I landed in Jeddah in 1976 as the pilgrimage of the Hajj was taking place. It was a shock and since that first visit to the region, I have been in the Middle East probably a hundred times. It was my first experience of emerging markets, and I discovered the importance of human relationships. The person who probably impressed me the most was Sheikh Ahmed Abdullatif who was running the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency.
I have friends throughout the region, and they bleed. The United States has, with the perfect ignorance of local realities that characterizes its foreign policy, literally exploded the fragile equilibrium between Sunnites and Shiites.
The region would be insignificant without its primary energy resources. It would probably not have interested the United States at all. Keeping it under control is one of the key challenges of the world economy. It is the disastrous decision to invade Iraq that led to the dismantling of the army and the creation of ISIS. The confidence of the Arab world in the US is anything but broken.
Without understanding the history of Islam and the way the Holy Quran has been created and interpreted, one cannot capture the intrinsic values and violence of Islam, not only physical violence, but also moral. It is also surprising to see that Islam has been blamed for what a number of mullahs have made it: conservative, racist and male chauvinist.
It also does not have the equivalent of the Pope and the Vatican and it is a terribly missing piece that makes it impossible to excommunicate practices that are made in the name of Islam, in particular, recently ISIS, that only is Islamic by name and is just a terrorist movement.
Iran, Gulf Countries and Saudi Arabia
I have not been to Iran since the Shah was deposed. I never stopped keeping contacts and following this exceptional country, that carries a unique civilization that is Islamic without being Arab. The degree of sophistication of the Iranian elite has now been disaggregated in the Iranian diaspora and destroy by the religious leadership of the country. It intrinsic modernism, however, will reemerge. Hopefully, the new agreements will stop decades of isolationism on their part and exclusion on our part.
The Gulf countries play a major political and economic role. However, with the exception of Bahrain and the Unite Arab Emirates, their conservatism continues to raise serious human right questions.
My main concern is Saudi Arabia. Its fight for the leadership of Islam leads it to lapidate women and behead why lashing those who express view they do not like. For political reasons, it is the head of the Human rights commission of the United Nations. One of the main sources of funds for terrorists, the country bears a huge responsibility in the instability of its own region.