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Houthis threaten to sink Saudi battleships & oil tankers unless Yemen blockade is lifted

Houthis threaten to sink Saudi battleships & oil tankers unless Yemen blockade is lifted
Yemen’s Houthi rebel government has threatened to sink Saudi coalition warships and oil tankers unless Riyadh lifts its blockade which threatens the lives of millions in the war-torn country.

“Battleships and oil tankers of the aggressor and its movements will not be immune from the fire of Yemeni naval forces if directed by the senior leadership,” Al Masirah news cited the country’s navy and coast guard as saying Sunday.

Earlier, Brig. Gen. Sharaf Ghalib Luqman, a military spokesman for the Houthi rebels, said that “systematic crimes of aggression” and the “closure of ports” compels the Houthi forces “to target all sources of funding” of the aggressor. He added the country is ready to “respond to the escalation of the Saudi-US aggression promptly.”

The threat of a military response to the ongoing blockade was made after Houthi leader Maj. Gen. Yousef al-Madani met leaders of the naval, coastal defense and coast guard forces Saturday. That same day, Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi posted a message on Facebook assuring that “international navigation will remain safe as it was before,” making clear that “only those who attack our country” will be targeted.

The Saudi-led military coalition announced last week that it was temporarily shutting all of Yemen’s land border crossings as well as its air and sea ports in response to a ballistic missile that targeted Riyadh on November 4. The kingdom accused Houthis of firing an Iran-supplied rocket at the Saudi capital, and responded with bombing raids on the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. Iran has denied allegations that it supplies weapons to the Houthis, but concedes it backs the rebels’ cause.

Following the November 6 closure of all ports of entry into Yemen, a range of UN bodies expressed concern over the fate of civilians in the country, where nearly 7 million people are starving while others depend on humanitarian assistance amidst a deadly cholera epidemic.


“The recent closure of the Yemen’s airspace, sea and land ports has worsened the already shrinking space for the lifesaving humanitarian work. It is blocking the delivery of vital humanitarian assistance to children in desperate need in Yemen. And it is making a catastrophic situation for children far worse,” Meritxell Relano, the UNICEF Representative in Yemen said Friday.

Also describing the situation in Yemen as “catastrophic,” a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) urged the Saudis to lift the blockade, as up to 90 percent of Yemen’s daily needs are served through humanitarian aid.

“That lifeline has to be kept open and it is absolutely essential that the operation of the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) be allowed to continue unhindered,” Jens Laerke emphasized.

READ MORE: British arms sales to Saudi Arabia jump 500% as coalition seals off Yemen borders

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric warned that the Saudi-led blockade “has had a tremendously negative impact on a situation that is already catastrophic.”

Unless Saudi Arabia lifts the blockade, “it will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims,” Mark Lowcock, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, warned earlier this week.

The UN Security Council demanded that the Saudi-led coalition keep Yemen’s air and sea ports open to aid deliveries into the country following a session discussing Riyadh’s draconian measures.

The Saudi-led coalition has been waging a military campaign against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015. According to the latest UN figures, the three-year-old conflict has so far claimed the lives of over 5,000 civilians, in addition to nearly 9,000 people that have been injured.


As Saudi ‘Purge’ Expands And Chaos Grips Middle East, We’re Ticking Down To Something Huge On The Horizon With All The Ducks Now Being Lined Up In A Row

Is THIS The Tip Of The Iceberg That Takes Down Hillary Clinton?

By Stefan Stanford – All News Pipeline – Live Free Or Die

In this new, viral story by Chris Martenson over at Peak Prosperity that was republished on Zero Hedge titled “If The Saudi Arabia Situation Doesn’t Worry You, You’re Not Paying Attention”, he tells us the dramatic geo-political realignment we’re now witnessing in the Middle East is upending many, many decades of established strategic relationships that stretched across the entire world with its tentacles reaching firmly into Washington DC and US politics.

Warning in his story that so much is currently in flux in the Middle East that nearly anything can happen next, he says that the tectonic change we’re witnessing now happening at blazing speed is receiving very little attention from the mainstream media here in America, thus proving how big a deal that this really is. While also warning that the gigantic waves of change now rolling across the Middle East will definitely come crashing down upon American shores in numerous ways that are likely to be enormous though still unpredictable.

And while Martenson warns that the ongoing purge we’re now witnessing in Saudi Arabia will likely impact the price of oil and the global markets as some of the richest men in the world are arrested for corruption, the tectonic shaking that we’re witnessing coming from Saudi Arabia could easily spark a new Middle East war with the opposing sides already being drawn as shared in this story and the first video below from South Front.


Martenson also warns us that Russia and China could quickly be drawn in to any conflict that flares up between Saudi Arabia and Iran and their numerous allies yet as we’ve previously reported on ANP, what could be the  most important aspect of this ‘purge’ are its ties directly back to Washington DC and US presidents dating back to Richard Nixon. As Martenson tells us in his story, a 40+ year old secret was kept that has finally seen the light of day.

Let’s talk about the most seminal moment in recent Saudi history: the key oil-for-money-and-protection deal struck between the Nixon administration and King Faisal back in the early 1970’s.

This pivotal agreement allowed KSA to secretly recycle its surplus petrodollars back into US Treasuries while receiving US military protection in exchange. The secret was kept for 41 years, only recently revealed in 2016 due to a Bloomberg FOIA request.

Note that this is yet another secret world-shaping deal successfully kept out of the media for over four decades. Yes Virginia, conspiracies do happen. Secrets can be (and are routinely) kept by hundreds, even thousands, of people over long stretches of time.

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With the Saudi purge now expanding with the arrest of Saudi ‘Deep State’ Prince Bandar also showing that what’s happening in Saudi Arabia goes all the way back to the Bush days and before, we have to wonder if Americans such as Bush or Hillary Clinton have been proven corrupt in the massive records and assets seizures that have been happening there and if the ‘Saudi connection’ will eventually bring down the corrupt political house of cards here in America.

With a very clear war declared upon Hollywood corruption and nasty news-men as Susan Duclos has previously reported here on ANP, the icing on the cake would be to see the likes of Hillary finally get the justice she deserves as Americans finally get truth on numerous conspiracies, scandals and tragedies that have haunted our nation for many years.

As we hear in the 3rd video below, the Saudi Arabia connection to Hillary Clinton involves tens of millions of dollars and stretches back many, many years. Is Saudi Arabia the tip of the iceberg that will finally lead to #LockHerUp?

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As has been previously reported, one of the recently ‘purged’ Saudi prince’s had directly bankrolled Hillary Clinton with Saudi Arabia donating tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation with Hillary proving weapons deals. Highlighted by the arrest of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire who also owned significant stakes in Citigroup and Twitter and who called Donald Trump a ‘disgrace to America’ prior to the 2016 election, we think it likely not just a coincidence that the long-floating ship of Hillary may have sprung a massive and terminal leak.

With numerous Democrats now turning against Hillary being led most recently by Donna Brazile we have to ask, what do they know that we don’t know??? The fact that Brazile has come out so strongly in support of finding the murderer of Seth Rich and actually stated she keeps the blinds closed to avoid snipers while refering to Rich as a ‘child of hers’ and a ‘great patriot’ shows she knows his murder wasn’t simply a random robbery (where they never took anything!). And what about the fact that award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh revealed he’d seen proof that Seth Rich had contacted Wikileaks?

