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AUTHORITARIANISM AND DICTATORSHIP
#71
Heart 
THE LOOMING WAR BETWEEN THE BANI SAUD
Zafar Bangash
https://crescent.icit-digital.org/articl...-bani-saud

There are clear signs of deep divisions among the members of Bani Saud that point to serious trouble in the days ahead. Largely the result of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s grab for unlimited (unaccountable) power and the disastrous policies he has pursued unilaterally, there is great unease among other members of the ruling family that may explode into open warfare.

While the demented King Salman appears largely oblivious to what is going on around him, his son, the arrogant and erratic Bin Salman (BS) continues to make policy blunders that other family members fear would spell doom for the clan. Former Crown Prince and Interior Minister Muhammad bin Nayif was unceremoniously dismissed from both posts last June and is now reported to be under house arrest. The move was engineered by Bin Salman to pave the way for his own accession to the throne.


Last month, there was more trouble when a number of prominent clerics and intellectuals were arrested. Among the 40 or so people arrested was also Prince ‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin Fahd, favorite son of the late King Fahd. Why ‘Abd al-‘Aziz went afoul of Bin Salman was not immediately clear but reports from inside the Kingdom say that he had voiced criticism of recent regime policies. Betraying great nervousness, Saudi security personnel arrested the well-known scholar, Salman al-‘Awdah, from his house on the night of September 9. What was al-‘Awdah’s sin? He had prayed — yes, prayed — for rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the interests of both peoples. Al-‘Awdah had tweeted to this effect he has 14 million followers in the aftermath of the news that US President Donald Trump had urged Bin Salman and Qatar’s ruler Tamim bin Hamad to patch up their differences.


Taking orders from their master, Tamim phoned the Saudi crown prince and the two had a conversation but Bin Salman’s oversized ego got the better of him when the Qataris reported that the two had spoken (no mention was made about who had initiated the phone call). Was it that critical for the upstart Saudi to not be seen as “giving in” by the initiation of a simple phone call?  Following the latest spat, the two regimes were back to name calling and hurling allegations. A brawl among children in the schoolyard would be more dignified. While these theatrics were underway, simultaneously a number of other developments were also occurring, all signifying Bin Salman’s deep fear and anxiety. According to activists on social media as well as the London-based Saudi opposition group, ALQST, among the people arrested were, in addition to al-‘Awdah, several other scholars, namely ‘Awad al-Qarni, Hasan Farhan al-Maliki, Mustafa Hasan, and ‘Ali al-‘Umari.
The Saudi State Agency (SPA), the regime’s mouthpiece, reported on September 12 that the authorities had uncovered “intelligence activities for the benefit of foreign parties” by a group of people in the Kingdom. The SPA did not identify the people nor what kind of intelligence activities they were involved in and for which foreign entity. The insinuation pointed to Qatar, which has links with many Saudi families.

For weeks now, rumors have been circulating that the king would abdicate in favor of his son, Muhammad bin Salman. Given the king’s mental state and the tight control Bin Salman has over who can see him, what is likely to happen is that the crown prince will get his ailing father to sign a paper transferring power to him without the king knowing about it. Even if he knew, the king is in no position to prevent this. Besides, there are reports that he is keen to transfer power to his son during his lifetime to forestall a family revolt. Bin Salman, who dominates the Kingdom’s economic, political, military, and domestic security policies, has made a mess of everything. He is referred to as “Mr. Everything” and thus cannot escape responsibility for the ills that have befallen the Kingdom.


The imperialist-Zionist-Saudi war on Syria has been lost as the Syrian army backed by allies Iran, Hizbullah, and Russia, continues mopping up the last remnants of takfiri terrorists. The war on Yemen that was launched by Bin Salman in March 2015 is going nowhere. The Saudis have bombed dirt-poor Yemen, causing massive casualties, but Bani Saud, and more particularly Bin Salman, have failed to achieve any of their military or political objectives.

The news on the economic front is equally bad. Once considered the financial engine of the Muslim East and beyond, Saudi Arabia has become a virtual basket case. At the end of August, it was announced that Riyadh had gone to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), cap in hand, for a $10 billion loan. This would have been unthinkable a few years ago. What forced Bani Saud to take this humiliating step when they have more than $750 billion stashed away in US Treasury securities?  Washington has blocked these funds. The reason is that America’s Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (AJASTA) that was passed by Congress in 2016 allows families of 9/11 victims to file lawsuits against Saudi Arabia for “supporting” terrorism. On March 20, 2017, that is precisely what happened: 1,500 survivors and 850 relatives of victims of the 9/11 attacks filed a class action lawsuit against Saudi Arabia seeking $100 billion in damages. The lawsuit alleges that the Saudi regime had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks and that some of its employees were al-Qaeda operatives or sympathizers. While the US’ official version of the 9/11 attacks that 19 individuals, among them 15 Saudis, hijacked four jetliners in the early morning of 9-11-2001 has been widely discredited, this has not prevented victims’ families from seeking compensation. The official version is that the 19 hijackers using box cutters overpowered airline crews and pilots and commandeered the four planes. Two of them were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. Another plane allegedly struck the Pentagon while the fourth crashed in Pennsylvania.

Not one of the alleged hijackers had a commercial pilot license; in fact they were complete novices. They could not even fly a single engine plane straight. How could they fly wide-bodied commercial jetliners at top speed and slam them into buildings, a feat that even highly skilled air force pilots cannot easily achieve?  Such contradictions notwithstanding, the lawsuit against the Saudi regime has resulted in their assets being frozen for the time being. While the court system works at snail’s pace and even if the case is eventually thrown out, it will be years before the Saudis can get hold of their money. In fact, it is quite likely that the Americans will come up with some other excuse to not return the funds.

Coupled with low oil prices — the main source of revenue for Saudi Arabia, the other being pilgrimage fees — the exorbitant cost of the war on Yemen and the profligate lifestyle of the army of Saudi “royals” is a recipe for disaster. At a time of political transition when Bin Salman
is trying to buy the loyalty of people, he has been forced to go to the IMF. The many economic plans Bin Salman had announced with such fanfare have faltered or been abandoned. Take the example of the National Transformation Plan, a key element of his bid to dramatically alter the economic and social realities of the Kingdom.  The plans and targets have all been abandoned. While the NPT morphed into Vision 2030 — it has a nice ring to it no doubt — the vision, distant as it is, has blurred and become even more remote and largely untenable.

Bin Salman’s plan was to “reform” the economy by relying more on the private sector to create one million jobs by 2020 and slash public sector spending as well as benefits to civil servants. There is nothing wrong with this in principle but a country addicted to oil revenues where members of the royal family, civil servants, and army personnel have their snouts in the public trough, this was going to be a herculean task. As soon as the policy was announced last year, there was massive backlash on the social media. While contemptuous of public sentiment, this was one front the regime could not ignore. In April it was forced to make a grand retreat
rolling back a decision to slash benefits to civil servants and military personnel. Seeking a loan from the IMF, however, will force the regime to reintroduce these measures. This is what the IMF demands of all its clients: removal of all subsidies on food, fuel, and other perks as well as opening up the country to foreign acquisition of its assets. Resource-rich Africa has suffered and has been completely impoverished through what is euphemistically called Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP). Saudi Arabia will not escape the IMF’s attrition scheme either. Bani Saud may be heading back to their desert tents in Najd in the not too distant future. Bin Salman’s troubles at the political level are even more serious. He has unnecessarily entangled himself with Qatar. 

At home, his real challenge will be the removal of Mut‘ib bin ‘Abdillah, powerful head of the National Guard from his post. Mut‘ib is seen as a real threat to Bin Salman’s ambitions. There is a history of bad blood between them. When King ‘Abdullah was in a coma on his deathbed, Mut‘ib and ‘Ali al-Tuwayjiri, head of the royal court, kept this a tightly guarded secret while they concocted a plan. The plot was to forge ‘Abdullah’s signature on a decree dismissing Salman as crown prince and appointing Mut‘ib to the post instead. He would have become king upon ‘Abdullah’s death in January 2015.  Salman and his son Muhammad got wind of it and frustrated the plot before it could be carried out. Not surprisingly, soon after Salman became king, al-Tuwayjiri was dismissed and many of ‘Abdullah’s sons were also sidelined. But Mut‘ib is a more difficult nut to crack because he has a tight grip on the Saudi National Guard, a military outfit. This is where things are likely to get messy. Mut‘ib is no pushover like Muhammad bin Nayif. He has close links with the tribes, mainstay of the National Guard. They are loyal to Mut‘ib, not Bin Salman. Thus any hasty attempt to remove Mut‘ib could backfire.

So what does Bin Salman propose to do to get the people on his side, 70% of whom are below the age of 25? He has come up with another hare-brained idea: to open a holiday resort on one of the islands in the Red Sea northwest of the country. On this island, Saudi men and women — and of course young women imported from Europe — will be allowed to let it all hang out. There will be gambling casinos and watering holes, just like the beaches in France or Spain. Young Saudis do not need to go to France anymore to have fun; Bin Salman plans to bring the French Riviera to the Red Sea!






