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Zafar Bangash

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!


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.

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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GOVERNANCE IN THE MUSLIM WORLD - by moeenyaseen - 05-06-2007, 11:11 AM
Authoritarianism and Dictatorship - by globalvision2000administrator - 10-15-2017, 03:19 PM

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