And when we add in the sudden closing of the Podesta group as further indictments loom actually giving us another huge hint of the direction that this may be headed, we’re not the least bit surprised that Hillary is once again in talks with the Russians to buy more anti-Trump disinformation as she’ll try almost anything in her power to take him down before he returns the favor for the American people.

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In the 2nd video below from former Congressman Ron Paul’s youtube channel we’re warned that all of the ducks are also now lining up in a row for a brand new Middle East war that could have devastating consequences with the Middle East long known as the worlds powder keg and such a war having the capacity of drawing numerous other nations into it.

With the Middle East also supplying over 12% of the oil that Americans use regularly and Saudi Arabia itself possessing 22% of the world’s oil reserves, it’s easy to understand why such a war would immediately have global consequences.

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In closing, according to famed FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, special counsel Robert Mueller covered up numerous Islamic terror groups and could never be an impartial investigator into ‘Russia collusion’. Warning that Mueller had previously issued a gag order against her and her investigations into Islamic terror groups that have sprung up all across America, why would Mueller provide cover to terrorists and is blood on his hands?

As we hear in the final video below, there are numerous signs that the ‘Saudi purge’ now ongoing may be tied to the recent ‘Las Vegas massacre’ including the fact that Clinton crony Prince Alwaleed himself owned the upper floors of the Mandalay Bay resort! Just a coincidence that one of the biggest mass shooting in US history happened with Clinton’s terrorist-supporting crony owning parts of the hotel, who then happens to be rounded up in the Saudi purge?

It’s quite obvious that we are now witnessing history unfolding before our eyes with absolutely huge details playing out behind the scenes including hundreds of still sealed indictments and as Martenson tells us in his viral story, what’s happening there in Saudi Arabia now, thousands of miles away from the US, is something that we should all be paying close attention to, especially since the msm is seemingly ignoring much of it, and for good reason, as it reaches all the way back to Washington DC and Hillary Clinton.

 


Anatomy of a purge: MBS’s actions, Saudi Arabia’s crisis, and its coming collapse

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reacts upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France in this June 24, 2015 file photo. Saudi Arabia plans to set up a $2 trillion megafund for post-oil era, Bloomberg reported on April 1, 2016, citing Saudi deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman

The ongoing purge in Saudi Arabia, together with the kidnapping and extorted “resignation” whilst on a trip to Saudi Arabia of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, is posing a host of questions about the man at the centre of this drama: the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the country’s de factor ruler Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

The enigma of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman

Views on Muhammad bin Salman vary between those which see in him a genuine reformer who understands that Saudi Arabia urgently needs to change in order to avoid eventual collapse, and those which see in him a gambler and would-be dictator intent on centralising power in Saudi Arabia in his own person.

These two theories are not mutually exclusive.  It is possible that Muhammad bin Salman is both: someone who aims to become Saudi Arabia’s dictator in order to carry out the reforms which he believes Saudi Arabia needs to survive, and which he presumably also believes cannot be carried out in any other way.


I suspect that this is how he explains his actions to the other members of the Royal Family and to his father the King, and that this is what his supporters within Saudi Arabia – of which for the moment he has many – also believe or profess to believe.

However even if this is true Muhammad bin Salman’s actions and his “reforms” still seem to me giant steps in the wrong direction both for Saudi Arabia and for himself.  In this article I shall explain why.

In order to do this it is however necessary to look both at Saudi Arabia’s current situation and at the steps Muhammad bin Salman is taking in order to “reform” and save it.

The state of Saudi Arabia

Turning to the state of Saudi Arabia itself, it is not in my opinion an exaggeration to talk of situation that is slipping towards crisis and eventual revolution and civil war.

Firstly Saudi Arabia is not a conventional state but is rather the private patrimony of its ruling family after whom it is named.

The Al-Sauds have ruled Saudi Arabia essentially in their own interests, treating the country’s huge oil wealth as their own, in some cases amassing colossal personal fortunes as a result.

All male members of the Al-Saud family – of whom there are thousands – carry the title “prince”, and though the bulk of the family’s – and therefore the Kingdom’s – wealth is said to be concentrated in ‘only’ 2,000 of them, all male members of the Al-Saud family expect and receive privileged positions within the Kingdom.

Moreover because of the practice of polygamy the number of ‘princes’ is constantly and rapidly increasing, steadily increasing the burden of supporting them on the Kingdom’s budget.

Since male members of the ever-expanding Al-Saud family monopolise the Kingdom’s top posts as their birth right even a semblance of a meritocratic system where posts are occupied on merit such as is supposed to exist in other countries in Saudi Arabia is impossible.

Though as it happens some members of the Al-Saud family are capable and intelligent men who take their tasks seriously, by no means all or even most of them are, with the result that the Kingdom’s bureaucratic and military structures are riddled with inefficiency, a fact which explains why Saudi Arabia’s vast army has proved incapable of defeating the Houthi militia in tiny Yemen.

To compound the problem, to the 15,000 or so members of the Al-Saud family must be added the members of various other tribes and families which are either traditionally allied to the Al-Saud or which are like the Al-Rashid powerful historic rivals to them, and who must therefore be kept loyal by being offered generous slices from the Saudi cake in the form of fiscal privileges and jobs.

Beneath this vast, unwieldy and already inherently corrupt structure is the mass of the Saudi population.

Their loyalty is maintained by a combination of coercion – the Al-Saud have repeatedly shown themselves utterly ruthless in suppressing challenges – tight information control, intense religious indoctrination, and a culture of economic largesse whereby the Al-Saud hand out numerous fiscal and welfare privileges in order to keep the population acquiescent if not exactly happy.

By definition this is not a system likely to spur economic or technological innovation or growth, and though there are some highly educated Saudis and even a few highly regarded Saudi scientists the Kingdom has failed to diversify its economy away from oil or establish a proper civil society or genuine intellectual life.

The importance of oil

Oil wealth is in fact the glue that holds this whole system together and which keeps it going.

It is because of the Kingdom’s vast oil wealth that the Al-Saud are able to buy support or acquiescence at home, maintain their complex system of international and regional alliances, pay for their bloated defence and security complex, and enjoy the opulent lifestyles which they now see as their birth right.

The demands on the Kingdom’s oil wealth are however steadily increasing year on year as the size of the Al-Saud family and of the Kingdom’s other top families rapidly increases, and as the Kingdom’s population rapidly increases also.

Moreover as the size both of the elite and of the population has been growing, so have their expectations, so that levels of wealth or living standards which would have seemed high in the 1970s are no longer seen as such today.

However though the country’s oil wealth has provided the Kingdom with a huge and reliable source of income, the size of that income has varied constantly in line with the oil price.

Since the oil price is subject to extreme fluctuations the pattern has been for periods of abundance (eg. the 1970s and the 2000s) to be succeeded by periods of scarcity (eg. the 1990s and the period since 2014).

The Saudi budget problem

The nature of the Saudi system is however such that it is very difficult to cut spending in line with a fall in the oil price since doing so cuts against the constantly rising demands both of the Saudi elite and of the population as a whole.

In practice, since it far more difficult to cut back on the wealth and privileges of the Al-Saud and the other elite families, the cutbacks during periods of scarcity are passed down disproportionately to the general population.  The result is a rise in social tensions, which because of the intense religious indoctrination tends to find expression in Jihadi extremism.

Saudi history of internal conflict

The result is a country which beneath its monolithic surface has been repeatedly wracked by violent internal crises.

