of world peace and justice.

  98. Nothing inspires confidence in your government like 28 pages of crucial information redacted black as night. Mr. Zelikow might be the most honest man on the planet but this fact, juxtaposed with his tepid "assurances" only make him appear to be a groveling Saudi apologist.

  99. One additional note related to the Southwest Airlines ejection of a passenger speaking Arabic -- the passenger that overheard the passenger speaking Arabic also spoke Arabic and was understandably alarmed. The airlines followed protocol and I think it was a cheap shot to include this example as "Islamphobia." You are better than this Kristoff.

  100. Our addiction to oil and drugs may be likely responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in the Middle East, Central and South America and elsewhere, State sanctioned and otherwise.

  101. Our entanglement with Saudi Arabia began as a perceived necessity to provide large quantities of oil to the US at cheap prices while padding the pockets of a few rich companies and individuals. It is a classic problem with the short sighted American tendency to go for the short term profits while avoiding or ignoring the long-term consequences of our actions. It one of our major failings and leaves us with very difficult choices.
    Sometime you just have to admit your mistakes, take the fall, reload and move on. It is time to rethink our foreign policy with regards to the middle east.

  102. "the short sighted American tendency to go for the short term profits"

    You are giving in to the usual tendency to put all blame on corporations. Not to say that corporations are not to blame.

    But cheap gas has always been important to Americans, by which I mean American consumers.

    When we complain about corporations, we are acting like the Johns of a prostitute, complaining that she is a woman without virtue.

    And who, pray, patronizes corporations and gives them money? It is us.

    If we consumers chose we could put ANY corporation out of business in less than a month. But we do not because it is us it is indulging.

  103. Saudi Arabia, like other countries in the region is a collection of tribes - some with more power than others - who hate each other because each other is different. It's all about power and control.

    As we look down our noses at them and others, we also need to look in the mirror. The tribalism of US political parties and the corresponding bigotry, hatred, trash talk, etc. toward those who are different or not in alignment with their philosophies are really no different than the people in Saudi.

    Sadly, our human nature with its insecurities gets us in this sad place across the world, including in the USA.

  104. Americans should care. Absolutely. And we should base our caring about the facts.

  105. Saudi Arabia is not alone as a "wellspring of poison in the Islamic world."
    Or of terrorism.
    Just remember:
    Iran was behind the suicide bombing of that killed 241 US Marine (and 58 French) peacekeepers in Beruit.
    The cry "Death to America" is sanctioned by the government in Iran.
    For decades.
    Prejudice against Muslims, however deplorable, did not sprout unprovoked out of the ether.

  106. What were the US and France doing in Lebanon? "terrorism' does not sprout from the ether either!

  107. Melvin......after 9/11 when Americans asked "Why do they hate us?" It became clear how naive most Americans are regarding what their country has done in the past to provoke a terrorist retaliation.

    Americans cannot afford to be that naive. If they are, their country may continue with belligerent behavior that will precipitate more attacks.

    The same goes for America's military support for Israel. That support can be used as a justification for attacking the United states!

  108. Religion for many is important. It can help make sense of and put order into our lives and our relationship with society, ourselves, our intimate relationships, our values and our hopes for the future. The word itself has the same derivation as "ligament" - it's the stuff that ties the structure together, gives it strength, and allows the body to function. All societies have core values and beliefs.

    Christianity is a broad spectrum. Judaism is a broad spectrum. So, too, Buddhism and many other faiths. At the same time let's recognize our traditions contain strains of intolerance and a desire to impose one's own "orthodoxy" on others. In our own culture this is currently a major issue.

    For a broad view of the history of Islam as a religion and culture I would recommend the various books of Karen Armstrong. For those interested in in the challenges facing today's Islam I recommend the book "Heretic" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Yes Saudi Arabia funds the most severe form of Islamic thought. It is not in anyone's interest to help further that objective. At the same time, it is not in our interest to further our own strains of intolerance.

  109. Nice piece but you left out something of great urgency. Why is it that the super-rich and ever so pious Saudis are allowed a free pass to do nothing for the millions of Moslem refugees fleeing war in their neighborhood, while spending billions of dollars on spreading Wahabism? Perhaps their strategy is to first wait for the refugees to be settled in Germany or elsewhere in Europe, and then they will turn on the spigot by building mosques and schools to preach their poisonous brand of religion. So they spread their influence while sacrificing nothing. And all the while the West is made to look guilty of not doing enough!

  110. "And all the while the West is made to look guilty of not doing enough!"

    But are Russia, India and China saying that the West is not doing enough? They are not.

    It is the West which is beating its breast complaining against itself.

    The danger to Germany is not from Putin or Modi or Xi. It is from Mrs. Merkel.

  111. Well, the Saudis did offer to build 200 mosques in Germany!

  112. If you do a little research, you will find that there are a lot of charitable contributions coming from Saudi Arabia that do not go towards funding the promotion of Salafism. If you don't look, you won't find. It is there to see.

  113. Well said. Bravo. We should stop All aid, especially military, to the Saudis until they stop their intervention in Yemen and prohibit and end ALL aid promoting their Wahhabism.

  114. Bravo for Mr. Kristof. He is telling the truth to power. The U.S. government must hang it head in shame at taking part in Saudi Arabia's vile backwardness in the interest of oil. Supplying arms and intelligence to the Saudis reveals U.S. complicity in war crimes. Rather than diplomatic visits and wrist-slapping, both nations should be in the dock in The Hague.

    The overwhelming majority of Muslims simply want to worship their god in peace while Saudi Arabia's rulers make that impossible in their harmful pursuit of power at any cost. As long as the house of Saud remains at the helm, the Middle East will suffer.

    Bravo, Mr. Kristof.

  115. "The overwhelming majority of Muslims simply want to worship their god in peace" Where is the outrage from the overwhelming majority of Muslims? It's been more than 14 years since 9/11, and the silence has been deafening!

  116. Of course we western Judaeo-Christian descendants of European ancestry never committed any atrocities in the name of our religion. We never engaged in ethnic cleansing or outright genocide as the means to wrest North America from those who first settled the land. We never used our religious beliefs to enslave another people and count them as less than human. We never imprisoned citizens of our country because of their heritage. We never overthrew a legitimate democracy in Iran and installed a dictator to secure our access to cheap oil. It is because our hands are so clean that we can now pass judgment so righteously against the peoples of the Middle East.

  117. I've been reading the same stuff about Saudi Arabia for forty years. It's time to change the channel, I've got other things to do. I just don't care. Maybe they would go back to hating each other and not us if we stopped invading them, and we stopped propping up dictators. And a very belligerent Israel.