SAUDI ARABIA: MIRAGE OF REFORM IN WAHHABISM’s ABSOLUTE  MONARCHY
https://www.globalresearch.ca/saudi-arab...hy/5616635



Everything considered, to describe the timid push for change in Saudi Arabia as a “cultural revolution,” like most of the press in the west and elsewhere are doing in their shameless public relations efforts in favour of Crown Prince Mohamed bin-Salman, is completely disingenuous. The only two significant reforms that the Crown Prince has pushed so far are the largely symbolic lift on the driving ban for women and a slight curtailment of the power of the religious police, who have lost the authority to arrest people outright. Regardless of the hyped intentions of reform, Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, de facto ruled by a Crown Prince who has consolidated in his own hands almost all powers, after a palace coup. Saudi Arabia is still very much an authoritarian regime where cinemas, theaters, and alcohol are banned and where men and women who are not related are basically segregated. It is a country of 33 million people that extensively practices the archaic oppression of gender apartheid, a social pressure cooker under the lid of ultra-
conservative Wahhabist clerics, where 55 percent of the population is under 25 -years-old and with more than 35 percent unemployment.

“I will return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam,” said bin-Salman in a recent interview.


But this is historically inaccurate, as the ideological pillar shoring up the House of Saud, since its inception, was and still remains the most fundamentalist brand of Islam, which is Wahhabism. The full statement from bin-Salman is worth mentioning, as it is full of inaccuracies:




“We are simply reverting to what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions. What happened in the last 30 years is not Saudi Arabia. What happened in the region in the last 30 years is not the Middle East. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, people wanted to copy this model in different countries, one of them is Saudi Arabia. We didn’t know how to deal with it, and the problem spread all over the world. Now it is time to get rid of it.”



The attempt by bin-Salman to blame the Iranian revolution for the region’s problems and for the revival of fundamentalist Islam ironically sounds like the domino-effect doctrine from the United States Cold War era anti-communist propaganda. This statement will certainly please the West, especially the US in the context of the renewed anti-Iranian sentiment, but it is historically and geopolitically inaccurate. Indeed King Faisal bin-Abdulaziz, who ruled Saudi Arabia from 1964 to 1975, put in place policies of modernization and reforms, including a formal abolition of slavery, some religious inclusiveness, and the introduction of television broadcast. The efforts by Faisal to reform Saudi Arabia brought forth his assassination, by his own nephew, on behalf of the ultra-conservative Wahhabists.Therefore, the sociological regression in Saudi Arabia came about four years before Iran’s revolution. It was not caused by it, but by some power and ideological struggles within the Kingdom. Forty-two years later, some of those forces remain at play. Bin-Salman’s somewhat ruthless recent consolidation of power within the dynasty has created serious animosity within the House of Saud. King Faisal’s fate should be a cautionary tale for the young Crown Prince who has disturbed the delicate traditional balance of power within the dynasty itself.


Historically, the notion of an original moderate open Islam in Saudi Arabia is a fallacy. In the Middle East, moderate Islam can still be found in Lebanon, but not in the Gulf. The ruling family in Saudi Arabia would not survive a real cultural or social revolution. As for any fundamentalist religions that back up an absolute power, the Wahhabist Iman’s job is to control the population’s ideology and all its social behaviors. Without Wahhabism and its clerics, the House of Saud would be a house of cards. There is a dichotomy between what the Saudis say and what they really do. For more than 40 years they have financed Jihadists and the construction of Mosques run by fundamentalist clerics all over the world. By doing so, they have been a major support of terrorism, along with Qatar. Unless they recognize, denounce, and stop such activities, I do not see the possibility of any transformation. Within Saudi Arabia, unless fundamentalist clerics stop running everything in daily life, from the curriculum in schools to public order laws, such as repressive dress codes, nothing can change. The current hypocrisy resides in this: without the support of the hardliner clerics, the authoritarian absolute monarchy regime could and would be questioned, and considering the demographic and inequality pressures, it would eventually collapse.


The lofty talk of social revolution is largely a smoke screen. The real story could be more prosaically about following the money: bin-Salman is creating the mirage of a future open society to lure international investors. The Crown Prince is trying to raise money for a $500 billion project involving Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. The big-ticket item is a giant bridge across the Red Sea, between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as well as a huge urban development area inspired by Dubai.

There is a caveat in regard to this Red Sea economic zone, which is supposed to be completed by 2025: Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, key backer of the plan, has been depleted for years by poor management, massive weapons purchases, the war effort in Yemen, as well as low oil prices. The fund currently has $230 billion; therefore bin-Salman is planning an initial public offering (IPO) in 2018 on Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest company controlling all of the Kingdom’s oil assets. Bin-Salman intends to sell 5 percent of Aramco, which is expected to raise several hundred billion. Cynically but objectively, the prospect of this IPO on the Jewel of the Crown of the Kingdom has worldwide mega-investors salivating. This decrease in financial sovereignty, which may grow in terms of percentage with time, could mark the beginning of the end for the House of Saud.



SAUDI ARABIA vs QATAR: MIDDLE EAST CONTROLLED DEMOLITION PLAN?
By Gilbert Mercier
Global Research, June 23, 2017
News Junkie Post 22 June 2017


There is trouble in oil paradise. It seems that all the elements of an already explosive geopolitical concoction are getting vigorously stirred. The palace coup in Saudi Arabia, conducted by King Salman’s own son, Prince Mohammad bin Salman, on June 21, 2017, should be understood as the second salvo of a potentially hot war between two Sunni blocks: on one hand, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain; on the other hand, Qatar and its allies of circumstance, Turkey, Palestinian Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood network, and a likely Shiite coalition with Iraq and Iran. The two blocks, quickly assembled, could enter a terrifying hot war over this new crisis, which would tear apart the entire Sunni Muslim community as well as draw in the Shiites of Iran and Iraq. The entire region could easily become like the current-day Syria of killing fields and ruins.


The pot calling the kettle black
Prince bin Salman has assumed complete control of the Saudi kingdom’s government apparatus. This is a sign that the Saudi hardliners, vis-a-vis the crisis they created with Qatar, have won the prelude of the battle. As Saudi Arabia’s minister of defense, bin Salman was the architect of the nasty war in Yemen, which until the split between the two nations, included Qatar. What happened to the beautiful friendship between the Saudi and the Qatari rulers? Its apex was the sponsorship of jihadists, first to topple Gaddafi in Libya, and their ultimate collaborative proxy-terrorism accomplishment was the creation of ISIS to wreck Iraq, and to topple Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Terror and war might soon come home to roost in the magical kingdom and emirates of princes and sheiks, with made-in-the-USA missiles flying over Riyadh and Doha. Can the crisis be diffused, or is it actually engineered by the United States, its Western NATO vassals and Israel? For the sake of the entire Middle East, the looming crisis must be prevented at all cost.


Prince bin Salman’s coup was the second preliminary salvo, the first one occurred two weeks before that. On June 5, 2017, shortly after President Donald Trump’s flamboyant visit to Saudi Arabia, the expanding rift with the kingdom and Qatar went into full-blown crisis mode. There followed a complete suspension of all diplomatic relations with Qatar, unilaterally decided by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain. The sanctions established a ban on travel of Qataris to the three states as well as a full economic embargo for all goods and services on Qatar, which is the biggest liquid gas producer in the world. Qatari diplomats were expelled, and all land, air and sea travel routes were cut off on allegations that Qatar supports terrorist groups. This almost immediately triggered a panic in Doha, where people feared a food shortage in supermarkets, considering that more than 40 percent of Qatar’s food supplies come by truck through its border with Saudi Arabia.


US foreign policy: schizophrenia or Machiavellian demolition plan?
A couple of days after Saudi Arabia cut off Qatar, President Trump aligned himself with his new regional royal best friends. He wrote on Twitter, his favorite way to communicate his stream of consciousness on policy, that he agreed with the Saudis and that Qatar should be isolated for its support of terrorism. Mr. Trump got carried away, however, and forgot two essential facts. First, Qatar provides a base for 10,000 American troops, which is the biggest US military base in the region and is of critical importance for military operations not only in Syria, but also in Afghanistan. Secondly, right after Trump’s statement on the issue, on June 14, Secretary of Defense James Mattissigned an agreement with Qatar for the sale of $12 billion in weapons systems, including big-ticket items such as 36 F15 fighter jets.

Therefore, by their own admission, and perhaps in a symptom of full-blown administrative schizophrenia, US officials are selling sophisticated weapons to a state that supports terrorism!Adding his voice to the US administration’s cacophony was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who contradicted Trump and sternly warned Saudi Arabia to deescalate the tensions with Qatar. This new crisis, engineered or real, if nothing else, confirms that the administration’s de facto commander-in-chief is General Mattis.


