DUBAI—It was a hell of a week in the Middle East. It began with Saudi Arabia and its friends imposing the modern equivalent of a feudal siege on tiny Qatar. Next came an assault on the Iranian parliament and a suicide bombing at the Tehran tomb of the man whose followers pioneered the tactic, both claimed by the so-called Islamic State. Then the Turkish parliament voted to send troops to Qatar to defend it from its Arab brothers.

By week’s end, the tidy “good versus evil” dichotomy of the new U.S.-Saudi alliance against “terror”—and against Iran—is looking pretty tattered, and it’s less than a month since it was announced. Black and white has morphed into shifty shades of gray.

The events playing out might be laughable if they weren’t so tragic—and dangerous. This story has all the elements of a bad spy thriller: Arab potentates. A Twitter-obsessed American president. A glaring Ayatollah right out of central casting. Hooded jihadis. Russian hackers. Turkish troops. American airbases. And lots and lots of fake news.



By Lawrence Pintak

Lawrence Pintak is an award-winning journalist and scholar. He is a former CBS News Middle East correspondent and was founding dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University (2009-2016). He was named a Fellow of the Society by the Society of Professional Journalists in 2017 for "outstanding service to the profession of journalism" around the world. Pintak is a contributor to, The Daily Beast, and other outlets. Read his articles at His books include Reflections in a Bloodshot Lens: America, Islam & The War of Ideas; Islam for Journalists (co-editor); The New Arab Journalist; and Seeds of Hate: How America’s Flawed Middle East Policy Ignited the Jihad. He holds a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Wales, Trinity St. David. Follow him on Twitter @LPintak.