    Why do we pour money into the Mideast when Baltimore and Flint are in ruins? Cut our navy in half, get rid of 95%of our nukes, cut the army by half. Let Japan and Korea defend themselves too. It's time.

    Spend the money on energy independence and domestic manufacturing.

  118. It's difficult for me, 14 1/2 years after 9/11, to think that the Royal House of Saud was in the dark about the ripening plans of its native son, Osama bin Laden, and were simultaneously ignorant about his plans to strike America from within.

    As I remember it, W. yawned when told "an attack is imminent"; in the fiery aftermath of the collapsing towers, the Saudis merely shrugged. Israel, our "ally", as the smoke and debris littered Lower Manhattan that afternoon merely replied "now they (Americans) know how it feels." With friends like that, enemies will always be welcome.

    Our reward for being the Middle East's punching bag is Israel's schadenfreude Saudi indifference. I hope that President Obama will be stern with the rulers of this anachronistic medieval kingdom. The wealth of their oil has been the spur of their great evil to their fearful subjects of royal whim and their venomous application of an unforgiving code bereft of any pretense of morality while riding hard the incubus of frenzy disguised as faith.

    We need to sever diplomatic "ties" with these barbarians.

  119. We indeed should sever diplomatic ties with S. Arabia. But, I will not be too concerned if we used our diplomatic muscle to have them pay a super premium on the arms we sell them (i.e., prevent them from buying other people's arms), but also have them fund our military that is active in the Middle East because of the problems they directly created and fomented.

    They have a sovereign fund - that is why.

    We have families of 3000 innocents slaughtered in NY City, and across the world by the mayhem they funded. We need to use our muscle to produce consequences.

  120. Your memory is faulty as regards Israel. It was among the first countries to express its condolences. The comment to which you refer was in the context of the U.S.'s repeated policy statements that Palestinian-initiated terror attacks were somehow a "cycle of violence" and no matter the loss of life, Israel was always called upon to exercise restraint. After 9/11, with the U.S. as victim of terror on its own territory, we exercised restraint by going to war against Aghanistan and Iraq (where we still maintain a presence) and causing far more casualties than in all Israel's conflicts since 1948. Israel continues to provide sugnificant intelligence to the U.S. and remains, unfortunately, a leader in developing tactics to deal with terrorists in urban settings hiding behind their civilian populations. If anything, Western military leaders (as opposed to people whose anti-Israel opinions are inversely proportional to their military knowledge) worry that Israel has set the bar too high and expose their soldiers to harm unnecessarily.
    As to Israel's relations with Saudi Arabia, they appear to be warming after KSA signed a written pledge that it would honor the terms of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty with respect to the two strategic islands Egypt ceded to them. Sorry, no schadenfreude to be found. That's not how international relations work.

  121. If the NYT was really doing its job and serving the public, the facts of how the Saudis foment terrorism--and how we stand by idly and watch--would not be on the "opinion" pages. They would be prominently featured on the pages everyday, alongside coverage of our destruction of the planet in the name of greed and in-depth reporting of the many ways those with power manipulate the system to their own gain. Of course, a press that points out hypocrisy and truth is a fantasy in 2016.

  122. If it's "important to acknowledge that there truly are dangerous strains of intolerance and extremism within the Islamic world — and for many of these, Saudi Arabia is the source," then the over-broad concept of Islamophobia needs to be redefined. Kristof identifies a reasonable basis for the general fear. Compare that with antisemitism which is entirely premised on falsehoods and fantasies.
    As to the "missing 28 pages" from the 9/11 report, if they were all leads that went nowhere, what is the reason for keeping them secret at all, especially given the great public interest? Something doesn't add up. If it's a matter of privacy, you could simply redact the names.

  123. Kristof is too quick to dismiss the 28 pages based solely on Zelikof's word.

  124. Southwest Airlines denies it kicked the passenger off the flight simply because he was speaking Arabic. Other Arabic-speaking Muslim passengers overheard the student and grew alarmed at what he was saying. Southwest says he was removed for the content of what he said, not because he spoke in Arabic. Homeland Security admonishes Americans to speak up if they see or hear something suspicious.

  125. Kristof and the college student thrown off the plane are wrong in their use of the term Islamophobia as a factor in this incident.

    In the article Kristof linked to, the student stated: “I said to him, ‘This is what Islamophobia got this country into,’ and that made him so angry. That is when he told me I could not go back on the plane.”

    The college student has it backwards- Islamophobia in the US didn't cause his poor treatment; terrorists interpreting Islam based on extremist views incubated in environments like Saudi Arabia did, by instilling fear through their killing of innocents.

    Kristof is correct in highlighting Saudi Arabia as a source of Islamic extremism. The reality is that extremists are hijacking Islam to support their ideologies and making life very difficult for moderate Muslims. While the Saudi father Kristof mentions warns of the destabilizing effects of Saudi repression, intolerance and extremism on the Middle East, these ills have deleterious effects on moderate Islam in the eyes of the world. Moderate Muslims must work hard to minimize the extremists, because Islam is at a difficult crossroad.

  126. "Islam at a difficult crossroad" If Islam were truly a a religion of peace, they would have pulled together and put a stop to the barbarism a long time ago.

    The fact is that mankind is at a crossroad, and the human race better choose enlightenment over superstition in all its backward manifestations - and quickly.

  127. A bit of a red herring here, Islam is a decentralized faith that does not report to a central authority and is so is not owned by Saudi Arabia, Islam owns Saudi Arabia. The nation of S.A. does not make or break the religion, the religion exists around and apart from that nation. Saudi Arabia is the keeper of the holy sites, but this is again not something that therefore gives it power over the religion, it is instead an obligation to the religion. The King of S.A. is not the Pope. If his kingdom were to de-fund fundamentalists the fundamentalists would eventually have his head on a platter.

    The problem with Islam is the problem with all religions, it makes claims to scripturally driven actions authorized by non-existent divinity. In this same schema of fundamentalism driving social mores Catholicism for instance enforces the marginalization of poor women in Central & South America.

  128. Well, well, well. It looks like Mr. Kristof is finally (well, sort of) coming around to calling a spade a spade. (Although he still continues to use the word "Islamophobia" as a kind of cover to protect intrinsically harmful ideas from criticism).