In 1979 a group of violent Jihadis mounted the single greatest challenge the Al-Saud have faced since the foundation of the Kingdom in the 1930s when they captured and held for several weeks the great mosque of Mecca – Islam’s holiest shrine – possession of which lends the Al-Saud their religious legitimacy.   In the end – in a further humiliation to the Al-Saud – they could only be driven out with the help of Pakistani troops and French advisers.

During the 1990s – the longest period to date of low oil prices and therefore within Saudi Arabia of economic scarcity – the situation again deteriorated and in the end got so bad that by the early 2000s a Jihadi insurgency against the Al-Saud was starting to take hold across the Kingdom, with civil war only narrowly averted in part because of the rise in the oil price.

Saudi foreign policy: bid to obtain legitimacy by claiming leadership of Islam

As if these problems were not in themselves severe enough, the Al-Saud since the 1980s – partly by way of response to the shock of the 1979 Mecca mosque siege – have made them worse by embracing a recklessly over-ambitious foreign policy.

This has involved using the same Jihadist sentiments which have caused the Al-Saud so much trouble within the Kingdom to try to mobilise support for the Al-Saud internationally outside it whilst securing their legitimacy within it.

Whilst part of the intention was undoubtedly to get radicalised and dangerous young men with Jihadist sentiments out of the Kingdom by exporting them abroad to make trouble elsewhere, the Al-Saud have also attempted to manipulate these people to achieve their foreign policy goals.

This export of violent young men from the Arabian peninsula has gone hand in hand with a massive programme whereby the Saudis have sought to use their oil wealth to convert Islamic schools and theological colleges across the world to the puritanical hardline Wahhabi doctrines which constitute Saudi Arabia’s official religious ideology.  The intention is to change Wahhabism from a fringe doctrine within Sunni Islam into its mainstream.

The objective has been to legitimise the position of the Al-Saud both within the Kingdom and outside it by establishing them as the leaders of Sunni Islam and indeed ultimately of Islam as a whole.

The decisive step was the decision in 1986 to add the title “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” to the official title of the Saudi King.

The title “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” was first used by the Sunni leader Saladin in the twelfth century, and has been used since then by the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt and the Ottoman Sultans of Turkey.

All these rulers assumed this title whilst claiming to be the leaders of Sunni Islam, with the Ottoman Sultans also claiming to be Islam’s Caliphs.

By adopting the title “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” the Saudi King was therefore claiming for himself the leading position within Sunni Islam and was pitching himself as Sunni Islam’s leader.

Saudi Arabia’s enemies and feud with Iran

In practice what this claim of leadership of Sunni Islam had led to is the targeted use of Jihadism against those political movements and states within the Muslim world which either contest the Saudi King’s claim to leadership or which – most dangerously – offer an alternative approach to Islam different from that of the Saudis.

First and foremost that is the Islamic Republic of Iran.  I have previously discussed the fundamental differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran and how these two Muslim countries are profoundly different from each other, with Iran offering a vision of an Islamic society which is modern and democratic in a way that Saudi Arabia can never be.,

The inevitable consequence of Saudi hostility to Iran is Saudi hostility to the Shia populations of the Muslim world, who are not only by definition attracted to Iran and the vision of an Islamic society practised there but who also by definition reject the Saudi claim to world leadership of Islam.  Unsurprisingly within Saudi Arabia itself the Shia have become the target of deep Saudi suspicion and of discrimination and oppression.

However Saudi hostility also takes in such secular and multi-confessional states within the Muslim world as Afghanistan was in the 1980s and as Syria, Iraq and Lebanon are today.

Saudi leverage of its alliances with the US and Israel

These policies have however made the Al-Saud a host of enemies across the Middle East.

They are also hugely expensive, committing the Kingdom to a quixotic quest for leadership of the Muslim world which is far beyond its actually very limited resources.

They are also contributing further to the radicalisation of young men in the Arabian peninsula, compounding the Al-Saud’s internal difficulties.

To the extent that these policies have ever achieved any success it has been entirely due to the skill with which the Saudis have been able to leverage the support of their far more powerful allies: the US and Israel.

However that has also left the Saudis exposed to manipulation by their allies so that in the Middle East in conflicts like the one in Syria it is not always easy to say who exactly is exploiting whom.

Saudi Arabia’s crisis – oil and Syria

On any objective assessment it has been obvious for a long time that this situation – both domestically and externally – is not sustainable.  Though the post 1980s Saudi bid for leadership of Islam may have briefly consolidated the Al-Saud’s legitimacy within the Kingdom, it has come at the price of growing hostility to Saudi Arabia regionally and a growth of dangerous Jihadist sentiments at home.

However in the period 2014-2015 two events happened which have tipped this situation into outright crisis.

2014 oil crash

The first was the crash in oil prices which took place in mid 2014.

For a time the Saudis thought they could not only ride this out but even turn it to their advantage by using the oil price crash to price out the shale producers in the US.  However by 2016 it seems that the social tensions within Saudi Arabia caused by the oil price fall were becoming too great, forcing upon the Saudis a change of course.

Since then the Saudis have worked together with other oil producers – especially with the Russians – to stabilise oil prices, which however remain far below their pre 2014 levels.

Here I should say in passing that I have always disputed the widely expressed theory that the Saudis deliberately crashed the oil price in 2014 at the bidding of the US in order to destabilise Russia.  Not only has no one explained why the Saudis would do the US’s bidding in that way, but the Saudis increasingly frantic efforts since 2016 to increase the oil price shows how limited is their actual control over it.

In the event, as things have turned out, the fall in the oil price has hurt Saudi Arabia far more than it hurt Russia.  Whilst the huge and diversified Russian economy has rapidly and effortlessly adjusted to the fall in the oil price, it is the Saudis – far more dependent on oil prices than the Russians – who are struggling.

Anyone who knew anything about the two countries in 2014 should have anticipated that.  It is a testament to the blindness of so many that they failed to do so.

Defeat in Syria

The second event to have happened since 2014 which has shaken the Saudis is the defeat of the Saudi backed Jihadi insurgency in Syria following the intervention of Russia there.

Here it should be said that not only was Saudi Arabia’s commitment to that insurgency massive but one of the most hardline Saudi princes involved in supporting it was none other than Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, who is now King Salman, Saudi Arabia’s reigning King and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s father.

Not only does this defeat mean the survival – indeed the strengthening – of the Assad government in Syria which the Saudis sought to destroy.  It also means a huge increase in the power and influence of Saudi Arabia’s nemesis and President Assad’s ally: the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Compounding that failure is the seeming reversal of alliances of the other great Sunni power of the Middle East power – Turkey – which defeated in Syria like Saudi Arabia is now responding to that defeat by mending its fences with the winners of the Syrian war: Russia and Iran.

Whereas until recently Saudi Arabia was at the centre of a network of Sunni states, it now finds that two of the most powerful of them – Turkey and Pakistan – are now becoming increasingly friendly with its enemy Iran, whilst Iran with the help of Russia is now in the process of forging a potentially powerful regional alliance with Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, which Saudi Arabia is bound to see as a threat to itself.

Muhammad bin Salman’s actions are a response to the Saudi crisis

It is this background of failure and crisis which lies behind Muhammad bin Salman’s actions.

His actions since he emerged suddenly on the scene following the succession in January 2015 of his father King Salman do not have the look of a well-thought-out reform programme.

Rather they look to be the impulsive and often ill-judged actions of an inexperienced young man intent on reversing Saudi Arabia’s recent defeats, so as to restore the position of the Al-Saud to something like what it was before those defeats took place.

