Saudi Arabia is moving in where American fears to tread. That’s one of the lessons from Egypt’s decision to transfer control of two islands at the top of the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia.
On KQV Radio in Pittsburgh a few minutes ago, I discussed this with host P.J. Maloney. The transfer is a gesture of gratitude for huge amounts of Saudi aid. The decision set off some demonstrations in Egypt, symbolic of unease over the new military dictatorship of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
There are, as always, many levels here. There’s the Israel angle–the transfer shows that Saudi Arabia recognizes that Israel is not a hostile element in today’s Middle East configuration, as the Saudis are much more concerned about Iran these days. Don’t look for public displays of affection–that’s not part of that configuration–but historic realignment of the Middle East in the wake of Arab Spring makes the unthinkable thinkable in many areas, and we’d do well to discard old notions and get with the program.