    Years after denigrating the rightful critics of Islamism, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Sam Harris, Mr. Kristof seems to be coming around to their side. (Well, sort of.) In the past, Mr. Kristof has labelled honest and fair criticism of Islam as "racist", "gross" and "antagonistic". Ms. Ali -- herself a victim of Islamist misogyny and bigotry who managed to escape -- was even labelled by Mr. Kristof as a "bigot" for intelligently criticizing Islamism. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/09/opinion/nicholas-kristof-the-diversity... and http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/30/books/review/Kristof-t.html)

    After claiming that "Islam is a religion of peace" for so many years, Mr. Kristof now seems to be criticizing the bigoted and divisive elements within it, albeit only laying criticism against Saudi Arabia and Wahhabi Islam. But where do you think the Saudi's intolerant ideology comes from? It doesn't exist in a vacuum. It stems from specific doctrines about apostasy, Paradise, martyrdom, honor, blasphemy, etc.

    Mr. Kristof, at the very least, you owe an apology to the likes of Ms. Ali, Mr. Harris, and other like-minded critics of Islamism. They were right, and now it appears that you are (slowly) coming to this realization, too.

  129. Well said. Mr. Kristof needs to learn more about Islam and what this political ideology really stands for.

  130. You appear to have missed the point of the article and are promulgating the same kind of ignorance that fuels Islamaphobia in the US. He is not addressing Islam but the Saudi brand of Islam. If you take the time to look into it, you will find that the practice of Islam varies from nation to nation. You can't very well compare Indonesia with Saudi Arabia or Saudi Arabia with its neighbors in the Emirates. Mr. Kristof has not changed anything about his approach. He writes against barbarism when he sees it. That is what he did here.

  131. Saudi Arabia is not a country. It is a fief, the personal property of the House of Saud. That's why the Saudis are so afraid of Arab nationalism, and that is why they have worked so very hard to replace Arab and other ethnic nationalisms with a fundamentalist Islamic nationalism. In order to do that they had to declare war on all historically grown Islamic cultures, which is why Saudi Arabia's leading cleric is now ranting against the game of chess and arguing for the demolition of the mosque built over Mohammed's tomb in Medina.

    Over the last four decades, the Saudis have spent north of $100 BILLION on spreading their fundamentalist version of Islam - ten times as much as the former Soviet Union spent on spreading communism. The results of this are visible primarily among Europe's immigrant communities, who have abandoned the historically grown "peoples' Islam" of their parents and grandparents and embraced Wahhabism or the fundamentalism of the Turkish Ministry of Religious Affairs, which sends its preachers to Turkish speaking mosques.

    So, yes, it's about time to engage despots like the Saudis and Erdogan, but not by making deals with them. I think a good start would be a weapons' embargo and a moratorium on Turkey's NATO membership.

  132. While I I agree in theory that we should not be in bed with the Saudi's, there is that old adage about "keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Without an avenue into negotiation or influence, we would not know what is in the wind and they would be able to flourish like the dandelions in my yard. When I see them growing, I can do something about it. If I don't spend time outside, I don't see the change coming, and they all go to seed spreading even more.

  133. I am at core a liberal. BUt having read The crisis in Islam, seen Front line and 60 minutes on Saudi Arabia, and now parts of pentagon papers, I am puzzled why we are still calling this monstres state of The House of Saud/ Saudi Arabia "our friends". Are we really in such need of their blood soaked oil? They do spread Wahhabism and their Sharia laws into Europe taking advantage of their liberal laws.

  134. Interesting that based on the majority of 9-11 WTC terrorists hailing from Saudi Arabia, the Bush administration chose to punish...Iraq. Triangulation gone far beyond crazy. Particularly when the real WMD are none other than indoctrination in hate.

  135. The idea was that if a democratic progressive society was established somewhere in the Arab world, the example would drain away any attraction to jihadism and al Qaeda. Iraq seemed a perfect choice because it had a fairly large educated population and was laboring under the tyrannical rule of a genocidal dictator who had already started two bloody wars in the past. In short, the best way to combat a bad idea is with a good idea.

    Unfortunately, the strategy turned out to be clever by half. The Bush admin and many others failed to realize Saddam Hussein's terrible regime was holding together a dysfunctional house of cards in the Arab world, as well as serving as a foil for Iran's ambitions; and once removed the whole Arab world fell apart. A sad commentary that for now considering the rise of ISIS and the horrors in Syria and Libya it looks like the best thing for the Arabs was to keep that monster in power.

    That said, of all the Arab countries that were destabilized by the Arab Spring which certainly owes a large part of its motivation to the once unthinkable image of once all-powerful terrifying Saddam Hussein obediently opening his mouth to a Marine to check his teeth, Tunisia's new democratic government seems to be holding for the moment. If anything positive ever comes from the "Arab Spring" maybe this will be one.

  136. Well.,it seems that more op-ed columnists (Friedman, the Editorial Board, Cohen and now Kristof) in the NYT have come to the realization that Saudi Arabia has much to do with the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. Who could have anticipated that fracking was going to have such positive impact. God works in strange ways!

  137. Don't you really think that the Saudis are just the Republican elites of the middle east? A bunch of wealthy old men addicted to power and willing to do anything (particularly to women) in order to keep that power. Using the guise of religion and economic well being, the Saudi leaders claim to be acting in the best interests of their citizens when in fact they are just trying to keep it all for themselves.

    Are we certain that Cruz, McConnell and Ryan aren't actually Saudis in disguise?

  138. buttercup, please tell me who are the Saudi analogs to Sara Palin (Republican and female), Ben Carson (black and Republican), Nikki Haley (female again).

    You may not LIKE Sarah Palin few Democrats do) but it is undeniable that she once enjoyed a lot of power in the Republican party, unlike any Saudi woman.

    True. the Republicans are not enthusiastic about abortion or transgender bathrooms, or the4 ACA, but that hardly makes them the followers of Wahabbism.

  139. The "brutal war in Yemen" bears the signature of King Salman and his 30-year old son, deputy crown-prince Mohammed bin Salman. Despite his inexperience he was appointed as minister of defence.
    Since King Salman's accession to the throne over a year ago, there are members within the House of Saud, who have called for a "change" in leadership to fend off a collapse of the kindom. They blame him for creating unprecedented problems that would endanger the monarchy’s continued survival. Indeed with over 10,000 members and shrinking oil revenues, they ought to do some soul searching and mull over their future.
    Oil has certainly corrupted the Saudis. Before the discovery of oil in the Shia-dominated Eastern Province, the largest in Saudi Arabia, the country was pastoral and poor. While many today live a life of excess and extravagance, some resort to spirituality - Wahhabism. They finance the spread of the austere interpretation of Islam and support madrassas in impoverished Muslim countries that spawn Islamic extremism, aiming to eliminate all infidels. Saudi authorities capitalise on sectarian violence to oppress their own Shia minorities.