Muhammad bin Salman’s actions since 2015

First there was the invasion of Yemen – launched in March 2015, just weeks after King Salman succeeded to the throne – involving 150,000 Saudi troops, 100 Saudi aircraft, and contingents from various Saudi allied Gulf states.

Then in 2016 the previous Saudi policy of allowing the oil market to stabilise by itself was abruptly reversed, with Saudi Arabia agreeing first to a production freeze and then to a production cut, even though that meant coming to terms with the Iranians and above all the Russians.

Then this year there was the quarrel with Qatar – a longstanding rival to the Al-Saud whose television station Al-Jazeera is a longstanding thorn in their side – which was accused of getting too close to Iran, and is now under blockade.

Now there is the kidnapping, continued detention and coerced ‘resignation’ of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who leads a government which because it includes Hezbollah members is seen by Muhammad bin Salman and the Saudis as too close to Iran.

Lastly there is the purge within Saudi Arabia itself, with Muhammad bin Salman’s rivals for the throne – Prince Muhammad bin Nayef and Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah – pushed aside, and all of Saudi Arabia’s security forces – the army, the various internal security agencies controlled by the Interior Ministry and the National Guard – brought under Muhammad bin Salman’s personal control.

Muhammad bin Salman’s repeated failures

The problem for Muhammad bin Salman is that none of these projects – with the partial exception of the stabilisation of the oil price and his ongoing purge – are going well.

In Syria the Assad government stands on the brink of total victory.

In Iraq the government has rejected Saudi demands to realign away from Iran and to disarm the Iranian trained militias which now form the core of Iraq’s armed forces.

In Yemen the war continues to go badly with the Houthis now launching long range missiles one of which has just hit Riyadh airport.

The quarrel with Qatar has simply rallied Iran, Turkey and Russia behind Qatar, whilst bringing Qatar closer to Iran.

In Lebanon the extraordinary circumstances of Prime Minister Hariri’s ‘resignation’ seem to have provoked a backlash, with the government rejecting Hariri’s ‘resignation’, the government coalition (including Hezbollah) holding together, and with Lebanese opinion rallying strongly behind the government.

Failures proximate cause of the purge

It is this catalogue of failure, and the growing criticism from other Saudi Princes which it has doubtless provoked, which is what almost certainly lies behind the purge.

Confronted by growing criticism and unnerved by his own failures, Muhammad bin Salman has gone for broke, trying to head off resistance and secure for himself the succession to the throne by launching a purge before he becomes the victim of a purge himself.

In my opinion the person who has best captured the quality of all this is the former British diplomat Alistair Crooke, who has emerged as one of the most insightful commentators of the affairs of the region

It is always tempting. The Syrian war is coming to an end, and the losses to those who bet on the losing side – suddenly in the glare of the end-game – become an acute and public embarrassment. The temptation is to brush the losses aside and with a show of bravado make one last bet: the masculine “hero” risks his home and its contents on a last spin of the wheel. Those in attendance stand in awed silence, awaiting the wheel to slow, and to trickle the ball forward, slot by slot, and to observe where it comes to rest, be it on black, or on the blood-red of tragedy.

Not only in romances, but in life, too. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has wagered all on black, with his “friends” – President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) and Trump himself daring MbS on. Trump, in his business life, once or twice has staked his future on the spin of the wheel. He too has gambled and admits to the exhilaration.

And in the shadows, at the back of the gaming room, stands Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. The idea of going to the casino was his, in the first place. If the hero lands on black, he will share in the joy, but if it is red … never mind: Bibi’s home is not forfeit.

Let us be clear, MbS is severing all the various fetters that hold the Saudi kingdom together and intact. Saudi Arabia is not just a family business: it is also a confederation of tribes. Their diverse interests were attended to, primordially, through the composition of the National Guard, and its patronage. The latter henceforth reflects, no longer, the kingdom’s diverse tribal affiliations, but the security interests of one man, who has seized it for himself.

Ditto for the various cadet branches of the al-Saud family: the carefully judged sharing out of spoils amongst the many family claimants is finished. One man is clearing the table of everybody’s smaller stakes. He has snapped the wires connecting the Court to the Saudi business élite – and is slowly slicing away the Wahhabi religious establishment, too. They have been effectively kicked out of the partnership, which they founded jointly with ibn Saud, the first monarch of Saudi Arabia who ruled during the first half of the last century, also known as King Abdul Aziz. In short, no one has a stake left in this enterprise, but MbS – and no one it seems, has rights, or redress.

Why? Because MbS sees the Saudi political and religious leadership of the Arab world slipping, like sand, through the king’s fingers, and he cannot bear the thought that Iran (and the despised Shi’a), could be the inheritor.

It follows from this that I agree with those such as Alistair Crooke and the Moon of Alabama that the current purge is not some purposeful step towards implementing some sort of well-thought out reform programme but is rather the desperate throw of an inexperienced and impulsive young man – Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman – who is in over his head.

Prospects for success of the purge

That does not mean that in the short term the purge will not succeed.

For the moment there seems to be no organised opposition to Muhammad bin Salman within Saudi Arabia – though in Saudi Arabia one can never know for sure – and with the army and his father the King apparently supporting him the odds must be that in the short term he will be able to pull his gamble off, seeing off or overawing the opposition and securing for himself the succession to his father when King Salman finally dies or abdicates.

The problems will however then start in earnest once the succession has taken place, with Muhammad bin Salman having angered and upset a lot of people on his way to the throne, and with no one left to blame but himself if or rather when things start to go wrong.

The ‘reform’ programme

What then of Muhammad bin Salman’s reform programme of which so much is being said?

As to that it should be said first of all that Saudi Vision 2030 is not in any true sense a ‘reform programme’ at all.

Rather it is a vast spending and investment programme intended to provide Saudi Arabia with an industrial base in a heroically short time whilst leaving the position of the Al-Saud at the centre of Saudi society untouched.

I have already made known my view that both the spending targets and the announced industrialisation programme are totally unrealistic and therefore certain to fail.

Comparisons which some have apparently made with the USSR’s industrialisation programme under Stalin and with China’s industrialisation drive since the 1990s are in my opinion completely wrong.  Those were the actions of revolutionary governments intent on mobilising the entirety of their nations’ resources around a programme of industrialisation carried out as part of a larger programme for the revolutionary transformation of their societies.

By contrast there is nothing remotely ‘revolutionary’ about what Muhammad bin Salman is trying to do.  On the contrary what he is trying to do by giving Saudi Arabia an industrial base is shore up the existing Saudi status quo by strengthening the position of the Al-Saud both externally and internally.

It is not even properly speaking an industrialisation programme.  Rather it is an attempt to graft an industrial base onto an unreformed Saudi society by leveraging the assets of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco in order to buy one wholesale from abroad.

That ultimately is no different from what Saudi Arabia has being doing – unsuccessfully – since the 1960s.  The only difference is one of scale.

There is no reason to think that Muhammad bin Salman will be any more successful than other Saudi rulers have been, doing unsuccessfully what he is now trying to do before him.  Certainly it is not a guarantee of his success where they all failed that he is proposing to throw a lot more money at it than they did.

Financing Saudi Vision 2030 via the purge?

What of the view that the vast fortunes Muhammad bin Salman has seized from those he has just purged will provide him with the wherewithal to bring his Saudi Vision 2030 to fruition?

