Last week I visited Jordan as guest of Prince Ali Bin Hussein and his wife, Princess Rym Brahimi Ali. Prince Ali is the third son of King Hussein, and half-brother of King Abdullah II. He is a member of the Hashemite family, which traces their ancestry directly to the prophet Muhammad.
We understand that part of the job of Secretary of State involves "diplomacy", that long-forgotten art of talking to people instead of drone-bombing them. And we recognize that being an effective diplomat means building cordial, constructive relationships, even with countries that lob off the heads of Hogwarts graduates.
Riyadh, America's nominal ally, has demonstrated that it is the more reckless of the two states, by executing an important Shia cleric and severing diplomatic relations with Iran.
Arriving back home in New York just one day before the attacks on Paris, I have since been struck by the dramatic polar opposites of the unconditional hospitality extended in Jordan, and the unfathomable acts of violence committed by ISIS.
There was no shortage of strange and notable presents from other nations. The mayor of Byblos, a town in Lebanon, gave U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Angus King (I-Maine) each a 98-million-year-old fish fossil.
In recent years, Turkey and Qatar have found much common ground on a host of foreign policy issues. Both Ankara and Doha have sponsored a variety of Sunni Islamist groups, seen as conduits for their geopolitical influence in the fluid Middle East. However, both countries have experienced setbacks from their engagement in some of the region's conflicts, most notably in Syria.
Saudi Arabia is a classic rentier state. In exchange for the absolute acquiescence of its 29 million subjects, the ruling al-Saud family provides services such as housing, health care, education, and a variety of subsidies -- all funded by the country's substantial oil wealth.
Apparently incapable of resisting the temptation to meddle in the Middle East, the Obama administration remains part of Saudi Arabia's ten-member "coalition" against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Alas, the entire campaign is built on a lie.
The Prophet's message was one of tolerance and diversity. It is hard to argue that the Saudi royal family has ever followed in his path or walked in his footsteps.
The story of the court intrigues in Abdullah's last days, and the leaked recordings which have come out since then, show something that was not immediately apparent in June 2013, when Egypt's first elected president Mohammed Morsi was overthrown by his army, after mass demonstrations against his rule.
ISIS has no monopoly on cruelty or immolation. On the contrary, it has exploited for its own ends the shock value of something used for centuries to punish and terrify heretics and African-Americans, and lately used by desperate dissidents around the world upon themselves.
BEIRUT -- The immediate emotional reaction -- including mass anger -- among Jordanians to the brutal killing of air force pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh by the Islamic State is totally understandable and justified; but behind the current wave of enraged sentiments and demands for revenge is a complex matrix of emotions, ideologies and state-building realities that reveal the deeper challenges that King Abdullah faces.
The king has died. Long live the king. Saudi Arabia today is a medieval system whose horrid human rights practices match its antiquated political system.
President Barack Obama made some progress on his agenda in his passage to India. But events in the Middle East and Washington demonstrated again how hamstrung his administration continues to be.