  140. We use their oil to finance our bigotry. They use our money to finance their bigotry. What is the difference? Business as usual.

  141. So, Bush/Cheney DID invade the wrong country after all.

  142. Mr Kristoff,
    I wish you or someone would educate on how one goes about addressing religious extremism specific to Saudi Wahhabism? How, exactly, does one deprogram or at least minimize religious belief?
    Sensitive as it may be for President Obama, the issue of Saudi Wahhabism support and dissemination needs to be addressed face to face during his visit. Few, if any, world leaders have the credibility and intellectual abilities to start the discussion on this core issue.
    Historically religious fanaticism and ideologies do not go gently into the good night.
    I look forward to your report.

  143. One thing you don't do is defend them and arm them! Obama must be insane. I'm sorry but there is no excuse for arming them, none!

  144. Why isn't there more outrage over the student-removal-from-plane incident? Would Southwest Airlines have ejected the student if Allah had not been invoked? If I invoke God would I be ejected? Does SW have a list of acceptable gods and not OK gods?

  145. It would be so easy.

    There is civil war or social unrest in nearly every muslim country, and the muslims are not fleeing to saudi-arabia or another muslim country, but to europe. And it is the black war flag of the islam, the flag of Boko Haram, Shaabab, Daesh and all the others, they fear. (But the most awkward thing is, that they adore this bland pastor's daughter from east germany - just can get over that one).
    Even the ex-wife of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi heads for europe:
    http://edition.cnn.com/2016/03/31/europe/abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-isis-ex-wi...

    We should mock the jihadists and their superiority complex with this refugee movement, we should promulgate to the arabian world - don't come to europe, this continent is run by christians, atheists and other sort of evil infidels.
    Why don't you go to saudi arabia, this country is rich, and it is 180% muslim.

    You can accuse just Saudi Arabia of bigotry, but actually the whole muslim ideology is failing. And we could send this message to the whole islamic world, start reflecting on your misery. And never before, not before refugees from Senegal to Pakistan started risking their life to come to europe, never before it had been so easy to counter this export of bigotry.

  146. Excellent insight, Mathias. Thanks.

  147. What is most depressing is that Saudi is now pushing Al Queda proxies, Ahrar Al Sham and Jaish Al Islam, to scuttle peace in Syria as part of their manufactured "oposotion", the HNC. These groups are different from ISIS in name only.

    They do this while not letting in a single Sunni refugee family settle in Saudi. The UNHCR list only 211 refugees in Saudi, less they 200 miles away from Syria.

    The Saudis are keeping Sunni families trapped in Syria or Turkey and the world says nothing as hundreds drown at see.
    In the mean time Saudis build huge empty office buildings, indoor ski resorts or ship by air gold plated cars to London.

  148. Let's just stop importing oil from OPEC and forget about Saudi Arabia. A $15 per barrel import duty on all oil from OPEC should do it.

  149. President Obama is on the right track. Thoughtful and intelligent in his approach. The USA does not need Saudi Arabia as much as Saudi Arabia needs America.

  150. @Paul
    It's not about oil. It's about balance of power...

  151. Will readers ever learn why Kristof did not make the Saudi Family-Wahabi connection?

    Dore Gold wrote a fascinating book about it, "Hatred's Kingdom," and the title says it all.

  152. And in yesterday's news...........immediately following the 9/11 attacks, all air traffic was grounded. One exception was made: members of the extended Bin Laden family were rounded up and safely flown out of the country. Makes you wonder.........

  153. Gee Bill, you're making me think that a temporary ban on Muslim immigration might be such a bad idea after all...

  154. Among the sentences given primarily to Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia for real or imagined future legal transgressions are beheading, stoning to death, a thousand whip lashes, and other brutalities. But our government, and U.S. citizens doing business with, or hoping to, are not supposed to mention these brutalities. Though when the same horrific acts are visited upon non-Arabs by terror armies like ISIS and Al Qaeda, they are presented in our media as if they are of a special, unprecedented magnitude of cruelty and barbarism.
    But our munitions industries are not selling tens of billions of dollars of weapons to ISIS or Al Qaeda (though plenty of those weapons wind up in those wrong hands). We're selling them to Saudi Arabia; we continue to purchase immense amounts of oil from them as well. President Obama is in Saudi Arabia to dissuade the ruling Saud family from buying cluster bombs to use in their country's attacks against Yemen, which has already led to hundreds of citizen deaths, including 24 children in an air attack on a market. No one has yet explained why those children's lives were worth less than those of the children in Sandy Hook, CT, or why the adult deaths on that day were worth less than the adults slaughtered in a Colorado movie theater.
    If the historic split that led to Sunni and Shia Muslims is worth massacring each other over, let them do it themselves, with their own delusions and their own weapons.

  155. I totally agree. But I wonder--what should the U.S. do? Treat S.A. like we do Iran? Stop buying oil from them? It will make our oil prices go way up and they will continue to sell to other countries. Can we tell them to change their religion? (Imagine if Washington told the Vatican to become more liberal?). I don't see a solution here and I wonder if anyone else does, either.

  156. We have a wonderful opportunity at this time in history to make Muslims confront their theology. Why lose it by calling legitimate worries ``Islamophobia''? There are objectionable materials in all religious scriptures, but Islam is the only religion which states that no changes are permissible. These changes must occur, and a little nudge from outside, if that works, is a force of good.

  157. I think you need to speak to some ultra-Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Christians to see that the "no changes are permissible" charge applied to them as well.

  158. The 9/11 commission, dominated by Republicans, served to whitewash the culpability of the President of the United States for the 9/11 disaster. Philip Zeikow, of the 9/11 Commission, is a friend of George W. Bush. We are entitled to see what those 28 missing pages say.
    And I say this, after the next election, let's have another 9/11 commission.

  159. Until things went smooth for the US and Saudi Arabia moved along the US scripted geopolitical strategic script in the Middle East and Afghanistan-Pakistan region there was no problem for the US with its Arabian ally, even with its role in the 9/11 was ignored, left to surface for an opportune moment as now. It was only with the changed Middle East situation involving the post-Arab Spring dynamics, emergence of the ISIS threat, Iraq/Syria/Yemen conundrum, and the Iran nuclear deal, and the divergent policy pursuit by the US and the Saudi Arabia in all these matters that the US' close ally Saudi Arabia fell from the former's favour and now looked with suspicion. Thus what the whole world knew since decades, and suffered also the consequences, that the Saudi Arabia was the main ideological and financial source of support for the spread of the radical Islamist creed, the Salafi Wahhabism, throughout the world the US comes to know now when things have gone out of control, surprisingly for both the US as well as the Saudi Arabia.