In reality the sums seized – reputed to be $800 billion but in reality only a fraction of that amount – are nowhere near enough to finance a programme of this scale.  Suffice to say that Saudi Vision 2030 aims to increase Saudi Arabia’s non-oil revenue from $163 billion to $1 trillion a year.

I would add that for Muhammad bin Salman to try to finance his programme on the back of money he has seized from Saudi princes who have fallen out with him is politically speaking a problematic idea to put it mildly, and is a certain recipe for huge trouble down the line.

Outreach to Russia and the Eurasian powers?

Lastly, what of the view expressed by some that Muhammad bin Salman is planning to realign Saudi Arabia towards the Eurasian powers – ie. towards China and Russia – and that the purge is intended to head off a pro-US coup that might be launched to prevent this?

In my opinion this view is based on over-interpretations of Muhammad bin Salman’s comments in a recent Guardian newspaper interview of his wish to refocus Saudi Arabia towards a more “moderate version of Islam” and of the recent visit of his father King Salman to Moscow.

A more ‘moderate version of Islam’?

Turning first to Muhammad bin Salman’s comments about his desire to see within Saudi Arabia a “moderate version of Islam”, here is how the Guardian reports them

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 is the time to get rid of it…..

We are simply reverting to what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions. 70% of the Saudis are younger than 30, honestly we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately.

These comments are not only grossly unhistorical; they appear intended to blame Iran – Muhammad bin Salman’s and Saudi Arabia’s perpetual bête noire – for Saudi Arabia’s problems with radical Jihadism, which in light of previous Saudi policy (see above) is actually absurd.

In reality the Al-Saud – as Muhammad bin Salman of course knows – have been aligned with Wahhabism ever since the eighteenth century, when Muhammad bin Saud, the emir of Diriyah, invited the founder of Wahhabism Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab to his court and they agreed together to bring the Arabs of the peninsula back to the ‘true principles’ of Islam.

Nothing Muhammad bin Salman has said or done suggests that he has any plans to change that.  Frankly I think there is as much chance of a non-Wahhabi becoming the King of Saudi Arabia as there is of someone who is not a Catholic becoming Pope.

These comments of Muhammad bin Salman are not intended to pave the way for a genuine move away from rigid Wahhabi type doctrines within Saudi Arabia.  Rather they signal a slight easing of certain restrictions within Saudi Arabia in order to win support from younger Saudis whilst simultaneously seeking to win for Saudi Arabia and for Muhammad bin Salman personally a better image in the West.

Ultimately nothing much is going to change if only because real change would call into question Muhammad bin Salman’s religious orthodoxy, which would exclude him from the succession and therefore the throne.

King Salman in Moscow – no realignment away from the US

As to King Salman’s trip to Moscow, to see in it a realignment by Saudi Arabia away from the US towards the Eurasian powers is farfetched.

King Salman is the first Saudi King to visit Russia in an official capacity.  He did bring a large delegation with him, though Muhammad bin Salman himself was not part of it.  King Salman did also have a lengthy private face-to-face meeting with President Putin during his visit.

However the deals the Saudis and the Russians did with each other whilst King Salman was in Moscow are totally dwarfed by the far bigger deals the Saudis did with the US just a few months ago during US President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

This shows that it is the relationship with the US not the relationship with Russia which for the Saudis remains the important one.

Explaining the S-400 deal

The most eye-catching deal agreed in Moscow – for the sale by Russia of S-400 anti aircraft missiles to Saudi Arabia – has in my opinion also been completely misunderstood.

The context for this deal is the ongoing discussions between the Iranians and the Russians for the sale by the Russians to the Iranians of advanced fighter aircraft for the Iranian air force.

The Russians are believed to have offered the Iranians fourth generation fighters such as the MiG-29 and SU-27.  The Iranians are said to be holding out – and will probably eventually get – more advanced fourth generation plus fighters such as the SU-30 and SU-35.

It is standard practice for Russian diplomacy in such situations to seek to balance arms sales to one country with arms sales to its rivals.  In that way the Russians – for whom maintaining stability is always a priority – ensure that a balance of power is maintained, whilst avoiding excessive commitments to one side or another in a regional quarrel which might close off routes for cooperation in future.

In the case of the mooted Russian fighter aircraft sale to Iran, the weakest arm of the Iranian military is its air force, which depends on a mix of fighter aircraft delivered in the 1970s to the Shah’s air force by the US, supplemented by some 1980s era MiG-21 copies supplied by China and some ex-Soviet formerly Iraqi aircraft evacuated to Iran by Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War of 1990-1991.

Iran urgently needs modern aircraft to upgrade this otherwise obsolescent air force with its strange hodgepodge of aircraft, and realistically Russia is the only Great Power which can provide them (delivery of Chinese aircraft to Iran such as the J-10 has also from time to time been mooted.  However it would also require Russian agreement since all current Chinese fighter aircraft use Russian or Russian derived engines).

Iranian acquisition of large numbers of advanced Russian fighters would however radically change the balance of power in the Gulf and in the Middle East.

Accordingly the Russians are offering Saudi Arabia S-400 anti aircraft missiles, which because of their defensive nature do not directly threaten Iran, but which do provide the Saudis with protection from the advanced fighters Russia is preparing to sell to Iran.

That way the Russians are able to keep all sides contented if not exactly happy; balancing their sale of advanced fighters to Iran with an equivalent sale of advanced anti aircraft missiles to Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, thereby preserving Russia’s relations with both the Iranians and the Saudis and the balance of military power in the Gulf and in the Middle East.

It is not a coincidence that shortly after King Salman’s visit to Russia President Putin visited Iran where he had meetings both with President Rouhani and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Undoubtedly the question of Russian military aircraft sales to Iran would have been touched on during this visit, with the Iranians doubtless holding out for advanced SU-30 and SU-35 fighters and seeking a production and licensing agreement, and with Putin explaining the rationale for the recent Russian agreement to sell S-400 anti aircraft missiles to Saudi Arabia.

Purposes of King Salman’s Moscow trip

As for the other purposes of King Salman’s Moscow visit, the Saudis will have been anxious to ensure continued Russian agreement to oil production cuts, and will also have sought reassurances about the limits of Russian commitments to Iran.

Events since 2014 have shown that it is Saudi Arabia which is far more vulnerable to falls in the oil price than Russia (see above) and that it is Saudi Arabia which therefore needs Russia’s help with oil production cuts and not the other way round.

As to Russia’s relations with Iran, ultimately it is not in Saudi Arabia’s interests to drive Russia into a fully-fledged alliance with Iran, and King Salman’s various offers of Saudi investment in the Russian economy will have been made in part in order to ensure that does not happen.

The Russians for their part will not only have welcomed these offers; they also appear to have pressed King Salman into making financial commitments to restore Syria’s economy – devastated by six years of war – which for the Russians is a priority issue.

Summarising King Salman’s Moscow trip

Overall King Salman’s visit to Russia is not evidence of a Saudi shift away from the US and towards the Eurasian powers.  Rather it is an example of the sort of hard headed bargaining for maximum advantage at which the Russians excel.

Instead of over-committing to Iran and thereby placing themselves on one side in an Iranian-Saudi quarrel which is of no direct concern to them, the Russians have leveraged their increasingly close relations with Iran to extract concessions from Saudi Arabia, whilst throwing in the sale of S-400 missiles both as a reassurance and as a sweetener.

It is a style of diplomacy which the US and the Western powers no longer do and which – lost in their intricate geopolitical strategies – they no longer seem able to understand.

In the Middle East it is however understood completely.  Not for nothing is Russia’s President Putin called in the Middle East “Putin the Fox”.