There is something more sinister about all this. Suppose the schizophrenic aspect of it all is just a decoy to hide a Machiavellian plan that has been the hallmark of US policy for decades: the simple divide-and-conquer imperial rule, with the distinction of arming both sides of the potential conflict. In the Middle East, this plan was started during the Reagan administration when President George Bush senior’s crew nicely fueled and fostered the Iran-Iraq war. It seems that, once again, under the mad impulse of its unchecked military-industrial complex, the US, and whatever unwise vassals might join in, is setting the stage for a huge regional conflict. The beast has an unquenchable thirst for blood and oil, and what better place to find both than in a region that is already half wrecked? In this mad logic, if one thinks of who would ultimately benefit from this additional crime of a further destruction of the Middle East, besides the war machine of the military-industrial complex, it would have to be Israel, in the context of a Greater Israel project to be built on the rubble of the Arab world.

The current war project looks like an expansion of the insanely murderous plan that has been implemented in Iraq and Syria: a tabula rasa scenario, with gargantuan sales of weapons to both sides of the conflict, which is as American as apple pie. To degrade their respective cash flows, the Saudi and UAE oil fields would become the prime targets for bombs and missiles from Qatar and their militarily powerful allies; in return, the Qatar natural gas infrastructure would be hit by the Saudi or Egyptian military. Just like during Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, when the oil fields were hit in large numbers, a worldwide side effect of an outright war between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would be a major spike in oil and natural gas prices, which in turn could trigger a massive financial market crash. In our global Orwellian construct 2+2=5, and world order is chaos. By any name, however, chaos cannot be controlled.
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#72
LESSONS FROM THE WAR IN SYRIA
Zafar Bangash


As the takfiri ranks are degraded and their territorial possessions shrink rapidly in Iraq and Syria, it is time to reflect on developments of the last six years. There are important lessons to be learnt from this horrific experience that has shed the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Syria and created deep divisions among Muslims worldwide. Blinded by their hatred of Bashar al-Asad, many otherwise sincere Muslims abandoned the Qur’anic principle of ‘adl and let their emotions influence their actions,

O you who are securely committed [to Allah]! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of Allah, even though it be against your own selves or your parents and kinfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, Allah’s claim takes precedence over [the claim of] either of them (4:135).

This was true both inside and outside Syria, much of it driven by the false assumption that al-Asad’s government would fall in a matter of months if not sooner. Many naïve Muslims were sucked into the vortex of the mayhem in Syria. It was packaged as part of the people’s desire for change following similar uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. It is interesting to note that not one monarchical regime — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, etc. — was affected by the so-called “Arab Spring.” Why were these regimes bypassed and why haven’t any uprisings occurred — or were allowed to succeed — there?

Ignoring this crucial fact, many sincere Muslims became unwitting tools of imperialism, Zionism and Wahhabism. This occurred at two levels. First, a large number of idealistic but naïve Muslim youth from countries as far afield as Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Muslim East, Europe ,and North America were attracted to what they perceived as helping to establish the khilafah (the Islamic State).Perhaps Hizb al-Tahrir’s (HT) literature and simplistic rhetoric about establishing the khilafah also contributed to these youth flooding into Syria to help establish and “secure” the khilafah. While HT may not have intended it, their simplistic assertions lent legitimacy to Da‘ish/ISIS propaganda.  Second, motivated by the Islamic obligation to help suffering Muslims, charitable organizations rushed in to help. While the motivation was admirable, many Muslim organizations became tools of Western-Zionist-Wahhabi propaganda of blaming everything on al-Asad’s government. If the takfiri terrorists indulged in heinous crimes like throat slitting and organ eating, these were blamed on either government agents or the CIA and Mossad.The net result was that such charitable work merely added to the suffering of the very people whom they claimed to be helping. Instead, vile sectarian propaganda was spread to create hatred against Muslims with whom they disagreed. Damage to the fabric of Muslim societies is so immense that it would take decades if not longer to overcome.

Completely ignored in this propaganda blitzkrieg was the fact that the vast majority of Syrian people were horrified by ISIS’ brutality. In addition to the public throat slittings — these were widely shown on the internet — ordinary Syrians also experienced personal hardships at the hands of the murderous thugs. Their possessions were stolen at gunpoint and they were forced out of their homes. Even non-political Syrians recoiled in horror and screamed out, “these cannot be mujahidin”! They knew that if the takfiris succeeded, there would be endless violence and bloodshed. The Syrian people wished to have nothing to do with them.

Shaykh Muhammad Sa‘id Ramadan al-Buti was martyred in a suicide bombing in the Iman Masjid in Damascus, on 3-21-2013; the blast claimed the lives of 41 others in addition to injuring over 80. Shaykh al-Buti was teaching a halaqah when the bomb exploded. A month before he was murdered, he called on committed Muslims to wage a jihad in support of President al-Asad. The attack was nearly identical to an earlier bomb attack in Damascus that killed several top security officials, including Asif Shawkat, deputy chief of staff of the Syrian military and al-Asad’s brother-in-law.

The takfiris murdered the great Islamic scholar, 84-year-old Shaykh Muhammad Sa‘id Ramadan al-Buti in his masjid after prayers on March 21, 2013. A Sunni scholar who had served as the Grand Mufti of Syria, Shaykh al-Buti was the author of more than 60 scholarly works. He rejected violence and did not endorse the opposition’s taking up arms against the government. Apologists for the takfiris asserted that the regime’s agents killed Shaykh al-Buti. They offered no proof or reason why the regime would do that. Similarly, the current Mufti of Syria, Shaykh Ahmad Badr al-Din Hasun’s 18-year-old son Sariya was ambushed together with a professor and murdered by the takfiris on October 2, 2011. At his son’s funeral, Shaykh Hasun prayed to Allah (swt) to guide the takfiris. The takfiris also carried out a string of other assassinations of university professors and high profile civil society figures that refused to join the foreign-instigated war to overthrow the government.

Some anti-Asad elements blame all the horrific acts on US-Zionist agents. This represents only half the picture. There are certainly CIA/ Mossad agents operating in Syria but the takfiris have willingly aligned themselves with the enemies of Allah (swt). This also applies to Muslims outside who supported opposition groups in Syria. Can they offer any justification for such conduct in Islam?

Since the turn of the century, a number of Muslim countries have been invaded and destroyed by the imperialists and their allies. Countries like Afghan-istan, Iraq, and Libya have been turned into smoldering wrecks. Some Muslim countries have also acted as willing tools in the imperialist-Zionist wars of aggression that have caused at least 5 million deaths since 2001. Muslim rulers of these regimes have the blood of millions of innocent Muslims on their hands.

Despite the destruction and mass killings, the imperialists have not been entirely successful hence they were forced to adopt a new strategy for Syria and Yemen. Foreign mercenaries flooded into Syria to destroy it while the Saudis and a motley collection of oppressive regimes attacked dirt-poor Yemen. In both locales, the Saudi footprint is writ large. The coalition of evil regimes and their mercenaries, however, have failed in both places. We need to examine how al-Asad prevailed against such odds and what has enabled Ansarallah fighters in Yemen to prevent the aggressors from succeeding. Let us first look at Syria.

The conspiracy to destabilize and, therefore, overthrow the government in Syria was hatched as early as 2005 according to WikiLeaks documents (Craig Whitlock revealed this in an article in the Washington Post on April 17, 2011; Several factors guided this grand international conspiracy: Syria’s strategic position, its close links with the Islamic Republic of Iran that helped facilitate the supply of weapons to Hizbullah in Lebanon to confront the Zionist occupiers, as well as Damascus’ close relations with Russia. The latter has a military base at Tartus, the only Mediterranean naval base for the Russian fleet.

Taking Syria down would have been a huge blow to the resistance front against Zionist Israel. How did the Syrian government manage to withstand this grand conspiracy where others failed? A number of reasons can be cited:

1. there were few, if any, desertions from the Syrian military;
2. the Syrian establishment did not break up as in Libya;
3. Islamic Iran made a strategic decision to help its Syrian ally and Hizbullah sent in its fighters in support of the Syrian army; and finally,
4. Russia came to al-Asad’s help in September 2015.

All these factors contributed to preventing the collapse of the Syrian state despite its suffering massive military casualties and the destruction of virtually its entire infrastructure. Syrian losses are estimated at more than $200 billion, hence it will take decades to rebuild the country. Let us also name the gang of conspirators. These include the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan and a host of other bit players. If Saudi Arabia has provided the largest number of mercenaries to the war on Syria, including convicted rapists and murderers released from prisons in return for fighting in Syria, the US and Israel have armed the terrorists and routinely bombed Syrian army positions. These are entirely illegal acts and if these outlaws could be brought to justice, American and Zionist officials would be tried for war crimes.

A soldier from the Syrian Army searches through the debris of a destroyed building while battles against foreign-backed Da‘ish terrorists continue in Raqqa, Syria, 8-12-2017. This scene is just a microcosm of what the entire country looks like; the estimated damage is incalculable and the time required to rebuild the country’s infrastructure could take several decades.