  160. At least more and more people are now openly recognizing the root cause of the whole mess! I hope Saudi Arabia comes to some sense and change its thinking sooner than later. Everyone agreeing with the Saudis' behavior till now is completely silent and they should be called also. Thank you Prof. Sharma.

  161. I'll say again what I've been trying to get people to understand for years - That our "oil pusher" is using our own money to kill us and destroy western civilization as we know it.
    This is yet another reason to move past fossil fuels, coal and oil first, and into a renewable energy economy even if that means embracing technologies like fracking that help reduce greenhouse gasses (from coal) and put us on a more energy independent footing.
    Lets hope the next President recognizes the true threat posed by this vile regime and delivers an energy policy that leaves the Saudis needing to reform an economy that is currently based on tapping the ground to sell the "Devils Blood", to an economy that taps into the creative energies of their own people - especially women.

  162. "Lets hope the next President recognizes the true threat posed by this vile regime and delivers an energy policy that leaves the Saudis needing to reform an economy that is currently based on tapping the ground to sell the "Devils Blood", to an economy that taps into the creative energies of their own people - especially women."

    If we could summon the courage to elect Sanders, your hope will be realized. Hillary, (the last I heard) supports fracking.

  163. A stable and modern middle east that respects the rights of minorities and women, provides meaningful employment for their population, and allows their populations to live in dignity would be in our own best strategic interest. We might have to pay a few dollars more for oil and be able to export less weapons. But we would save far more money on not having to fight un-winnable wars, or Europe becoming destabilized by a flood of refugees fleeing a sinking ship. But on all these points, Saudia Arabia more than any other country, works to undermine this best-possible outcome and we in the western world, support them in doing so blindly because of short-term interests and narrow tactical thinking.

  164. Either Mr. Kristof is blatantly lying, or he's a poor reporter. The student who was removed from a Southwest flight to be questioned by police was not removed because he was speaking Arabic. He was removed from the flight because other Arab speaking passenger who overheard his conversation became alarmed by what they heard. A huge difference. How can he not make this distinction? It's turned around the story 180 degrees. Kristof and others like him continue to give cover to the legitimacy of a belief system that is not only antithetical to modern, progressive human rights values, but is a culture medium for growing intolerance and oppression throughout the world. Women, whom Kristof purports to always be supporting, bare the brunt of this doctrine with disastrous consequences.

  165. My theory is that to understand the strategic mindset of the Saudi Government, one needs to study the Byzantine empire. The Saudi Government, like the Byzantines in their decline were an entity fighting to maintain its position while surrounded by increasingly stronger enemies. Even more so, the Saudi theocracy allows the royal family to rule by means of a precarious balance of power while suppressing an increasingly virulent internal pressures from the Saudi citizens themselves. The government survives as did the Byzantines by playing off factions against each other, by quietly supporting just about everyone with it financial largesse except the one real external threat to them, Iran. Saudi's do not necessarily want a resolution to anything in the middle east. Israel, Syria and now Iraq, which was a buffer to Iran but now, thanks to us, is a threat. I think Mr. Kristof is correct, but I think we need to at least understand the strategic difficulties in the Saudi position in order to be able to effectively deal with the instability they cause. Its not so simple to say the Saudi Govt. is exporting religious extremism, its a much more complex situation.

  166. how complex would the situation be if religious extremism was not supported and exported? We don't know and never will.

    Their medieval ideology creates the complexity you make excuses for.

  167. The view of the world using a Saudi lens is increasingly ominous. Iran is about to emerge from sanctions and challenge Saudi hegemony in the region.The Royal family is all too aware of what happened to authoritarian Sunni leaders in Egypt,Libya, and Tunisia and their enemy, Assad in Syria. The existential challenge faces the Saudi's is domestic unrest. 46% of their population is under the age of 24. Youth unemployment is a key issue and potential threat to Saudi stability.In 2016 they will face a budget deficit for the first time. The decline in oil revenues means that the Saudi government can no longer subsidize key commodities and pay for most everything else.80% of the Saudi population receives financial support from the government. As the population grows and per capita oil revenues decline the Saudi's face the almost certain prospect of social unrest.The overwhelming majority of the labor force are immigrants. The financial alliance between the Wahabbi clerics and the Royal family will be severely tested. The oil growing self sufficiency of the U.S.,means the Saudi's will no longer be able to manipulate the U.S.as they once did. The confluence of these factors underscores the importance of Obama's visit.

  168. "Saudi" Arabia has already entered its death spiral. It has been an anachronism since 1945, and in recent decades has become an increasingly grotesque one. Its foundations are corruption and religious intolerance, with strong overtones of racism and xenophobia. Anywhere from a quarter to a half of the population of the country is exploited foreign workers. The recent disasters in Mecca hint that, even with all that money, the Saudis can't even competently administer the privileges they claim. They've inflicted a pointless war on Yemen, in opposition to practically unanimous world opinion. And their No. 2 is a 30-year-old would-be Saladin who doesn't even have strong support within the Saudi clan! Time for the U.S. to cut itself loose. Iran is a much more promising horse to back.

  169. Saudi Arabia is the ideal of many in America: The job creators do whatever they want, and religion rules the land.

    People should believe whatever makes them smile, but it would be better for all involved if crazy people were kept away from the levers of power.

    However, in a theocracy a prerequisite for wielding power is an abiding faith in one's own creation myth. There magical thinking is viewed not as psychosis but rather as an appreciation of the augmentation of reality by one's own big buddy, who in order to express his boundless love can require spectator-wincing cruelty from his human acolytes.

    Eventually, those of us who live in the present will tire of these hypnotized sadomasochists. It's likely that many kids across the Middle East are as jaded about their Dad's Islam as many young people here are fed up with starry-eyed zealots wielding crucifixes spouting garbage about sex and the origin of species.

    Simply put, it's hard to criticize the Saudis when people like Ted Cruz might someday be sworn in as our President.

    Now the Saudis, a hillbilly clan that was shootin' at some crude when up from the ground came a bubbling crude, are threatening the Earth's most powerful nation in order to hide its royal family's complicity in a terrorist attack that was coordinated and carried out by Saudis and for which we attacked Iraq.

    Release the pages. Let those who are so inclined argue that the report is flawed; let's have a debate about the complicity of the House of Saud.

