“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 www.slate.com