One does not expect much from the war criminals but what about the Syrian opposition, even the political and religious opposition? Should we not expect from them some adherence to Islamic principles? Take the case of ‘Adnan al-‘Ar‘ur, a Saudi-trained Syrian “religious” leader. In July 2014, when Hamas fired rockets from Gaza in retaliation for Zionist attacks, al-‘Ar‘ur thundered in a YouTube video that Hamas’ actions were a betrayal of the “Syrian revolution”! For this Syrian preacher, Hamas should have allowed the people of Gaza to be blown to pieces or crushed under Israeli tanks so that the Syrian “revolution” could progress, with help from the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia, of course! A year before al-‘Ar‘ur’s outburst, Syrian opposition figures were already arguing about cabinet posts in anticipation of the fall of al-Asad’s government. That this has not happened is a huge disappointment for them. They will not get to wear their suits and ties at the swearing-in ceremony for Western-allotted cabinet posts in Damascus.

If the war on Syria has exposed Bani Saud as agents of imperialism and Zionism and the avowed enemies of Allah (swt), it has also exposed Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan. He presents himself as all things to all people; it clearly makes him unreliable. While his Syria policy has been a total failure, he is now sucking up to Russia and Iran. The leaders of these countries, especially Islamic Iran should exercise great caution in dealing with people like Erdogan.

If the government of President Bashar al-Asad has managed to survive, Russia, Iran, and Hizbullah have also come out on top. All of them have secured their political and strategic objectives, most notably the Islamic Republic of Iran that sacrificed life and blood to confront and defeat the confederacy of kufr and its regional puppets. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, the former Russian spy chief and a cold calculating man, Syria was too important a prize to let go. Further, he could see that the Wahhabi-indoctrinated terrorists would flood into Russia if they succeeded in Syria. He and a host of Russian nationalists were already smarting over the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin was not going to allow the destruction of Russia at the hands of US-Saudi trained mercenaries.

For Islamic Iran, Syria represents its greatest victory in nearly 40 years. It defeated the combined might of the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan. While this victory has sent Bani Saud into the open embrace of Bani Israel, it has also revealed the true nature of the Najdi Bedouins. In their own words, Bani Israel are their cousins and Islamic Iran is their enemy. Does one need any more proof of their treacherous nature?

Islamic Iran has emerged as a major regional power, thanks to its principled policies and effort, causing great panic in Tel Aviv. This is what sent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scurrying to Sochi on August 23 to seek Putin’s help in curtailing Iran’s influence in Syria. The Zionist returned empty-handed and deeply worried because Hizbullah fighters and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are now on the Golan Heights facing the Zionist occupiers. This is a new development that will have far-reaching implications for the Zionist regime. In the unlikely event of another war, the Zionists will have to fight on multiple fronts. If they lost to the lightly armed Hizbullah fighters in July 2006, what chance do they have against the combined might of Hizbullah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards? Syria’s infrastructure may have been destroyed but its military has gained vital battlefield experience. Out of the blood-soaked soil of Syria will emerge a more mature generation that understands the importance of unity to confront external aggression. 

The Muslim East landscape has been radically altered. It is shaped not by US-Zionist conspiracies but by the will of the people. This is a hopeful sign. What is needed of sincere Muslims now is to reflect on their own behavior over the last six-and-a-half years. Did they contribute to helping the people or the destruction of the region? A sincere answer would enable them to re-appraise their own conduct and not become tools, even if unwittingly, in the hands of war criminals and mass murderers, in the future.




POSTSCRIPT   THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS 
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#73
PROFILE: CROWN PRINCE MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN 
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/feature...40539.html

The youngest defence minister in the world, and the first in line to the throne, 32-year-old Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud is also the kingdom's deputy prime minister.

Early life
Mohammed bin Salman, known colloquially as MBS, was born on August 31, 1985. His mother, Princess Fahda bint Falah bin Sultan bin Hathleen, is from the Ajman tribe, whose leader is the princess' father, Rakan bin Hathleen. In 2008, Prince Salman married Princess Sarah bint Mashhoor bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and together they had three children. He received his primary education in Riyadh, the country's capital, where he was ranked among the kingdom's top 10 students. He obtained a law degree from King Saud University, where he graduated second in his class. Throughout his time as a university student, Prince Salman was enrolled in various training programmes.

Professional life
After graduation, Prince Salman established a number of firms before he became involved in governmental work. He served as secretary general of the Riyadh Competitive Council, special adviser to the chairman of the board for the King Abdulaziz Foundation, and as a member of the board of trustees for the Albir society for development. As part of his philanthropic work, he also established the MiSK Foundation, a non-profit organisation that works on cultivating learning and leadership in Saudi's youth, and develops startups in the country through various business incubation programmes. In 2013, he was awarded the "Personality of the Year" award by Forbes Middle East for his role as chairman of the MiSK Foundation in recognition of his support for Saudi's youth and their development.

Politics
Prince Salman embarked on his political journey when he served as full-time adviser to the council of ministers for two years in 2007. In 2009, he became special adviser to his father, who was governor of Riyadh at the time, and continued to serve the experts commission of the Saudi cabinet as a part-time consultant until March 2013. The prince was appointed defence minister on January 23, 2015, after his father's accession to the throne. In the same year, he was named deputy crown prince. His most notable move as defence minister was leading Operation Decisive Storm, a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which was launched two months after his appointment. The operation consists of eight Sunni-Muslim Arab countries that are fighting Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The new crown prince is also driving a far more aggressive foreign policy to counter the influence of arch-rival Iran. Prior to his most recent appointments, Prince Salman spent a number of years as his father's personal aide. He was previously president of his father's Royal Court, back when King Salman was crown prince, where he began introducing his own changes. In addition to his existing roles, Mohammed bin Salman also heads the Council for Economic Affairs and Development, which oversees the kingdom's economic affairs, ultimately shaping its political and security policies. In November 2017, 4 ministers, 11 princes and several high-profile entrepreneurs were detained on orders of MBS in what was presented as an anti-corruption purge. However, the measures targeted many of his direct rivals, thus consolidating the prince's power over the kingdom. 

Views
In April 2016, he introduced Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia's vision of the future, which is aimed at making the kingdom the heart of the Arab and Islamic world, an investment powerhouse, and a hub that connects three continents. The reformative initiative seeks to diversify and privatise the economy, and to make it less reliant on oil. By 2030, the initiative aims to establish an e-government system. 
The crown prince has called for more entertainment options in the kingdom for both families and youth. The cabinet passed regulation to lessen the power of the religious police, and an entertainment authority was established in May 2016. In his attempt to override tradition, he also engaged younger Saudi Muslim scholars who are active on social media and better known among the Saudi youth, as opposed to the kingdom's council of senior scholars, who set official religious policy and often release religious opinions.

SAUDI ARABIA's CRACKDOWN
The ministers and princes feeling the heat as part of purported anti-corruption drive by the kingdom's heir apparent.
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interac...57607.html

Saudi Arabia has dismissed a number of senior ministers and detained nearly a dozen princes as part of a purported investigation by a new anti-corruption committee. Heir apparent Mohammed bin Salman's most ambitious move came late on Saturday when he fired senior ministers and had dozens of the country's richest men detained, ostensibly on the grounds of combating corruption. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world's wealthiest businessmen who owns investment firm Kingdom Holding, was among those held. The senior ministers who were sacked include Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, the head of the National Guard, and Adel Faqih, the economy minister. Waleed al-Ibrahim, chairman of the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), one of the region's largest media companies, and construction magnate Bakr Binladin of the Saudi Binladin group were among those detained. Meanwhile, confusion surrounds the whereabouts of Mohammed bin Salman's predecessor as crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, who has not been seen publicly since June and is rumoured to be under house arrest

Al Jazeera takes a look at the Saudis caught up in the crackdown and the net worth of each detained individual.
Reply
#74
SAUDI ANTI-CORRUPTION PURGE WAS ENDORSED BY WASHINGTON

The high-profile arrests of the Saudi elite as part of a so-called anti-corruption purge came after consultations between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US investors as well as members of the Trump administration, investigative journalist Pepe Escobar told RT.

The Saudi crackdown has nothing to do with corruption, Escobar pointed out, saying the Crown Prince “knows exactly what he’s doing – which is an old-style purge or what I called the ‘Night of the Saudi long knives’ where he got rid of any potential high-profile contenders against his one-man rule.”

“Don’t forget, Saudi Arabia has no independent judiciary, no freedom of expression, no credible opposition. And in fact, King Salman isn’t ruling – who’s ruling is actually MBS [Mohammed bin Salman],” he said.

The detentions of 11 Saudi princes, four ministers and dozens of business figures that shook the kingdom on Saturday weren’t as unexpected as the media outlets wanted the audience to believe, Escobar says. He explains that shortly before the arrests, in late October, “there was a famous ‘Davos in the Desert’ conference where the new crown prince and the new leadership outlined the future of Saudi Arabia as envisioned until 2030, which implies a lot of investment – especially, American investors… Larry Fink, Stephen Schwarzman.” 

Three thousand international politicians and businessmen arrived in Riyadh for the Future Investment Initiative Conference, where bin Salman unveiled his plans to create a $500 billion investment zone, double the size of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund to $400 billion and restore a more tolerant order in the country. 