Muhammad bin Salman – not a reformer but an insecure young man in a hurry

Overall it is impossible to see in Muhammad bin Salman’s actions any truly well-thought out ‘reform’ strategy.

As to what such a genuine – and realistic – reform programme might look like, I discussed it in my previous article where I discussed his hopelessly unrealistic economic plans

In reality what Saudi Arabia needs to do is not engage in a gigantic programme of over-spending which can only make the country’s economic situation worse, but on the contrary cut back radically on its existing spending, so that it can finally start to live within its means.

That means thinking of how to end the vast system of subsidies and privileges that are distorting and stifling the economy, and which are robbing it of vitality because they are unearned since they are paid for from oil revenues and are not paid for by taxes.

It means working towards ending the peg between the Saudi riyal and the US dollar, which is exaggerating the problems of the country’s budget at a time of low oil prices, and which is increasing its non-oil trade deficit by stifling the competitiveness of the non-oil part of the country’s economy.

It also means reining back on the country’s ludicrously over-ambitious and inherently destabilising foreign policy, which has achieved nothing save to spread terrorism throughout the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia itself, whilst locking Saudi Arabia into an arms race with Iran, which because of Iran’s vastly superior resources Saudi Arabia can never win.

As for the vast sums Saudi Arabia spends on arms – which it cannot use and often doesn’t intend to use – Saudi Arabia would be far better advised spending them instead on educating its people so as to prepare them for a genuine role in the country’s government.

As well as improving the national education system – which by all accounts is in an extremely poor condition, blighted by bigotry and prejudice – that means providing scholarships to young Saudis – men and women – from poorer families to study in universities abroad.

Objectively all this is possible, and it is not too late to do it.  If it were done then in 10 to 20 years time Saudi Arabia would be transformed vastly for the better.

Muhammad bin Salman is proposing none of these things.  On the contrary, he is planning to do the diametric opposite to them: increasing spending even further and even faster by committing to a grandiose and unrealistic industrialisation programme whilst increasing Saudi Arabia’s already bloated defence budget (reputedly the third biggest in the world) even further by increasing military spending to stratospheric levels.

At the same time he is doubling down on Saudi Arabia’s self-destructive feud with Iran – a far more powerful country than Saudi Arabia is or can ever be – whilst increasing the Kingdom’s already excessive foreign policy commitments even more.

His actions in fact show him to be not just an insecure young man in a hurry but one who responds to resistance and setbacks not by rethinking his strategies but by doubling down on them and by becoming aggressive.

Shocking treatment of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri

The decision to kidnap, detain and extort a ‘resignation’ statement out of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Harari is a case in point.  I am bewildered that so few have commented on just how outrageous and self-defeating this frankly bizarre step is.

Not only is it a gross violation of international law but it is an act which goes totally against the Arab nation’s longstanding and very deep tradition of hospitality and guest friendship.  Certainly in Lebanon and I suspect elsewhere in the Arab world (including in Saudi Arabia itself) most people will be shocked by it.

Beyond that it is completely counter-productive.  Having seen what Muhammad bin Salman has just done to Saad Hariri why would any other leader of any one of the smaller Arab states ever risk accepting an invitation from Muhammad bin Salman again?

Muhammad bin Salman’s treatment of Saad Hariri is not the action of a statesman but of a gangster.  Even the most brutal tyrants of the Middle East – people such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein – have never previously acted publicly in this way: kidnapping, detaining and extorting a ‘resignation’ statement out of the Prime Minister of a supposedly friendly Arab country whilst he is on a visit to their own.

Popularity of purge will be ephemeral

Muhammad bin Salman’s purge is all of a piece with this ruthless and counter-productive behaviour.

Whilst passing off the purge as an anti-corruption crackdown may along with with the slight easing of social restrictions Muhammad bin Salman has recently announced win him a certain amount of popularity amongst younger Saudis (where most of his support is to be found) Saudi Arabia is not a democracy and that sort of popularity is of little value if it comes at the price of alienating the country’s traditional power centres, which is what at an ever accelerating pace Muhammad bin Salman is doing.

It is likely that this popularity will prove ephemeral anyway.  As Muhammad bin Salman is not proposing any really fundamental change to Saudi society but is instead simply aiming to concentrate all power in his own hands there is no reason why younger Saudis should support him or why Saudi Arabia should become any less corrupt in future under his rule than it is now.

If anything the opposite is likely to be true, with opportunities for corruption multiplying as a direct result of the runaway spending programme Muhammad bin Salman has committed himself to.

Impossibility of ‘reforming’ Saudi Arabia

My opinion is that given the nature of Saudi society the very idea of ‘reform’ within Saudi Arabia is anyway an oxymoron.  Whilst it is possible to see how such a thing could in theory be done, in practice the nature of the system (see above) all but rules it out.

Perhaps that is why as the horizons darken the only ‘solution’ anyone is offering is the one being offered by Muhammad bin Salman: to secure the future position of the Al-Saud by transforming the current oligarchy into a personal dictatorship centred on himself.

Certain failure of Muhammad bin Salman’s plans setting the scene for final collapse

That might suggest that Muhammad bin Salman’s actions are the Al-Saud’s last desperate but nonetheless calculated bid to avert an otherwise inevitable collapse.  Frankly I doubt that they are anything as carefully thought through as that.

Regardless, of one thing I am sure: they are far more likely to accelerate the coming collapse than they are to avert or delay it.

Here is what I wrote about Muhammad bin Salman in my article about his economic plans

Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s peculiar genius is to accelerate the now inevitable collapse, so that it will all happen far more quickly than it otherwise would have done, and at supersonic speed.

Patrick Cockburn, that most insightful of commentators on Middle East affairs, has compared the cost and extravagance of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reception of President Trump to the similarly empty and inflated pomp of the Shah of Iran’s Persepolis Party of 1971.

That event together with the Shah’s runaway spending on a manic and unsustainable industrialisation programme eerily similar to the one now planned by Prince Mohammed bin Salman led eventually to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the fall of the Iranian monarchy.  If the same thing happens in Saudi Arabia the results will be far more bloody.

All of Muhammad bin Salman’s subsequent actions since I wrote those words – on 20th May 2017 – only confirm these opinions.

Meanwhile there is no justification for speaking of Muhammad bin Salman as Saudi Arabia’s ‘reformer’ or potential saviour.

On the contrary he comes across as an impulsive and arrogant young man in a hurry who has little idea of what he is doing and whose actions are as certain to bring the House of Saud crashing down around him as to secure his own downfall.


If Saudi Situation Doesn’t Worry You, You’re Not Paying Attention: A Key Geopolitical Axis is Swiftly Shifting

By Chris Martenson  /  Peak Prosperity

While turbulent during the best of times, gigantic waves of change are now sweeping across the Middle East. The magnitude is such that the impact on the global price of oil, as well as world markets, is likely to be enormous.

A dramatic geo-political realignment by Saudi Arabia is in full swing this month. It’s upending many decades of established strategic relationships among the world’s superpowers and, in particular, is throwing the Middle East into turmoil.

 

So much is currently in flux, especially in Saudi Arabia, that nearly anything can happen next. Which is precisely why this volatile situation should command our focused attention at this time.

The main elements currently in play are these:

  • A sudden and intense purging of powerful Saudi insiders (arrests, deaths, & asset seizures)
  • Huge changes in domestic policy and strategy
  • A shift away from the US in all respects (politically, financially and militarily)
  • Deepening ties to China
  • A surprising turn towards Russia (economically and militarily)
  • Increasing cooperation and alignment with Israel (the enemy of my enemy is my friend?)

