Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

MBS feted in the US despite war atrocities in Yemen

The US tour of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a triumph of multi-million-dollar post-truth public relations

The current US tour of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, is a triumph of multi-million-dollar post-truth public relations.
The fact that MBS also happens to be destroying Yemen is just a minor glitch. Smooth PR is always able to secure the maxim that not all dictators, Arab or otherwise, are equal; after all “our” bastards can get away with everything.

Until they can’t — as in Saddam Hussein or Hosni Mubarak.

MBS’s PR orb sucks up everything, from a softball 60 Minutes interview to schmoozing with a galaxy of high-profile figures such as Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch, close pal Jared Kushner, James Mattis, Barack Obama, John Kerry, David Petraeus, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Tim Cook, and the CEOs of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Amazon, Uber and the Walt Disney Company.

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Posted by on April 18, 2018 in Middle East


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Saudi Crown Prince Boasted That Jared Kushner Was “In His Pocket”

Until he was stripped of his top-secret security clearance in February, presidential adviser Jared Kushner was known around the White House as one of the most voracious readers of the President’s Daily Brief, a highly classified rundown of the latest intelligence intended only for the president and his closest advisers.

Kushner, who had been tasked with bringing about a deal between Israel and Palestine, was particularly engaged by information about the Middle East, according to a former White House official and a former U.S. intelligence professional.

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Posted by on April 15, 2018 in Middle East, North America


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Don’t expect Trump to send in the cavalry if MBS has to circle wagons

Whether or not he is a purveyor of “alternative facts,” Michael Wolff in Fire and Fury tries to get inside the mind of Donald Trump when working out Washington’s new Middle East foreign policy.

In Wolff’s words, this is what the United States president was thinking.

“There are basically four players [or at least we can forget everybody else], Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran,” he writes in his highly controversial book. “The first three can be united against the fourth.

“And Egypt and Saudi Arabia, given what they want with respect to Iran — and anything else that does not interfere with the United States’ interests — will pressure the Palestinians to make a deal,” he goes on to say.

By now, what had been established was that Henry Kissinger, who served as the US Secretary of State and National Security Adviser under President Richard Nixon, was advising Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy Jared Kushner.

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Posted by on January 15, 2018 in Middle East, North America


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In 2018 the barbarous wars in Iraq and Syria may finally be coming to an end

I spent most of the last year reporting two sieges, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, which finally ended with the decisive defeat of Isis. This was the most important event in the Middle East in 2017, though people are already beginning to forget how dangerous the Isis caliphate was at the height of its power and even in its decline. Not so long ago, its “emirs” ruled an area in western Iraq and eastern Syria which was the size of Great Britain and Isis-inspired or organised terrorists dominated the news every few months by carrying out atrocities from Manchester to Kabul and Berlin to the Sahara. Isis retains the capacity to slaughter civilians – witness events in Sinai and Afghanistan in the last few weeks – but no longer has its own powerful centrally organised state which was what made it such a threat.

The defeat of Isis is cheering in itself and its fall has other positive implications. It is a sign that the end may be coming to the cycle of wars that have torn apart Iraq since 2003, when the US and Britain overthrew Saddam Hussein, and Syria since 2011, when the uprising started against President Bashar al-Assad. So many conflicts were intertwined on the Iraqi and Syrian battlefields – Sunni against Shia, Arab against Kurd, Iran against Saudi Arabia, people against dictatorship, US against a variety of opponents – that the ending of these multiple crises was always going to be messy. But winners and losers are emerging who will shape the region for decades to come. Over-cautious warnings that Isis and al-Qaeda may rise again or transmute into a new equally lethal form underestimate the depth of the changes that have happened over the last few years. The Jihadis have lost regional support, popular Sunni sympathy, the element of surprise, the momentum of victory while their enemies are far stronger than they used to be. The resurrection of the Isis state would be virtually impossible.

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Posted by on December 31, 2017 in Middle East


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Why Mohammed bin Salman is taking an interest in the Arab Bank

“They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind”, according to that infamous proverb – along with the Book of Hosea and Bomber Harris. But what wind did our favourite Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia think he was sowing when he slammed one of the richest Palestinians in his Kingdom into temporary custody a few days ago?

For by arresting Sabih al-Masri, the Palestinian billionaire and much trusted banker, a few days ago, Mohammed bin Salman created fury in the neighbouring Kingdom of Jordan where tens of thousands of Palestinians – many of them refugees from occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank – have invested millions in the Arab Bank.

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Posted by on December 22, 2017 in Middle East


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As Yemeni children starve, Britons must speak out: ‘Not in our name‘

It is perhaps the world’s most expensive home: a French mansion featuring marble statues and “a 57-acre landscape park” worth more than $300m, snapped up by the heir to the Saudi throne. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is on quite the shopping spree: a $500m yacht here, a $450m Leonardo da Vinci painting here. As this despot showers himself in decadent luxury, the children of Yemen are starving as Saudi bombs – many supplied courtesy of the British government – destroy the country.

