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“Saudi Ara­bia has long thought of Iraq as its buf­fer against Iran and for this rea­son op­posed the re­moval of Sad­dam Hus­sein and would not al­low its soil to be used for the op­er­a­tion. Saudi princes and of­fi­cials have long been wor­ried by the state of opin­ion among the Shi­ite un­der­class in Saudi Ara­bia it­self, be­cause this un­der­class [. . .] hap­pens to live and work in and around the oil fields. Since 2003, there have been in­creas­ing signs of dis­con­tent from them, in­clud­ing de­mands for more re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal free­dom.

“In 1991, which is also the year when the present cri­sis in Iraq ac­tu­ally be­gan, it was Saudi in­flu­ence that helped con­vince Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush and Sec­re­tary of State James Baker to leave Sad­dam Hus­sein in power and to per­mit him to crush the Shi­ite in­tifada that broke out as his regime reeled from de­feat in Kuwait. If, when read­ing an ar­ti­cle about the de­bate over Iraq, you come across the ex­pres­sion ‘the re­al­ist school’ and men­tally sub­sti­tute the phrase ‘the Amer­i­can friends of the Saudi royal fam­ily,’ your un­der­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion will in­vari­ably be en­hanced.”

Christo­pher Hitchens, writ­ing on “The Real Sunni Tri­an­gle,” Dec. 18 in Slate at

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