Taken together, this is tectonic change happening at blazing speed.


That it’s receiving too little attention in the US press given the implications, is a tip off as to just how big a deal this is — as we’re all familiar by now with how the greater the actual relevance and importance of a development, the less press coverage it receives. This is not a direct conspiracy; it’s just what happens when your press becomes an organ of the state and other powerful interests. Like a dog trained with daily rewards and punishments, after a while the press needs no further instruction on the house rules.

It does emphasize, however, that to be accurately informed about what’s going on, we have to do our own homework. Here’s a short primer to help get you started.

A Quick Primer

Unless you study it intensively, Saudi politics are difficult to follow because they are rooted in the drama of a very large and dysfunctional family battling over its immense wealth.  If you think your own family is nuts, multiply the crazy factor by 1,000, sprinkle in a willingness to kill any family members who get in your way, and you’ll have the right perspective for grasping how Saudi ‘politics’ operate.

The House of Saud is the ruling royal family of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (hereafter referred to as “KSA”) and consists of some 15,000 members. The majority of the power and wealth is concentrated in the hands of roughly 2,000 individuals.  4,000 male princes are in the mix, plus a larger number of involved females — all trying to either hang on to or climb up a constantly-shifting mountain of power.

Here’s a handy chart to explain the lineage of power in KSA over the decades:

(Source)

We’ll get to the current ruler, King Salman, and his powerful son, Mohammed Bin Salman (age 32), shortly.  Before we do, though, let’s talk about the most seminal moment in recent Saudi history: the key oil-for-money-and-protection deal struck between the Nixon administration and King Faisal back in the early 1970’s.

This pivotal agreement allowed KSA to secretly recycle its surplus petrodollars back into US Treasuries while receiving US military protection in exchange.  The secret was kept for 41 years, only recently revealed in 2016 due to a Bloomberg FOIA request:

The basic framework was strikingly simple. The U.S. would buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plow billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending.

It took several discreet follow-up meetings to iron out all the details, Parsky said. But at the end of months of negotiations, there remained one small, yet crucial, catch: King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud demanded the country’s Treasury purchases stay “strictly secret,” according to a diplomatic cable obtained by Bloomberg from the National Archives database.

“Buying bonds and all that was a strategy to recycle petrodollars back into the U.S.,” said David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington. But politically, “it’s always been an ambiguous, constrained relationship.”

(Source)

The essence of this deal is pretty simple. KSA wanted to be able to sell its oil to its then largest buyer, the USA, while also having a safe place to park the funds, plus receive military protection to boot. But it didn’t want anybody else, especially its Arab neighbors, to know that it was partnering so intimately with the US who, in turn, would be supporting Israel.  That would have been politically incendiary in the Middle East region, coming as it did right on the heels of the Yom Kipper War (1973).

As for the US, it got the oil it wanted and – double bonus time here – got KSA to recycle the very same dollars used to buy that oil back into Treasuries and contracts for US military equipment and training.

Sweet deal.

Note that this is yet another secret world-shaping deal successfully kept out of the media for over four decades. Yes Virginia, conspiracies do happen. Secrets can be (and are routinely) kept by hundreds, even thousands, of people over long stretches of time.

Since that key deal was struck back in the early 1970s, the KSA has remained a steadfast supporter of the US and vice versa. In return, the US has never said anything substantive about KSA’s alleged involvement in 9/11 or its grotesque human and women’s rights violations. Not a peep.

Until recently.

Then Things Started To Break Down

In 2015, King Salman came to power. Things began to change pretty quickly, especially once he elevated his son Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to a position of greater power.

Among MBS’s first acts was to directly involve KSA into the Yemen civil war, with both troops on the ground and aerial bombings.  That war has killed thousands of civilians while creating a humanitarian crisis that includes the largest modern-day outbreak of cholera, which is decimating highly populated areas.  The conflct, which is considered a ‘proxy war’ because Iran is backing the Houthi rebels while KSA is backing the Yemeni government, continues to this day.

Then in 2016, KSA threatened to dump its $750 billion in (stated) US assets in response to a bill in Congress that would have released sensitive information implicating Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11.  Then-president Obama had to fly over there to smooth things out.  It seems the job he did was insufficient; because KSA-US relations unraveled at an accelerating pace afterwards.  Mission NOT accomplished, it would seem.

In 2017, KSA accused Qatar of nefarious acts and made such extraordinary demands that an outbreak of war nearly broke out over the dispute., The Qatari leadership later accused KSA of fomenting ‘regime change’, souring the situation further.  Again, Iran backed the Qatar government, which turned this conflict into another proxy battle between the two main Gulf region superpowers.

In parallel with all this, KSA was also supporting the mercenaries (aka “rebels” in western press) who were seeking to overthrow Assad in Syria — yet another proxy war between KSA and Iran.  It’s been an open secret that, during this conflict, KSA has been providing support to some seriously bad terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other supposed enemies of the US/NATO.  (Again, the US has never said ‘boo’ about that, proving that US rhetoric against “terrorists” is a fickle construct of political convenience, not a moral matter.)

Once Russia entered the war on the side of Syria’s legitimate government, the US and KSA (and Israel) lost their momentum. Their dreams of toppling Assad and turning Syria into another failed petro-state like they did with Iraq and Libya are not likely to pan out as hoped.

But rather than retreat to lick their wounds, KSA’s King Salman and his son are proving to be a lot nimbler than their predecessors.

Rather than continue a losing battle in Syria, they’ve instead turned their energies and attention to dramatically reshaping KSA’s internal power structures:

Saudi Arabia’s Saturday Night Massacre

For nearly a century, Saudi Arabia has been ruled by the elders of a royal family that now finds itself effectively controlled by a 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman. He helms the Defense Ministry, he has extravagant plans for economic development, and last week arranged for the arrest of some of the most powerful ministers and princes in the country.

A day before the arrests were announced, Houthi tribesmen in Yemen but allied with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh.

The Saudis claim the missile came from Iran and that its firing might be considered “an act of war.”

Saudi Arabia was created between the two world wars under British guidance. In the 1920s, a tribe known as the Sauds defeated the Hashemites, effectively annexing the exterior parts of Saudi Arabia they did not yet control. The United Kingdom recognized the Sauds’ claim shortly thereafter. But since then, the Saudi tribe has been torn by ambition, resentment and intrigue. The Saudi royal family has more in common with the Corleones than with a Norman Rockwell painting.

The direct attack was undoubtedly met with threats of a coup. Whether one was actually planned didn’t matter. Mohammed Bin Salman had to assume these threats were credible since so many interests were under attack. So he struck first, arresting princes and ex-minsters who constituted the Saudi elite. It was a dangerous gamble. A powerful opposition still exists, but he had no choice but to act. He could either strike as he did last Saturday night, or allow his enemies to choose the time and place of that attack. Nothing is secure yet, but with this strike, there is a chance he might have bought time. Any Saudi who would take on princes and clerics is obviously desperate, but he may well break the hold of the financial and religious elite.

(Source)

This 32 year-old prince, Mohammed bin Salman has struck first and deep, completely upending the internal power dynamics of Saudi Arabia.

He’s taken on the political, financial and religious elites head on. For example, pushing through the decision to allow women to drive; a provocative move designed to send a clear message to the clerics who might oppose him. That message is: “I’m not fooling around here.”

