Jeffrey Goldberg published another one of his blockbuster interviews (he’s interviewed Obama once or twice and I believe Netanyahu as well). This time his “get” was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed ibn Salman, who is in the midst of an international charm offensive, touring the world to introduce his new “brand” on the international stage. He’s flashing a very large wallet full of Saudi petro-cash which he’s offering to arms merchants, infrastructure and technology companies in every country he’s visiting. Presidents and prime ministers are salivating on behalf of their own corporate titans at the prospect of tens of these billions flowing into their national treasury.
Saudi Arabia employs public relations consultants earning millions of dollars to peddle ibn Salman’s agenda in the media and to lobby legislatures around the world. That explains how Goldberg managed to snag this interview. Goldberg is known as the journalist every politician approaches if he wants to reach the American Jewish community–by which I mean in this case, the leadership of the major Israel Lobby organizations. As The Atlantic’s managing editor, he’s considered the Walter Cronkite of Jewish journalists. Instead of being like Cronkite’s Voice of God as a broadcaster, Goldberg is the Voice of Israel.
Saudi Arabia’s new alliance with Israel means that the Saudi prince, perforce, has thrown in his lot with the Israel Lobby. Ibn Salman understands the power it wields in American politics. If he wishes to influence our Middle East policy to attack Iran, then he knows that he must muster both domestic public opinion and political will to do so.
Ibn Salman, like many of his new allies in the Lobby, isn’t especially thoughtful or innovative in his ideas. In fact, he peddles the same old tired clichés about Iran we’ve heard for decades. Not only that, but in this interview he repeats ideas he’s already offered in previous interviews. He plagiarises himself!
He compares the Ayatollahs to Nazi German and Hitler:
Goldberg: You speak extraordinarily bluntly about Iran and its ideology. You’ve even equated the supreme leader to Hitler. What makes him a Hitler? Hitler is the worst thing you can be.
MbS: I believe that the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good.
MbS: Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. This is bad.
Goldberg: Yes, very bad.
MbS: But the supreme leader is trying to conquer the world. He believes he owns the world. They are both evil guys. He is the Hitler of the Middle East. In the 1920s and 1930s, no one saw Hitler as a danger. Only a few people. Until it happened. We don’t want to see what happened in Europe happen in the Middle East. We want to stop this through political moves, economic moves, intelligence moves. We want to avoid war.
Goldberg: Is the problem in your mind religious?
MbS: As I told you, the Shiites are living normally in Saudi Arabia. We have no problem with the Shiites. We have a problem with the ideology of the Iranian regime. Our problem is, we don’t think they have the right to interfere with our affairs.
This isn’t exactly Holocaust denial. But it is Holocaust distortion. It’s the sort of nonsense the ADL denounces regularly…except when it comes from the mouths of Israeli allies, who are untouchable. Hitler killed not just 6-million Jews. He killed millions of gays and gypsies and Communists. He killed tens of millions of Russians. Nor did he stop at conquering Europe. He conquered large swaths of North Africa as well. And could he have, he would’ve conquered more. Further, he had an alliance with the Japanese who also conquered huge swaths of Asia. So imputing limited expansionist ambitions to Hitler is patently false.
Unlike Hitler, Iran arguably is defending its interests. As a major Shiite power, it defends fellow Shiites like Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Further, as Israel exerts its own territorial ambitions in the region, Iran reacts by defending its allies threatened by Israeli aggression. Iran has a military force nowhere near as powerful today as the Wehrmacht was in its day. Iran can no more invade and conquer a Sunni country than Saudi Arabia could invade Iran and overthrow its government (at least not on its own, it couldn’t). The notion that Iran wants to take over the world is preposterous. And notice Goldberg, cracker-jack interviewer that he is, doesn’t prod ibn Salman in the least on his outlandish exaggerations.
Many politicians have an occupational propensity to distort history, even lie about it. The only ones they hurt in doing so are themselves and their constituents. The difference in ibn Salman’s case is that his cynical debasement of the Holocaust in pursuit of his own political interests could lead to regional war.
When I collaborated with Shamai Leibowitz to publish summaries of Justice Department intercepts of Israeli diplomatic discussions in its DC embassy, we did that because we thought it would expose Israel’s ambitions to wage war against Iran. Today, I’m doing the same in terms of exposing the debased and false premises on which ibn Salman builds the case for war against Shia Islam. He must not exploit this historical tragedy and the sacred memories of its victims for such purposes. Goldberg let’s him get away with murder, metaphorically speaking.
Yesterday, I published a post arguing that Goldberg’s Atlantic and Bennet’s New York Times were normalizing the alt-Right in their respective publications’ page. But they are also normalizing the lies and distortions of the Israel Lobby and its Saudi allies.
H/t John Dickerson.