  170. This article implies that President Obama could discipline and correct the Sunni Saudis if he just tried harder.
    That would be oh so loverly. You want him to do it in the next six months?
    My father headed a substantial contingent of McDonnell Douglas employees who set up camp in Saudi Arabia in the early Eighties, after the US sold that nation an enormous, expensive fleet of F-15 ("Eagle") fighter jets.
    That plane lasts a long time. It is well built, well-designed, and capable. It may be the most potent and handsome killer aircraft ever made. I expect that the Saudis still own many of these large flying machines.
    Anybody searching for an explanation of America's long collaboration with the Saudis must go back at least twenty years. And follow the money.

  171. It takes more than tacky guilt furniture and the accouterments of modernity in the shape of glitzy shopping malls and high-speed expressways to wall paper over a primitive, backward society that has done immeasurable harm to a willing world. If we explored other sources of energy and cut our dependency on this tribal land they'd sink back into the isolation of their deserts and leave the rest of us alone. It is we, Western Europe and teh US who have given the Saudis the power to dictate the discourse. How's that worked for us?

  172. once renewable energy becomes the main sources of energy for largest economies and oil revenues can no longer support the repressive, backward, corrupt and authoritarian regimes; those nations will either have to change or disappear. the autocrats and theocrats will finally be revealed that they have no clothes.

  173. The background that Nick recounts has always been there for everyone to see. It wasn't hidden, we just chose not to talk about it.

    We need to talk about it. That's a good thing. But the only answer that will work is to find ways to encourage and convince Saudi leaders that their approach has hurt them, as well as people around the world. Their culture needs to change.

    Surely by now we realize that such a change can not be made by the exercise of our military power. Or at least I hope the nation has learned that lesson.

  174. The long standing policy of Saudi Arabia's foreign policy mostly entails the tendency to bribe and corrupt the leaders of Muslim countries without the slightest inclination for the good of those countries economic development. Notice the recent admission of its foreign minister admitting that the ruling family gave the prime minister of Malaysia over $650 million dollars. What an affront to the the stable country of Malaysia. It will easily lead to political instability and corrode the political process in Malaysia.

  175. You are so right, I wish all fair minded people see this and denounce this action by the Saudis! Thank you for your expression

  176. It should maybe be borne in mind that the regions where Mecca and Medina are located are regions that were part of the transjordan until conquered by the Sauds. The people in those regions are far more cosmopolitan (as far as they are able to be) than the people of the other parts of Saudi Arabia, who are mostly descendants of the desert tribesmen. Even inside Saudi Arabia there are significant internal rift lines, which is precisely why the Sauds do what they do. its all about winning in a region where not winning is traditionally fatal, for whole families. Contact and interaction is the best cure for that - which is precisely why the more reactionary parts of Saudi Arabia try to keep that separation going. Trump's policy is pro-islamic extremist. The Ikwhan would love Trump and his ideas. He's the best thing for them since George W Bush.

  177. The US has had for many years a 'special relationship' with Saudi Arabia built on a three legged stool; our need for their oil, their need for our military protection, and our need for a stable site for our huge military air base. Under this relationship Saudi Arabia could willingly engage in extremism support and war fairly free of direct US condemnation.

    The US now has its own oil - that's a huge change in the dynamics. The significance is such that the Saudi's have actively attempted to destroy US oil producers by driving oil's price below what US producers can sustain. It hasn't worked; the Saudi's are clearly flummoxed and worried because the one country which kept them safe - no longer needs their commodity.

    It's a certainty that President Obama knows this too; and that's why he is there. Where do we go from here when a strategic underpinning is gone; and what change can Obama elicit from the Saudi government now that they need us more than we need them.

  178. Seventy years ago our leaders didn't hesitate to recognize that the Soviet's goal of imposing their totalitarian, undemocratic system on the world was an enemy to the ideals of The Enlightenment.

    Wahhabism is not really much different as it too seeks purity of thought and belief at the exclusion of all other points of view. But it is far more dangerous than Soviet thinking long term because it promotes Jihad and there are billions of Muslims. (In contrast, the Soviets had to convert people away from their long held traditional religions and social beliefs to communism.)

    Saudi Arabia is ideologically an enemy of the USA, and ideology is where the rubber hits the road in the long term.

  179. Gradually I've come to the conclusion that the best thing for the entire world would be a Saudi collapse and a return to the desert.

    If we didn't need their oil, why would should we even try to engage with a medieval theocracy? I'd not "exterminate the brutes!" as a Colonel Kurtz might, but I'd love to just walk away from a nation that bred a toxic version of an ancient and honorable faith. If change is going to come to The Kingdom, it will have to be from within.

    That's not a position that would sell in this election year. There's little wonder, after every terrorist attack, for the lumpenproles' and our theocrat Ted Cruz's appetite for carpet-bombing.

  180. I've been saying for some time that Saudi Arabia is like the elephant in the room when it comes to Islamic extremism. Along with oil, it's their largest export, a fact we've been ignoring for years. We may do business with them, but they are not our friends, and certainly not friends to the free world. We've spent billions trying to achieve stability in their neighborhood, and in return, they work against us by breeding, supporting, and exporting the most violent forms of radicalism.

  181. As usual Nick Kristof has it 100% right. I find it amazing and genuinely depressing and scary that the 2 leading Republican candidates and some of top reader's pick comments here say that Islamophobia does not exist - that it is not only okay but necessary to hate ALL Muslims - the millions of American Muslims, 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide deserve to be treated as a monolithic evil - that carpet bombing, making the sand glow, using nuclear weapons to kill millions of men, women and children is needed. That EVERY Muslim through guilt by association deserves the hatred, suspicion and dehumanization - it's not bigotry, it's rational and justified from a superior, civilized people. Yet we have no responsibility for propping up an evil Saudi regime for 70 years - a Faustian deal first struck by FDR - for oil, selling weapons, fighting Iraq War on behalf of Saudi-Israel alliance creating AQI and ISIS, using Saudi fighters including Bin Laden in our CIA war in Afghanistan in the 80's. There is legitimate criticism of ALL Islam, but bigotry in the form of Islamphobia (like any bigotry) is wrong - denying that the bigotry even exists is a sign of that very bigotry (just like denying or justifying racism, sexism or Anti-Semiticsm is wrong), and as long as we have a pact with the devil known as Saudi Arabia, we will continue to face the GLOBAL horror of Wahhabi terrorism for all humanity but with its largest target being other Muslims and Islam. Thanks to Kristof for the truth.