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Posted by on December 20, 2017 in Middle East


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Mohammed bin Salman’s ill-advised ventures have weakened Saudi Arabia’s position in the world

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) of Saudi Arabia is the undoubted Middle East man of the year, but his great impact stems more from his failures than his successes. He is accused of being Machiavellian in clearing his way to the throne by the elimination of opponents inside and outside the royal family. But, when it comes to Saudi Arabia’s position in the world, his miscalculations remind one less of the cunning manoeuvres of Machiavelli and more of the pratfalls of Inspector Clouseau.

Again and again, the impulsive and mercurial young prince has embarked on ventures abroad that achieve the exact opposite of what he intended. When his father became king in early 2015, he gave support to a rebel offensive in Syria that achieved some success but provoked full-scale Russian military intervention, which in turn led to the victory of President Bashar al-Assad. At about the same time, MbS launched Saudi armed intervention, mostly through airstrikes, in the civil war in Yemen. The action was code-named Operation Decisive Storm, but two and a half years later the war is still going on, has killed 10,000 people and brought at least seven million Yemenis close to starvation.


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Posted by on December 16, 2017 in Middle East



Tension mounts in Lebanon as Saudi Arabia escalates power struggle with Iran

In Beirut’s southern suburbs, where buildings scarred with wars of old blend with posters of the latest dead, talk of another conflict has taken hold. A fight on a scale not seen before may be brewing, say locals like Hussein Khaireddine, a barber who says he and his family in the Shia suburb of Dahiyeh have grown used to tensions over decades.

“This one’s different,” he said. “It could lead to every valley and mountain top. And if it starts, it may not stop.”

The trepidation extends beyond the city’s predominantly Shia suburbs and south Lebanon, which bore the brunt of the 2006 war with Israel, to all corners of a country that has suddenly found itself at the centre of an extraordinary regional crisis. The turmoil had been brewing for years. But it was brought to a head on 3 November, at a lunch in Beirut being hosted by prime minister Saad Hariri. Midway through the meal with the visiting French cultural minister, Françoise Nyssen, Hariri received a call and his demeanour changed. He excused himself and left for the airport, without his aides.–power-struggle-saad-hariri-resignation

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Posted by on November 23, 2017 in Middle East


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This isn’t the first time Saudi Arabia has threatened the stability of Lebanon

A weird and highly constrained “interview” on his personally owned television channel by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was made under Saudi duress in Riyadh. The “interview”, in which Hariri – who claimed he had resigned last week and who on Sunday said he has “complete freedom” in Saudi Arabia but wanted to “look after his family as well” – was made after the Saudis declined to invite a Beirut-based Future TV crew to Saudi Arabia and insisted that their own television personnel filmed him.

Thus when he was questioned by popular Lebanese presenter Paula Yakoubian in the presence of Future’s Lebanese director of news Nadim Koteich in Riyadh, the Saudis were in a position to cut him off or edit Hariri’s words if he strayed away from what was very possibly a vetted script. For the “interview” itself reflected not the views which Hariri has persistently made public at home in Lebanon but those of the Saudi government under the effective leadership of the increasingly aberrant Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman.

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Posted by on November 21, 2017 in Middle East


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The night of the long knives in Saudi Arabia

The night of 4 November could truly be the Night of the Long Knives in Saudi Arabia.

The night started with the sacking Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, son of deceased King Abdullah and head of Saudi National Guard, a tribal force created to protect the royal family and key oil areas in the kingdom.


Since its consolidation in the 1960s, with the help of Britain, the Saudi National Guard (SANG) shed its past as a tribal militia, created out of the ikhwan fighters who launched Jihad on Saudis in the early years of the kingdom, to become a modern para-military force, balancing the army and other security forces.

At the time, the regime preferred to have multiple coercive forces led by several princes for fear of army coups along those that dominated Egypt, Syria and Iraq in the 1950s and 1960s. After foiling several coup attempts by army officers in the late 1960s, the regime under king Faisal decided that several military forces serve security better than a single unified and strong army.

SANG became King Abdullah’s power base and fiefdom in which patron-client relations with the tribes of Saudi Arabia were maintained. His eldest son Mutaib inherited the position to command SANG during his father’s time as king but with Muhammad bin Salman’s fierce drive to control all Saudi coercive bodies, including the army, and security forces, SANG was the last unit to be targeted.

As no real challenge to Muhammad bin Salman can come from princes with no militia, he was keen to end his senior cousin’s control over the last security body that can potentially undermine his rule.

It was surprising that he waited for so long.

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Posted by on November 14, 2017 in Middle East