“And few days later, Jared Kushner [US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser] was in Riyadh where he has been bonding very closely with the Crown Prince. The next day there was the ‘Night of the long knives,’” Escobar said. “Trump has kept his hands off the matter,” Escobar said, adding that “what I get from some of my best sources – they [people close to Trump] have been doing business deals with the House of Saud [Saudi ruling royal family] for decades.” 

The agreement between Washington and Riyadh “involves personal deals; this involves new foreign policy that’s very complex and, especially, [includes] antagonizing Iran and Lebanon,” he said. 

On Saturday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri unexpectedly announced his resignation while on a visit to Saudi Arabia – a move which Escobar described as “completely absurd.” Lebanese militant movement Hezbollah has accused Riyadh of intimidating the PM, while the Saudis responded by accusing Lebanon of “declaring war” on the kingdom by allowing Hezbollah’s “aggression” against it, according to the Al-Arabiya broadcaster.

Those behind the Saudi Crown Prince don’t differentiate between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, Escobar believes. This makes a Saudi military conflict with the neighboring state a real possibility and “this is a very serious development".


H0W BROKE IS THE HOUSE OF SAUD? 
RIYADH COULD SEIZE $800bn IN ASSETS IN CORRUPTION SHAKEDOWN 

The Saudi anti-corruption push involving the arrest of princes and government ministers may lead to the confiscation of cash and other assets worth of at least $800 billion, according to people close to the issue, writes the Wall Street Journal.

“They reckon they could get around two to three trillion riyals from these people. That’s the number they are talking about,”  a person close to the government told the paper.

  • On Saturday, Saudi state media reported the arrest of at least 11 Saudi princes and four incumbent ministers, with the minister of the National Guard, and the economy minister among those detained. The arrests are reportedly the part of a broader plan to fight corruption in the kingdom.

Some leading businessmen have been arrested since the crackdown started, with more than 60 princes, officials and other big-name Saudis in custody, according to the sources cited by the WSJ.

The kingdom's central bank has reportedly frozen the accounts of “persons of interest” and said the step was “in response to the Attorney General’s request pending the legal cases against them.”   According to the media, most of the frozen assets are abroad, which will make the process of reclaiming and confiscating longer and more complicated. All the funds accumulated through corruption are to become state property.  

The anti-corruption crackdown is led by a newly established committee chaired by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The agency was created by royal decree of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and published by Saudi Arabia’s official news agency on Saturday. The committee is exempt from “laws, regulations, instructions, orders, and decision” while performing its wide range of duties, namely “identifying offenses, crimes, persons and entities” complicit in corruption, and gives it the power to impose punitive measures on those caught red-handed. Those include asset freezes, travel bans and arrests.

The Saudi government has been trying to close a hole in its budget after oil prices fell dramatically in 2014. The kingdom has implemented fiscal measures, including spending cuts, raising taxes, bond-sales and a future public offering of part of the kingdom’s oil monopoly Saudi Aramco. Riyadh says it plans to reduce the country's reliance on oil.

BILLIONAIRE SAUDI PRINCE REVEALS SECRET AGREEMENT WITH GOVERNMENT 
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#75
WHAT IS MBSs NEXT MOVE 
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/uk...37495.html

SAUDI PURGE IS A GLOBAL CRISIS-CORBETT REPORT 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkXyWPVkqcg

MACHIAVELLIAN PRINCE SALMAN ARABIA 
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion...42550.html

KING SALMAN’s PALACE COUP AND HE SAUDI ROYAL POLITICS
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh8isVX3H9w

ABDICATION OF KING SALMAN IN SAUDI ARABIA 
www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzTBev_svWI

SAUDI ARABIA ISRAEL US IRAN BIN SALMAN
http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/11/15...bin-Salman

SAUDI CROWN PRINCE SECRET MISSION IN ISRAEL
http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/10/21...-in-Israel

SAUDI ARABIA AND ISRAEL WANT TO DRAG US INTO WAR AGAINST IRAN
http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/11/14...ainst-Iran

SAUDI ARABIA KING CROWN PRINCE
http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/11/17...own-prince

SAUDI ARABIA RIYADH KING SALMAN MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN
http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/11/16...bin-Salman

SAUDI HIGH TECH 500 BILLION MEGA CITY
https://www.rt.com/news/407677-saudi-high-tech-500-billion-mega-city

TRUMPS PLAN TO USE SAUDI ARABIA TO ACHIEVE HIS POLICY GOALS BACKFIRED
http://www.mintpressnews.com/trumps-plan-to-use-saudi-arabia-to-achieve-his-policy-goals-backfired/234620/
 
Reply
#76
SAUDI ARABIA'S UNHOLY ALLIANCE WITH ISRAEL 
http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=21181%27%20style=%27color:#000

EGYPT’s ALLIANCE WITH SAUDI ARABIA SHOWS SIGNS OF STRESS 
 

WHAT IS BEHIND THE COVERT ISRAELI -SAUDI RELATIONS?
Linah Alsaafin
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/co...29835.html

Israel and Saudi Arabia may seem unlikely allies in regional politics but recent developments have pushed Riyadh and Tel Aviv closer together, setting the stage for the Middle East's strangest bedfellows. The covert ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, based on an alliance against the "common threat" of Iran, are part of a new regional paradigm, analysts say. The inclusion of Israel as a potential partner reflects a break from the fragmented order in the Middle East, where since the early 2000s the United States has sought to create a hegemonic system to dominate West-friendly states, brought about by either elections or deposition. Saudi Arabia, capitalising on its religious standing in the Arab world, broke through the ranks to establish its own order, one that included seeking ties with Israel on the basis of land for peace. In tandem it worked on the preservation of its Sunni identity and alliances to counterbalance Shia Iran's influence.

The ultimate deal
According to Ofer Zalzberg from the International Crisis Group, this shifting political order must pertain to the parameters of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which the US and Saudi leaders see as an imperative condition for enabling such a regional cooperation. "Giving birth to a visible Saudi-Israeli alliance that will deter Iran … is in many ways the very rationale for advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace in Washington and Riyadh," Zalzberg said. The White House, under the efforts of senior adviser and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is busy devising a new plan to break the deadlock of the peace process, which President Donald Trump has described as "the ultimate deal".

The Saudis understand pretty well that it is a good time to be good friends with Israel.

Their hopes lie on the support of regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which will depend on building closer ties between the oil-rich kingdom and Israel - despite the two not having overt diplomatic relations.

The motives of Saudi Arabia, said Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, are based on the shared strategic interest with other countries in the region, which he described as the "pragmatic Arab camp". "Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states - excluding Qatar - have two strategic threats: Iran and the Salafi or radical Islamic terrorism," Michael said. "Unfortunately, the US left a vacuum in the region which was filled by the Russians in Syria and by the Iranians and their proxies in other parts of the Middle East. "Israel is perceived as the most reliable potential ally," he continued. "Therefore, the Saudis understand pretty well that it is a good time to be good friends with Israel."

Normalisation of relations
According to Michael, Saudi Arabia has realised that its support of the Palestinian peace process has become a burden on its shoulders and that there are more issues that hold strategic importance.Where it once drew up what became known as the Arab peace initiative for lasting peace with Israel in 2002, the country is now willing to push the Israelis and Palestinians to accept Kushner's peace plan, Michael argued.

Israel 'willing to share' Iran intelligence with Saudis

"The Saudis are much less obliged to the Palestinians than before and are willing to agree to an interim agreement - which is my interpretation of the US initiative," Michael said. "This is an opportunity for them to strengthen the religious importance and their authority of Mecca and Medina (the two holiest sites in Islam) at the expense of Jerusalem and the religious significance the Haram al-Sharif (Islam's third-holiest site) holds, which in turn will strengthen their position against Iran," he added. Once the Palestinians will be pressured enough to enter the political process seriously, Michael added, an upgrade of relations between the Saudis and the Israelis will take place where it will transcend the covert layer. "This will be a sort of incentive for the Israeli leadership to make some further moves in the peace process with the Palestinians which they will see as something they can benefit from - the normalisation of relations," Michael said.

Reordering of regional threats
Khalil Shaheen, a political analyst based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said that the "reordering" of regional threats will come at the expense of the Palestinian cause. "The issue of normalisation is no longer controversial," he said. "But it is important to realise that the thawing of relations between Arab countries and Israel is not connected to bilateralness." Israel has a military, nuclear and hi-tech capability not matched by other countries in the region, he added. The alignment of some of the Arab countries to the interests of Israel is due to maintaining their control under hegemonic arrangements. "The decline of US power in the Middle East has resulted in Israel filling in the gaps that US foreign policy would have previously filled," Shaheen explained. "These Arab states are motivated by the survival of their regimes, and that is what pushes them to the stronger state in the region," he added.

Iran is an 'excuse'
Although Saudi officials remained silent on underhanded relations, their Israeli counterparts have made no efforts to hide that meetings between the two countries have taken place, with invitations for future visits. Last week, Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara invited Saudi's Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh to visit Israel, and two days later, Israel's chief-of-staff Gadi Eizenkot gave the first-ever official interview to Saudi news outlet Elaph, saying that Israel is ready to share intelligence with Saudi Arabia on Iran. The recent domestic upheaval in Saudi Arabia, which saw the arrest of princes, ministers and high-profile businessmen carried out by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was seen as a sign to crush dissent under the banner of cracking down on corruption.