  182. Thank you Mr. Kristof for your insightful column. I have never understood our allegiance to a country which practices a barbaric form of Sharia Law. Beheadings, surgically removing eyes and hands are hideous punishments under that system of law.
    Wahhabism, the most austere form of Islam, is Saudi Arabia's dominant faith, and through the madrassas as you have pointed out, extremists and yes, terrorists are cultivated. Strict Wahhabis believe if you do not practice their form of Islam you are a heathen and the enemy. Saudi Arabia is a royal theocracy, and it is the Wahhabi clerics, who are the real power behind the throne. The Saudis are not now, and have never been a friend of the United States. Osama bin Laden came from Saudi Arabia, not Iraq.

  183. This is Obama's legacy too. He turned his back on Americans, free speech and human rights and embrace the theocrats in Saudi Arabia. As he rushes to placate the cruel and vicious babies in Saudi with more weapons and a tasteless and disturbing apology because American want to hold the Saudis responsible for the terror they have funded....

    I just read That the Financial Times has reported that in 2014 the Saudis admitted that they created ISIS as a SUNNI response to the Shia government of IRAQ! And yet we still kowtow we still send money. Disgraceful.

  184. Nicholas-- nice try, but you cannot have your cake and...eat it too.

    Trump was the first to call out the Saudi's while you sat back.

  185. We are approaching the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. That's FIFTEEN years! And still the "28 pages" of the Joint Congressional Inquiry remain secret thanks to an order from Bush Junior that the findings of the Inquiry be permanently kept secret. Mr. Zelikow's assurances notwithstanding, it's difficult not to believe that there is a conspiracy in place to protect the oil monarchy of Saudi Arabia from public disclosure about its supposed role in the 9/11 attacks. Why else keep the findings secret for so long?

    If the governments of the United States and Saudi Arabia wish to have any credibility at all on this matter, release the full report now; continued secrecy will only fuel speculation that there is something damning about Saudi Arabia's involvement in 9/11 that is being kept from the American public.

  186. I share the concerns of many about our complicity with Israel.
    But it is hard to decide, what's more sinister, our collusion with Saudi Arabia.
    The butcher, Salman, has executed 82 people the first three months of 2016. Most for non-violent crimes, for renouncing Islam, "deviant conduct" - read LGBT. Even the butcher, Assad, of Syria has ridiculed the Saudis for their ISIL-style beheadings.
    We need explanations: Prince Bandar almost weekly visiting the Bush White House, more than any foreign diplomat. The Saudis allowed to depart the USA on 9/11 even when Gore and Clinton flights were interdicted. Fifteen of the 9/11 perpetrators Saudi, $50 BILLION for worldwide fanatic Wahhabism.
    Now, they insult us like Israel: civil servants greet Obama on arrival, Israel's announces new settlements on Biden's visit, Dermer colludes with Republicans to invite extremist Netanyahu to Congress. And for the past two years, the Saudis have been perpetrating Gaza-scale atrocities on Yemeni civilians with our collusions. It appears, in fairness, that Obama is waking up to the nightmare that is our relationship that is the fanatic, misogynist regime that is Saudi Arabia but too little, too late.

  187. Thank you for highlighting one of the root causes of terrorism and the backward slide in many Islamic societies: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Judging by the highly recommended ignorant and sweeping comments here about Islam and Muslims, this clarity is much needed - sadly, even by NY Times readers.

    Hopefully one day soon we'll have the courage to remove one of the key pillars on which the Saudi monarchy is based - security from our support. The other pillar, in case you're wondering, is support from the Wahhabi religious establishment.

  188. Some Muslim scholars have equated identified ISIS as the new Kharjirites who as I understand it were pious, self-righteous and murderous people who insulted the Prophet, killed and assassinated those who disagreed with them including some of the first caliphs. They justified this by defining all but their fellow believers as not Muslims enough.
    How much of a leap is this ideologically from Wahhabism?

  189. The only difference between ISIS and Saudi Arabia is that Saudi Arabia stops short of using violence to enforce their beliefs (unless it's to execute one of their own). Other than that, their beliefs are the same (Wahhabi form of Islam). It's no wonder 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudis.

  190. "Such attitudes contradict our values and make us look like a bastion of intolerance."
    Mr. Kristof, you mean the nation that is trying mightily to elect Donald Trump to build a wall at the border, thinks that our President is a Muslim, non-citizen, would jail women who miscarry, demand a birth certificate before entering a public bathroom and fights to display the Confederate flag, which are OUR REAL VALUES? No, that country isn't a bastion of intolerance. It's a confederacy of dunces.

  191. The college student kicked off a flight for speaking Arabic.....a clear case of bigotry against Muslims. Maybe not. Another passenger who knew Arabic heard words Isis and "God willing". Like reporting unattended bags, isn't reporting this what we are told to do?

    Unfortunate but inevitable. There are probably better examples to make the case

  192. What binds us to Saudi Arabia: Oil, Banking, Defense. What drives us apart: 15 Saudi terrorists attack on 9/11, continued support for Wahhabism and Salafism, providing arms and military support for ISIS/Al Qaeda in Yemen, absolute monarchy in a theocratic state, subjugation and abuse of women, foreign workers, non-Sunnis, all other faiths.
    Our greed pollutes the earth and jeopardizes the future. Fossil fuels are at the core and Saudi Arabia is the primary vendor.
    What's to like? Maybe if we get divorced from Saudi Arabia, we could become friends later? No, doesn't seem likely.

  193. Ted Cruz says he wants to carpet bomb (a violation of the Geneva convention and how exactly did that carpet bombing work out in Vietnam - over a million Vietnamese killed and we lost the war), to make the sand glow (does not happen with conventional bombs but does with nuclear bombs), has Frank Gaffney and others from Gaffney's group as his foreign policy team - Gaffney who has accused Gov. Christie, Justice Kagan, General Petraeus, Grover Norquist, Hillary Clinton, CPAC of being under the influence of Shariah and Radical Islam; Gaffney is a total hate ALL Muslims mentally unstable bigot, that Obama is a Muslim. Trump also cites and admires Gaffney. Wants to ban ALL Muslims (how do you do that?), torture and target terrorist family members to be killed, says thousands of Muslims celebrated 9/11 (a complete lie), says ALL Islam hates the West (a perfect mirror of what Al Queda and ISIS say). This type of Islamaphobia causes us to not just kill the Wahhabi terrorists, who deserve to be killed and to condemn their underlying Saudi/Wahhabi ideology (and that is NOT Islamaphobia), but to also kill hundreds of thousands and possibly millions (if we use nuclear bombs) of innocent Muslims (most who are victims of Wahhabi terrorism) and hate ALL Muslims in guilt by association - the definition of bigotry. It is bigotry that causes us to NOT target the real enemy. And we have commentators saying that Islamaphobia does not exist or is fully justified. Really?