This is a classic example of how one goes about purging the opposition when either taking over a government after a coup, or implementing a big new strategy at a major corporation.  You have to remove any possible opponents and then install your own loyalists. According the Rules for Rulers, you do this by diverting a portion of the flow of funds to your new backers while diminishing, imprisoning or killing all potential enemies.

So far, Mohammed bin Salman’s action plan is par for the course. No surprises.

The above article from Stratfor (well worth reading in its entirety) continues with these interesting insights:

The Iranians have been doing well since the nuclear deal was signed in 2015. They have become the dominant political force in Iraq. Their support for the Bashar Assad regime in Syria may not have been enough to save him, but Iran was on what appears to be the winning side in the Syrian civil war. Hezbollah has been hurt by its participation in the war but is reviving, carrying Iranian influence in Lebanon at a time when Lebanon is in crisis after the resignation of its prime minister last week.

The Saudis, on the other hand, aren’t doing as well. The Saudi-built anti-Houthi coalition in Yemen has failed to break the Houthi-led opposition. And Iran has openly entered into an alliance with Qatar against the wishes of the Saudis and their ally, the United Arab Emirates.

Iran seems to sense the possibility of achieving a dream: destabilizing Saudi Arabia, ending its ability to support anti-Iranian forces, and breaking the power of the Sunni Wahhabis. Iran must look at the arrests in Saudi Arabia as a very bad move. And they may be. Mohammad bin Salman has backed the fundamentalists and the financial elite against the wall.

They are desperate, and now it is their turn to roll the dice. If they fall short, it could result in a civil war in Saudi Arabia. If Iran can hit Riyadh with missiles, the crown prince’s opponents could argue that the young prince is so busy with his plans that he isn’t paying attention to the real threat. For the Iranians, the best outcome is to have no one come out on top.

This would reconfigure the geopolitics of the Middle East, and since the U.S. is deeply involved there, it has decisions to make.

So given Yemen, Syria, and its recent domestic purges, Saudi Arabia is in turmoil. It’s in a far weaker position than it was a short while ago.

This leaves the US in a far weaker regional position, too, at precisely the time when China and Russia are increasing their own presence (which we’ll get to next).

But first we have to discuss what might happen if a civil war were to engulf Saudi Arabia.  The price of oil would undoubtedly spike. In turn, that would cripple the weaker countries, companies and households around the world that simply cannot afford a higher oil price. And there’s a lot of them.

Financial markets would destabilize as long-suppressed volatility would explode higher, creating horrific losses across the board.  That very few investors are mentally or financially prepared for such carnage is a massive understatement.

So..if you were Saudi Arabia, in need of helpful allies after being bogged down in an unwinnable war in Yemen, just defeated in a proxy war in Syria, and your longtime ‘ally’, the US, is busy pumping as much of its own oil as it can, what would you do?

Pivot To China

Given its situation, is it really any surprise that King Salman and his son have decided to pivot to China?  In need of a new partner that would align better with their current and future interests, China is the obvious first choice.

So in March 2017, only a very short while after Obama’s failed visit, a large and well-prepared KSA entourage accompanied King Salman to Beijing and inked tens of billions in new business deals:

China, Saudi Arabia eye $65 billion in deals as king visits

Mar 16, 2017

BEIJING (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman oversaw the signing of deals worth as much as $65 billion on the first day of a visit to Beijing on Thursday, as the world’s largest oil exporter looks to cement ties with the world’s second-largest economy.

The deals included a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between giant state oil firm Saudi Aramco and China North Industries Group Corp (Norinco), to look into building refining and chemical plants in China.

Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) and Sinopec, which already jointly run a chemical complex in Tinajin, also agreed to develop petrochemical projects in both China and Saudi Arabia.

Salman told Xi he hoped China could play an even greater role in Middle East affairs, the ministry added.

Deputy Chinese Foreign Minister Zhang Ming said the memorandums of understanding and letters of intent were potentially worth about $65 billion, involving everything from energy to space.

(Source)

This was a very big deal in terms of Middle East geopolitics.  It shook up many decades of established power, resulting in a shift away from dependence on America.

The Saudis arrived in China with such a huge crowd in tow that a reported 150 cooks had been brought along to just to feed everyone in the Saudi visitation party.

The resulting deals struck involved everything from energy to infrastructure to information technology to space.  And this was just on the first visit.  Quite often a brand new trade delegation event involves posturing and bluffing and feeling each other out; not deals being struck.   So it’s clear that before the visit, well before, lots and lots of deals were being negotiated and terms agreed to so that the thick MOU files were ready to sign during the actual visit.

The scope and size of these business deals are eye catching, but the real clincher is King Salman’s public statement expressing hope China will play “an even greater role in Middle East affairs.”

That, right there, is the sound of the geopolitical axis-tilting. That public statement tells us everything we need to know about the sort of change the Salman dynasty intends to pursue.

So it should have surprised no one to hear that, in August this year, another $70 billion of new deals were announced between China and KSA. The fanfare extolled that Saudi-Sino relations had entered a new era, with “the agreements covering investment, trade, energy, postal service, communications, and media.”

This is a very rapid pace for such large deals.  If KSA and China were dating, they’d be talking about moving in together already. They’re clearly at the selecting furniture and carpet samples stage.

As for the US? It seems KSA isn’t even returning its calls or texts at this point.

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet…

All of the above merely describes how we arrived at where things stand today.

But as mentioned, the power grab underway in KSA by Mohammed bin Salman is unfolding in real-time. Developments are happening hourly — while writing this, the very high-profile Prince Bandar bin Sultan (recent head of Saudi Intelligence and former longtime ambassador to the US) has been arrested.

The trajectory of events is headed in a direction that may well end the arrangement that has served as the axis around which geopolitics has spun for the past 40 years. The Saudis want new partners, and are courting China hard.

China, for reasons we discuss in Part 2 of this report, has an existential need to supplant America as Saudi Arabia’s most vital oil customer.

And both Saudi Arabia and China are inking an increasing number of strategic oil deals with Russia. Why? We get into that in Part 2, too — but suffice it to say, in the fast-shifting world of KSA foreign policy, it’s China and Russia ‘in’, US ‘out’.

Maybe not all the way out, but the US clearly has lost a lot of ground with KSA over the past few years.  My analysis is that by funding an insane amount of shale oil development, at a loss, and at any cost (such as to our biggest Mideast ally) the US has time and again displayed that our ‘friendship’ does not run very deep.  In a world where loyalty counts, the US has proved a disloyal partner. Can China position itself to be perceived of as a better mate? When it comes to business, I believe the answer is ‘yes.’

In Part 2: The Oil Threat we couple these developments with China and Russia’s recent efforts to drop the dollar from trade, especially when purchasing oil, and clearly see the unfolding of the biggest new driver of the world’s financial, monetary and geopolitical arrangements in 50 years.

We also explain why, unless something very dramatically changes in either the supply or demand equation for oil, and soon, we can now put a timeline in place for when the great unraveling begins.  Somewhere between the second half of 2018 and the end of 2019 oil will dramatically increase in price and that will shake the foundations of the global mountain of debt and its related underfunded liabilities.  Think 9.0 on the financial Richter scale.

Let me be blunt – you have to have your preparations done before this happens.  You really, really want to be a year early on this (at least).  When it starts happening, the breakdown will progress faster than you can react.

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

https://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/113426/if-saudi-arabia-situation-doesnt-worry-youre-not-paying-attention