"The political changes in Saudi Arabia and the desire to consolidate power is the main reason why these relations with Israel were opened," said Mahjoob Zweiri, an associate professor with the Gulf Studies Program department at Qatar University. "Yet Iran, which is used as an excuse, isn't too worried about this potential alliance," he continued. "This will, in fact, help Iran to present itself as a soft power to better its image in the region" - by means of presenting itself as a bastion of resistance against Israel. Ofer Zalzberg said that the Israeli prime minister will have to tread carefully when it comes to reassessing ties with Saudi Arabia.  "Netanyahu is caught between how Mohammed bin Salman's domestic reforms will transform Saudi Arabia to a country that will be easier for Israel to agree on a regional future with, and apprehension about the fate of these reforms and indeed, of bin Salman's rule," Zalzberg said.


WHY SAUDI-ISRAELI NORMALISATION COULD BE DANGEROUS 
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion...43078.html
[*]Ibrahim Fraihat

[*]Driven by succession plans and a strategy to confront Iran's influence in the Arab region, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) has engaged in several taboo-breaking steps. These include the arrest of dozens of princes and ministersand a process of normalising relations, at least partially, with Israel. But taking concrete measures to end the Arab boycott of Israel, without reaching a just solution to the Palestinian issue first, will be detrimental to both Palestine and Saudi Arabia. 

[*]On Thursday, the Israeli army's chief-of-staff, Gadi Eizenkot, gave the first-ever interview to a Saudi news outlet, saying that Israel is ready to share intelligence with Saudi Arabia on Iran. Also for the first time, Israel co-sponsored with Saudi Arabia a resolution against Syria in the UN Human Rights Council last week. Furthermore, Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara extended a warm invitation to Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti, Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh, to visit Israel for what he said were his friendly comments about the country. 

To "legitimise" steps taken to normalise relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia summoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh last week, to convince him to accept a peace plan put forward by US President Donald Trump's special adviser, Jared Kushner. Saudi-Israeli collaboration is an integral part of that plan. According to the New York Times, the proposal could include, among other normalisation measures, "overflights by Israeli passenger planes, visas for business people, and telecommunication links" with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE.

If MBS proceeds with the plan, he risks Saudi Arabia's leading position in the Islamic world being delegitimised.

Abbas' cooperation is essential for Saudi-Israeli normalisation to proceed; without it, the Saudi move would be seen as a betrayal to the Arab and Muslim position on Palestine. Although not much has been revealed about what really happened during Abbas' visit to Riyadh, some reports talk about the Saudi leadership pressuring Abbas to accept whatever plan Kushner puts forward, or to resign. Abbas is in an unenviable position, as pressure on him is likely to increase when Kushner's plan is released in the not-so-distant future. He needs Saudi and US financial support for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to continue to function. However, the Kushner deal will not do even minimum justice to the Palestinian national project. While the deal offers strategic gains to Israel, such as ending a Saudi Arab boycott, it offers only tactical gains for the Palestinians, such as financial assistance, prisoners' release, and a silent, partial freeze of settlement activities outside the large settlement blocs.

[*]The Kushner deal will practically fragment the Saudi-sponsored 2002 Arab Peace Plan that offered Israel full normalisation in return for full withdrawal from Arab lands occupied in 1967. By pressuring Abbas to accept the deal, the Saudi leadership is undermining its own initiative, accepting to partially normalise relations with Israel in exchange for an alliance against Iran.
[*]

Moreover, the Saudi normalisation plan is likely to further complicate internal Palestinian reconciliation. Aiming to end Iranian influence in Gaza, Saudi Arabia's close ally, Egypt, brokered - or as some view it, dictated - Palestinian reconciliation that resulted in Hamas surrendering power to the Palestinian Authority.


To pressure Abbas further, Saudi Arabia reportedly summoned his bitter enemy, Mohammed Dahlan, to Riyadh at the same time he was there. The purpose of the move was supposedly to have the two discuss Fatah's internal "reconciliation". In other words, Saudi Arabia brought Dahlan into the scene in case the PA president rejects the Kushner deal. In what could be interpreted as a sign of resistance to the Saudi pressure, some commentators in the West Bank and Gaza observed that upon his return to Ramallah, Abbas started cracking down on Dahlan's supporters.
[*]
Just a few days later, another blow was dealt to the PA. On Sunday, the US administration announced that the license of the PLO office in Washington will not be renewed - this could not be a mere coincidence. In fact, it might be another strong sign that Abbas continues to resist Saudi-US pressure. In line with this argument, Mohammad Shtayyeh, Fatah Central Committee member and one of the candidates to succeed Abbas, told me, "Reconciliation will not be a railway for a regional political project at the expense of the Palestinian cause."


Saudi's demands have put the Palestinian president is a very difficult position, as his people would overwhelmingly reject the stipulations of the Kushner deal. This situation is reminiscent of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat's, dilemma at Camp David in 2000, when he faced US pressure to accept Ehud Barak's plan offering partial Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. Immediately after the Camp David Accords, Arafat was sidelined and, two years later, died mysteriously. To what extent Abbas will be able to resist US-Saudi pressure and hang on to his presidency is yet to be seen.


What is clear, however, is that Saudi Arabia will proceed with its normalisation efforts with Israel, with or without Abbas. The way MBS is managing succession at home and escalation with Iran abroad suggests that he is up for making radical decisions.  
But his move on Israel might not work as well as some of his other bold policies have. In fact, he might end up shooting himself in the foot. Pushing through with the Kushner deal would mean acting against the consensus of Arab and Muslim countries, which reject normalisation with Israel without a fair and just solution to the Palestinian cause. Saudi Arabia might receive support from countries like the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and Jordan, but not from the rest of the 57 Muslim-majority member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Kuwait, for example, is already holding anti-normalisation activities at home.

[*]
If MBS proceeds with the plan, he risks Saudi Arabia's leading position in the Islamic world being delegitimised. His father, King Salman, the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, will appear to be conceding on the third holiest site for Muslims - al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. If he normalises relations with Israel, MBS will be giving Tehran the strongest hand to play against Riyadh, in Iran's efforts to delegitimise Saudi Arabia in the Muslim world.   
Reply
#77
SAUDI -ISRAELI FRIENDSHIP IS DRIVING THE REST OF THE MIDDLE EAST TOGETHER 
https://www.globalresearch.ca/saudi-isra...er/5619176

Through its top official, Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia continues a wave of internal arrests, having seized nearly $800 billion in assets and bank accounts. A few days later, MBS attempted to demonstrate his authority by summoning Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Saudi Arabia, where he was forced to resign on Saudi state TV. Trump tweeted support for Bin Salman’s accusations against Iran and Hezbollah, and the future Saudi king even obtained Israel’s secret support. Iran, meanwhile, denies any involvement in Lebanon’s domestic affairs or involvement with the ballistic missile launched by Houthi rebels towards Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport a few days ago. Meanwhile, Trump, Putin and Xi met recently and seem to have decided the fate of the region in an exercise of realism and pragmatism.

News that upends the course of events has now become commonplace over the last few months. However, even by Middle East standards, this story is something new. The affair surrounding Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hariri generated quite a bit of commotion. Hariri had apparently been obliged to announce his resignation on Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya news channel while being detained in Riyadh. His most recent interview seemed to betray some nervousness and fatigue, as one would expect from a person under enormous stress from forced imprisonment. In his televised resignation statement, Hariri specified that he was unable to return to Lebanon due to some sort of a threat to his person and his family by operatives in Lebanon of Iran and Hezbollah. The Lebanese security authorities, however, have stated that they are not aware of any danger faced by Hariri.

In an endless attempt to regain influence in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has once again brought about results directly opposite to those intended. Immediately after receiving confirmation that the resignation had taken place in Saudi Arabia, the entire Lebanese political class demanded that Hariri return home to clarify his position, meet with the president and submit his resignation in person. Saudi actions have served to consolidate a united front of opposition factions and paved the way for the collapse of Saudi influence in the country, leaving a vacuum to be conveniently filled by Iran. Once again, as with Yemen and in Syria, the intentions of the Saudis have dramatically backfired.This Saudi interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign country has stirred up unpredictable scenarios in the Middle East, just at the time that tensions were cooling in Syria.
Hariri’s detention comes from far away and is inextricably linked to what has been happening over the past few months in Saudi Arabia. 


Mohammed bin Salman, son of King Salman, began his internal purge of the Kingdom’s elite by removing from the line of succession Bin Nayef, a great friend of the US intelligence establishment (Brennan and Clapper). Bin Nayef was a firm partner of the US deep state. Saudi Arabia has for years worked for the CIA, advancing US strategic goals in the region and beyond. Thanks to the cooperation between Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, Bin Nayef, and US intelligence agencies, Washington has for years given the impression of fighting against Islamist terrorist while actually weaponizing jihadism since the 1980s by deploying it against rival countries like the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the Iraqi government in 2014, the Syrian state in 2012, and Libya’s Gaddafi in 2011.