  194. Thanks, Nick. I thought maybe the Saudi Royal Family (which IS the Saudi government) might have been involved in the 9-11 attacks. But it puts my mind at rest to know that 'Philip Zelikow of the 9/11 Commission' told you 'the 28 pages are “misleading”; the commission found there was “no evidence” of the Saudi government or senior officials financing the plot.'
    Of course, when there is "no evidence", one doesn't want to have a messy investigation to seek the evidence. It might just be more "misleading".

  195. Please clarify, weren't the 9/11 hijackers Saudis?

  196. SAUDI ARABIA Has long been known to fund terrorism in the Mideast by paying for arms for its proxies to carry out terrorist attacks on Israel, for example. Kissinger encouraged the oil crisis, for example, by telling the Saudis, among others, If you don't like US policies on Israel then raise your oil prices. The rest is history. Now that oil is plummeting in price, Saudi Arabia and other nations that sponsor terrorism are losing their reach. Another area where Saudis engage in barbaric practices is when its religious leaders claim that the Quran requires both female as well as male circumcision, meaning that Saudis as well as other women may be forced to undergo female genital mutilation for "religious" reasons. Still, Obama did the right thing by visiting. Indeed, there is justification found in a traditional Arabic saying, Hold you friends close and your enemies closer. The corollary of that is the saying, The enemy of my enemy is my friend. How to deal with violence presented as religious doctrine is a difficult paradox to understand and to move beyond. Where will it all end? When asked when the Arabs will stop killing the Israelis, Golda Meir's response was, They will stop the terrorism when they love their sons more than they hate us. I believe that thinking is not limited to the Arabs' attitude toward Israelis.

  197. If Saudi Arabia is the brain and the bank, Pakistan is the arm and the gun.

  198. Nick your closing statement is all one needs to know to understand what is happening in so called Islamic world; and that is “… let’s acknowledge that Saudi Arabia is more than our gas station; it is also a wellspring of poison in the Islamic world, and its bigotry fuels our bigotry…”

    I have been commenting for many years about the effect of the Saudi/Wahhabi money right here in this country. Saudis have been funding schools, mosques, and centers here for decades with one thing in mind. It has never been their intention to convert non-Muslims to Islam, but to convert the Sunni Muslims into Wahhabis, the extremist interpretation of Islam. The same that Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram, Ahrar Al Sham, Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, and ISIS follows.

    The Saudis used King Abdullah of Jordan to come here and start the Sectarian narrative talking about an imaginary Shia Crescent in Middle East on Charlie Rose show. Saudis also used the so called think tanks to further that narrative for the last decade. It furthered the Saudi aim of sowing discord amongst the Sunnis and Shias of Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Syria amongst other places. The Saudis also used the power of the purse to bribe leaders in Pakistan (Nawaz- $1.5 Billion), in Indonesia and Malaysia (which only recognizes Sunni Islam as Islam now). All this was to protect themselves as the true guardian of faith.

    Times have changed and we as a nation have begun to realize their true colors. Hopefully it is not too late.

  199. I can't understand people's comments here, Yes there are group of Muslims terrorists have killed innocent people, you all blamed Saudi Arabia. What about Invasion of Iraq, this is one of the worst thing happened in the humankind in this era, you can't imagine how many innocent people have been killed from US military, and also you can't imagine how many extremism religion group have established after that.

  200. Saudi Arabia has not been the number one recipient of American military aid since the end of World War II. Saudi Arabia does not have a West Bank, East Jerusalem nor Golan Heights colony.

    Saudi Arabia is not engaged in a state sponsored ethnic sectarian blockade/siege apartheid terror campaign in Gaza. Saudi Arabia does not pretend to be Muslim and democratic while treating 20% of it's people as 2nd class citizens. Saudi Arabia does not have any nuclear weapons nor a domestic American pro Saudi Arabia lobby unconnected to fossil fuel or other economic interests. Saudi Arabia has more than 6.1 million people as citizens and more than 16 million people in total. Saudi Arabia has the largest fossil fuel reserves on Earth. Osama Bin Laden and 15 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.

    The Israeli Empire is America's morally economically militarily diplomatically costliest most worthless "ally." Saudi Arabia is in the running for 2nd place. Choosing between King Benjamin and King Salman in the annals of perfidy is a tough call.

    Saudi Arabia is not the most populous Arab country. Saudi Arabia is not a civil secular military autocratic dictatorship that is the 2nd biggest recipient of American military aid. The latest Egyptian Pharoah Abdel Fattah al -Sisi certainly creates and generates more Islamic extremist orgainzation than he destroys. The lead 9/11 hijacker and current al Qaeda leader are both Egyptian.

    With "allies" like this America needs no more enemies.

  201. "Saudi Arabia is not engaged in a state sponsored ethnic sectarian blockade/siege apartheid terror campaign in Gaza." No, but they do in Yemen.

    " Saudi Arabia does not pretend to be Muslim and democratic while treating 20% of it's people as 2nd class citizens." You are right. SA is a monarchy. They treat their 2nd class citizens like 3rd class citizens. (See Frontline from last week on PBS.org) There are currently 17 arab members of the Kessenet (Israel's parliament). How many minorities are in the Saudia legislative branch... oh wait... that's right.

    So, because " Saudi Arabia does not have any nuclear weapons nor a domestic American pro Saudi Arabia lobby unconnected to fossil fuel or other economic interests." I'm sorry... it is better that the SA lobby is only concerned with trade issues and sovereignty?

    I know you'd like there to be a comparison to a functioning democracy and medieval style monarch, but there's not. Let me ask you a simple question, In which country would a muslim woman be allowed to drive?

  202. First, King Abdullah was a great man. Second, we have been close friends with Saudi Arabia for many, many years. Those kinds of friendships do not wither or go away. That said, I have ONE QUESTION I do not know the answer to. WHO is funding the Taliban in Afghanistan? It's not Iran. Its not the Russians. It's not North Korea. It's not the Cubans. So WHO? WHO funds the Taliban? The Afghan people have endured fear, loss of life from war and crimes, and lack or loss of education and infrastructure for decades now. Paris is front page, Belgium is front page, yet many were killed and hundreds more wounded in Kabul two days ago from a large bombing. These are human beings too in Afghanistan. We are like them and vice versa, two arms, two hands, two feet, a face, born dependent. WHO is funding elements outside Afghanistan? Do we need Wikipedia or some stealth hacker to provide us with the files and folders? The Afghan people need inter-dependence with the world like all countries do to create wealth and a better, more secure quality of life. WHO is talking that away, from the outside? It needs to stop, or consequences in spaces.