MBS has even detained numerous family-related princes, continuing to consolidate power around himself. Even Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the richest men in the world, ended up caught in MBS’s net, rightly accused of being one of the most corrupt people in the Kingdom. It is speculated that family members and billionaires are detained at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, with guests and tourists promptly ejected days before the arrests began. Mohammed bin Salman’s actions are not slowing down, even after seizing $800 billion in accounts, properties and assets.

MBS is intensifying his efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, which is a drain on Saudi finances, lifting the naval blockade of the Port of Aden. Not only that, the two main Syrian opposition leaders, Ahmad Jarba and Riyadh Hijab, have been arrested by Riyadh in an effort to demonstrate to Putin the good will of MBS in seeking to resolve the Syrian conflict. Not surprisingly, King Salman, in a frantic search for a solution to the two conflicts that have lashed his reputation as well as the wealth and alliances of the Saudi kingdom, flew to Moscow to seek mediation with Putin, the new master of the Middle East.

MBS has undertaken an anti-corruption campaign for international as well as domestic purposes. At the national level, the collapse of oil prices, coupled with huge military spending, forced the royal family to seek alternatives for the future of the Kingdom in terms of sustainability, earnings and profits. MBS’s Vision 2030 aims to diversify revenue in order to free Saudi Arabia from its dependence on oil. This is a huge ask for a nation that has been thriving for seventy years from an abundance of resources simply found under its ground. This delicate balance of power between the royal family and its subjects is maintained by the subsidies granted to the local population that has allowed the Kingdom to flourish in relative peace, even during the most delicate periods of the Arab Spring in 2011. There is an underlying understanding in Saudi Arabia that so long as the welfare of the population is guaranteed, there should be no threat to the stability of the royal family. It is no wonder that after losing two wars, and with oil prices at their lowest, MBS has started to worry about his future, seeking to purge the elites opposed to him.

The Kingdom’s reality is quickly changing under MBS, the next Saudi king, who is trying to anticipate harder times by consolidating power around himself and correcting his errors brought on by incompetence and his excessive confidence in the Saudi military as well as in American backing. The ballistic missile that hit Riyadh was launched by the Houthis in Yemen after 30 months of indiscriminate bombing by the Saudi air force. This act has shown how vulnerable the Kingdom is to external attack, even at the hand of the poorest Arab country in the world.

In this context, Donald Trump seems to be capitalizing on Saudi weakness, fear, and the need to tighten the anti-Iranian alliance. What the American president wants in return for support of MBS is as simple as it comes: huge investments in the US economy together with the purchase of US arms. MBS obliged a few months ago, investing into the US economy to the tune of more than $380 billion over ten years. Trump’s goal is to create new jobs at home, increase GDP, and boost the economy, crucial elements for his re-election in 2020. Rich allies like Saudi Arabia, finding themselves in a tight fix, are a perfect means of achieving this end.

Another important aspect of MBS’s strategy involves the listing of Aramco on the NYSE together with the switch to selling oil for yuan payments. Both decisions are fundamental to the United States and China, and both bring with them a lot of friction. MBS is at this moment weak and needs all the allies and support he can get. For this reason, a decision on Aramco or the petroyuan would probably create big problems with Beijing and Washington respectively. The reason why MBS is willing to sell a small stock of Aramco relates to his efforts to gin up some money. For this reason, thanks to the raids on the accounts and assets of the people arrested by MBS, Saudi Arabia has raised over $800 billion, certainly a higher figure than any sale of Aramco shares would have brought.

This move allows MBS to postpone a decision on listing Aramco on the NYSE as well as on whether to start accepting yuan for payment of oil. Holding back on the petroyuan and Aramco’s initial public offering is a way of holding off both Beijing and Washington but without at the same time favouring one over the other. Economically, Riyadh cannot choose between selling oil for dollars on the one hand and accepting payment in another currency on the other. It is a nightmare scenario; but some day down the road, the Saudi royals will have to make a choice.

The third party to this situation is Israel in the figure of Netanyahu, Donald Trump’s great friend and supporter right from the beginning of his electoral campaign. Trump’s victory brought positive returns to the investment the Israeli leader had made in him. Ever since Trump won the election, the US has employed harsh words against Iran, turning away from the positive approach adopted by Obama that managed to achieve the Iran nuclear deal framework. Nevertheless, the Israeli prime minister has had to deal with numerous problems at home, with a narrow parliamentary majority and several members of his government under investigation for corruption.

Donald Trump pursued a very aggressive policy against Tehran during the election campaign, then went on to annul the Iran nuclear deal a few weeks ago. The decision is now for Congress to certify, with a difficult mediation between European allies (other than China and Russia), who are opposed to ending the deal, and the Israelis, who can count on the support of many senators thanks to their lobbying efforts. Israel, for its part, sees in Saudi Arabia and MBS the missing link between Saudi Wahhabism and Israeli Zionism. Various private cablegrams leaked to the press have shown how Israeli diplomats around the world were instructed to support Saudi  accusations of Iran interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs.  The interests of MBS and Netanyahu seem to dovetail quite nicely in Syria and Yemen as well as with regard to Iran and Hezbollah. The two countries have a common destiny by virtue of the fact that neither alone can deal decisively with Hezbollah in Syria or Lebanon, let alone Iran. Rouhani himself has said that Iran fears American strength and power alone, knowing that Saudi Arabia and Israel are incapable of defeating Tehran.

Trump’s approval of the arrests carried out by MBS is based on a number of factors. The first involves the investments in the economy that will be coming America’s way. The other, certainly less known, concerns the subterranean battle that has been occurring between the Western elites for months. Many of Clinton’s top money sources are billionaires arrested by MBS, with stock options in various major banks, insurance companies, publishing groups, and American television groups, all openly anti-Trump. In this sense, the continuation of Trump’s fight with a portion of the elite can be seen with the halting of the merger of AT&T and Time Warner involving CNN.

Trump seems to be accompanying Saudi and Israeli urgings for war with multiple intentions, potentially having a plan for a broader, regional and global agreement between the parties. At a regional level, Trump first supported the Saudi crusade against Qatar, resolved with Riyadh not getting Qatar to accede to any of its advanced demands. During the crisis, Doha approached
Tehran and Moscow, who immediately took advantage of the situation to establish trade relations and commence negotiations with Qatar to tame its terrorist influence in the region, especially in the Syrian conflict. Turkey and Qatar have practically announced a military alliance, cementing a new front that includes China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Qatar, now potentially all on the same side of the barricades, opposed to Saudi dictates and Israel’s efforts to foment war with Iran.

With the US withdrawal from the region, as is increasingly evident from Trump’s reluctance to embark on a Middle East conflict, Israel and Saudi Arabia are increasing their desperate cries against Iran, observing how the gains of the resistance axis have led Tehran to dominate the region with its allies. The visit of King Salman to Russia, and the four meetings between Putin and Netanyahu, give the idea of which capital is in charge in the region. This all represents an epochal change that further isolates Riyadh and Tel Aviv, two countries that represent the heart of chaos and terror. The Saudi attempt to isolate Qatar has failed miserably, and the continuous effort to paint Iran as the main cause of tension in the region seems to have reached a point of no return, with the latest stunt involving Hariri. Sunnis, Christians and Shiites agree on one point only: that the premier must return home. Riyadh hopes to light the fuse of a new civil war in the region, with Israel hoping to take advantage of the chaos brought about by an attack on Hezbollah. This is not going to happen, and the disappointment of the House of Saud and the Israeli prime minister will not change anything. Without a green light from Washington and a promise from Uncle Sam to intervene alongside his Middle East allies, the Israelis and Saudis are aware that they have neither the means nor strength to attack Iran or Hezbollah.

Trump is playing a dangerous game; but there seems to be some degree of coordination with the other giants on the international scene. The main point is it is impossible for Washington to be an active part in any conflict in the region, or to change the course of events in a meaningful way. The “End of history” ended years ago. US influence is on the decline, and Xi Jinping and Putin have shown great interest in the future of the region. In recent months, the Russian and Iranian militaries, together with the Chinese economic grip on the region, have shown a collective intention to replace years of war, death and chaos with peace, prosperity and wealth.

MBS and Netanyahu are having a hard time dealing with this new environment that will inevitably proclaim Iran the hegemon in the region. Time is running out for Israel and Saudi Arabia, and both countries are faced with enormous internal problems while being unable to change the course of events in the region without the full intervention of their American ally, something practically impossible nowadays. The new course of the multipolar world, together with Trump’s America First policy, seems to have hit hardest those countries that placed all their bets on the continuing economic and military dominance of the United States in the region. Other countries like Qatar, Lebanon and Turkey have started to understand the historical change that is going on, and have slowly been making the switch, realizing in the process the benefits of a multipolar world order, which is more conducive to mutually beneficial cooperation between countries. The more Saudi Arabia and Israel push for war against Iran, the more they will isolate themselves. This will serve to push their own existence to the brink of extinction.
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#78
RESISTANCE TO HEGEMONY 
Muslim world departing from script written by Zionists and imperialists
Zaakir Ahmed Mayet
https://crescent.icit-digital.org/articl...o-hegemony

On May 25, 2013, when Hizbullah Secretary General, Sayyid Hasan Nasrullah announced that 
“Syria is the backbone of the resistance and the support of the resistance,” it changed the entire dynamic of the situation in Syria. Sayyid Nasrullah had accurately predicted, “The resistance cannot sit with its hands crossed while its backbone is made vulnerable and its support is being broken, or else we will be stupid.”   This changed the face of the war in Syria into one with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) troops, Russian hi-tech weapons systems and Hizbullah with advanced fighting capabilities. This rewrote the entire rubric of Western interests in the region and spelt the doom of their hegemony. These events were completely unexpected and a resistance victory was not part of the calculation of the hegemonic powers.

It is with this understanding of the Syrian conflict that we interpret the following statement in 2017 by Israel which provides the clearest connection to the recent developments with the GCC+1 and Israel/US (hegemony).

In March 2017, the Times of Israel covered the Meir Dagan Conference at the Netanya Military College. The head of Israeli intelligence (Mossad), Yossi Cohen, and Israeli armed force Chief-of-Staff Leuitenant General Gadi Eizenkot took different views in defining Israel’s number-one threat, with Cohen focusing on Iran and Eizenkot opting for Hizbullah. This symbolises the two most pressing threats to Israel. According to Cohen,

The Middle East is our home field and therefore we need to be involved in all matters in the region. We need to form alliances, to identify mutual interests with allies, and also with enemies on certain issues.
It is now clear that the existential threats posed by the extended presence of Hizbullah and IRGC in Syria and Iraq were the catalyst for the current conflict with Qatar. This is most accurately captured by the statements of Israel’s former defence minister Moshe Yaalon when he spoke in Washington on September 15, 2016. 

He said, Iran’s Shiite axis, including the Asad regime, Hizbullah, and Yemen’s Houthis, the Muslim Brotherhood camp, led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but also encompassing elements in Egypt and Hamas, the global jihadist camp, including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda and the Sunni Arab camp, which comprises Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and others. Israel and the latter camp share several common adversaries, and while their cooperation is already robust (albeit quiet), it is in their mutual interest to increase it even further. The United States should join Israel in publicly aligning with the Sunni Arab camp.

One recent step in this direction was the signing of a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding in which Washington will grant Israel $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade.

The statement above by Moshe Yaalon gives us an indication as to what the siege of Qatar is about. As much as it may be about internal GCC rifts, there is no explanation as to what catalysed the drastic action if we are to assess it according to the above equation. The catalyst is elsewhere and as has been demonstrated above, the catalyst is Israel’s security picture, not only as an independent state but as the symbol of US and Western hegemony in the Muslim East. The threat to US influence and hegemony via the extension of Israel threatens the GCC+1 as well. The Ikhwan, albeit weak in Egypt after the defeat under the boot of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in Turkey still poses a significant ideological threat in the form of political Islam. This means that politics, state craft, and foreign policy must all be guided by the Islamic principles of justice as opposed to self-interest which has been the mantra of the GCC. In fact, it was self-interest and reliance on Western hegemonic powers by the Amir of Najd, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa‘ud, and King of Hijaz, Sharif Husayn, that formed “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and the other Gulf shaykhdoms.

The greater threat from a tangible military point of view has been the re-establishment of the resistance axis with capabilities of an Israeli doomsday and thereby threatening the GCC+1 who have always thrown their lot in with the Zionist regime.

It brings us back to the very first question that sparked this series of articles and the analysis above. Why Qatar? It is my submission that Qatar was never the main target, it was a litmus test. Qatar is the one country that has links to both the Sunni Ikhwan and the Shi‘i Muqawamah. Huge sums of money were spent in promoting sectarianism to divide the brothers in resistance, the Ikhwan and al-Muqawamah; as cogently reported by the Middle East Institute, the burning question was, had the GCC+1 succeeded? The rallying of both Turkey as a projection of the Ikhwan and Iran as a projection of al-Muqawamah, to the aid of Qatar has demonstrated that both the Brotherhood and Iran are aware of the enemies they face, that is, Israel/US and the GCC+1. There are numerous factors that have contributed toward this rapprochement that would be unnecessary to extrapolate at this point. What is evident is that there is a rapprochement and the net result is a mega bloc of the Ikhwan and al-Muqawamah. This narrative is borne out by the good-cop bad-cop play currently on show to the world.

On June 12, 2017, reports of a mediation offer to de-escalate the tension from other GCC countries such as Kuwait and Oman, offers by Morocco, and even the United States signal an important point. The siege was meant to bring about a reaction: to test if the two blocs that Moshe Yaalon referred to as “Iran’s Shiite axis, including the Asad regime, Hizbullah, and Yemen’s Houthis; the Muslim Brotherhood camp, led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but also encompassing elements in Egypt and Hamas” will combine to pose a formidable threat to US/Israeli hegemony and the GCC+1.

What does all the politics, military analysis and interpretation tell us? In summary, the Western hegemony established by Sykes-Picot remained intact for an extended period of time. Israel was viewed as a strategic asset and as an extension of Western hegemony. With the advent of the Obama administration, a receding of hegemonic power was observed. They focused on covert operations as opposed to large footprint demonstrations of force like the Bush administration. This affected Israel negatively as simultaneously it was losing its deterrence capacity to non-state actors, Hizbullah and later to Hamas. It was in relation to the declining projection of force by the hegemonic powers and Israel’s existential threats that the GCC rallied to support the hegemony that gave them their states in the first place. As the panic set in amongst the unholy alliance, the waves of revolution in the region were hijacked and exploited to achieve certain aims.

The primary geopolitical interest was to destabilise Syria in the hope that rebel movements and ISIS would wipe out the corridor between Hizbullah, Hamas, and Iran, thus neutralising the threat as the Ikhwan had been neutralised by el-Sisi, the new addition to the parasite club. The equation went awry in horrendous proportions and the end result has been a stronger Hizbullah, Iran, and Hamas.

Political Islam is still alive and so is Resistance Islam. Both are threats to GCC+1 and Israel, the latter causing unimaginable hardships in the Muslim world from Palestine to Syria/Iraq to Yemen. Qatar was merely a test case to determine not only the true alliances but also their capabilities.

Where will this take us? Does it take us to the edge of a world war? Regardless of what may be, the outcomes are in the hand of the Almighty. What we do know is that the GCC has come out openly in support of the Islamophobe Donald Trump and the apartheid, Zionist, colonial, settler state of Israel. It now rests with us, after reading the above and knowing what we know now… Who do we support? If justice is your compass, the answer is simple: we support Palestine — we are the Ikhwan and al-Muqawamah.

Zaakir Ahmed Mayet is Chairman of the Media Review Network of Pretoria, South Africa.
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#79
IS THE SAUDI ANTI-CORRUPTION CRACKDOWN FINISHED?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zZyV7epHyQ



IS SAUDI ARABIA BECOMING A DANGER TO THE REGION? 



KINGDOM COME OR KINGDOM GONE?
SAUDI ARABIA AND THE FUTURE OF THE MIDDLE EAST  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fS6xpmg-3u4&t=211s
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#80
SAUDI ARABIA's RITZ CARLTON HOTEL REOPENS AFTER CRACKDOWN


Saudi Arabia has reopened its opulent Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, more than three months after converting it into a gilded prison for hundreds of royals, government officials, and businessmen as part of a purge. Over the past year, the hotel has hosted President Donald Trump on his first state visit abroad for a $110 billion arms deal and then the Saudi elite who had to cough up more than $106 billion in “settlements”. After Trump’s visit, the kingdom shuttered the gates of the luxury hotel and hauled in dozens of princes, former ministers and business tycoons who had to cut deals with the authorities for their release.


Ten days before the purge, the Ritz hosted an international business conference which drew many of the kingdom’s entrepreneurs but they later ended up as detainees. Foremost among them were top Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Prince Miteb bin Abdullah. Reports said the latter, once seen as a leading contender for the throne, was freed after agreeing to pay over $1 billion. Prince Alwaleed also bought his release but the terms were not divulged. The purge was carried out by Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who arranged to seize more than $106 billion through the settlements, according to the attorney general.

His campaign under the anti-corruption cover has been viewed as a shakedown and power play by many critics, but its link to the record arms deal with the United States has largely been neglected. Prince Mohammed is wielding unremitting power and is the next in line to rule Saudi Arabia after having his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef stripped of the role as heir apparent and removed from his post as interior minister in June.  The ailing 82-year-old King Salman has been reportedly suffering from partial dementia and is said to be contemplating an abdication in favor of his son.

On Sunday, a handful of smart-suited businessmen, forced to decamp to other hotels since November, reportedly returned to the 492-room Ritz where the lowest rate is 2,439 riyals ($650) a night.  About the purge, one foreign consultant was quoted as saying by Reuters that “you forget about it as soon as you’re in your room and you get lost in your own bubble.”
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