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SAUDI ARABIA’S GOVERNMENT PURGE — AND HOW WASHINGTON CORRUPTION ENABLED IT
The crackdown will test the claims of Saudi Arabia- and UAE-backed Washington think tanks that say they pride themselves on their ability to speak freely.
Ryan Grim
November 5 2017, 6:16 a.m.
Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Council/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
THE MASS ARREST of high-ranking Saudi businessmen, media figures, and royal family members Saturday has shaken the global business community. Among 10 other princes and 38 others, the roundup netted Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men, who owns significant shares in everything from Citibank to Twitter to the parent company of Fox News.
Prince Alwaleed has done business with President Donald Trump in the past, but during the campaign turned into a fiery critic, drawing Trump’s Twitter ire.
Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected. #Trump2016
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2015
The move against Alwaleed and the other officials was couched as the result of a secret investigation carried out by a “high committee on fighting corruption.” Minister of Education Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al-Issa “hailed the royal decree,” according to the Saudi Press Agency, saying, “this committee heralds a future of firmness against those who are trying to to undermine the capabilities of the homeland.”
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Whatever the official explanation, it is being read around the world as a power grab by the kingdom’s rising crown prince. “The sweeping campaign of arrests appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman,” as the New York Times put it. “The king had decreed the creation of a powerful new anti-corruption committee, headed by the crown prince, only hours before the committee ordered the arrests.
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The men are being held in the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh. “There is no jail for royals,” a Saudi source noted.
The move marks a moment of reckoning for Washington’s foreign policy establishment, which struck a bargain of sorts with Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, and Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S. who has been MBS’s leading advocate in Washington. The unspoken arrangement was clear: The UAE and Saudi Arabia would pump millions into Washington’s political ecosystem while mouthing a belief in “reform,” and Washington would pretend to believe that they meant it. MBS has won praise for some policies, like an openness to reconsidering Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers.
Meanwhile, however, the 32-year-old MBS has been pursuing a dangerously impulsive and aggressive regional policy, which has included a heightening of tensions with Iran, a catastrophic war on Yemen, and a blockade of ostensible ally Qatar. Those regional policies have been disasters for the millions who have suffered the consequences, including the starving people of Yemen, as well as for Saudi Arabia, but MBS has dug in harder and harder. And his supporters in Washington have not blinked.
Saudi guards in the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh. Photo: Provided by source
The platitudes about reform were also challenged by recent mass arrests of religious figures and repression of anything that has remotely approached less than full support of MBS.
The latest purge comes just days after White House adviser Jared Kushner, a close ally of Otaiba, visited Riyadh, and just hours after a bizarre-even-for-Trump tweet.
Would very much appreciate Saudi Arabia doing their IPO of Aramco with the New York Stock Exchange. Important to the United States!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 4, 2017
Whatever legitimate debate there was about MBS ended Saturday — his drive to consolidate power is now too obvious to ignore. And that puts denizens of Washington’s think tank world in a difficult spot, as they have come to rely heavily on the Saudi and UAE end of the bargain. As The Intercept reported earlier, one think tank alone, the Middle East Institute, got a massive $20 million commitment from the UAE.
And make no mistake, MBS is a project of the UAE — an odd turn of events given the relative sizes of the two countries. “Our relationship with them is based on strategic depth, shared interests, and most importantly the hope that we could influence them. Not the other way around,” Otaiba has said privately. For the past two years, Otaiba has introduced MBS around Washington and offered assurances of his commitment to modernizing and reforming Saudi Arabia, according to people who’ve spoken with him, confirmed by emails leaked by the group, Global Leaks. When confronted with damning headlines, Otaiba tends to acknowledge the reform project is a work in progress, but insists that it is progress nonetheless, and in MBS resides the best chance of the region.
“I don’t think we’ll ever see a more pragmatic leader in that country. Which is why engaging with them is so important and will yield the most results we can ever get out of saudi,” Otaiba said in one representative note. “I think MBS is far more pragmatic than what we hear is saudi public positions [sic].”
In an email to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, Otaiba laid out his thinking clearly while thanking him for a column.
Thank you for taking the time to go out there and meet with MBS. As someone who knows the region well, it looks from how you wrote this piece, that you are beginning to see what we’ve been saying for the last two years. Change!
Change in attitude, change in style, change in approach.
I think we would all agree these changes in saudi are much needed. So i’m relieved to find you saw what we’ve been seeing and frequently trying to convey. Your voice and your credibility will be a huge factor in getting reasonable folks to understand and believe in whats happening.
Our job now, is to [do] everything possible to ensure MBS succeeds.
In an unusual move, Saudi Arabia even recently hired the UAE’s longtime public-relations firm, the Harbour Group, run by Otaiba’s friend Richard Mintz. Richard Clarke, most well known for his public apology to 9/11 victims for the intelligence failure, was brutal in his criticism of Saudi Arabia in the wake of the attack. An Otaiba friend, he is now chair of the MEI’s board and has personally lobbied Saudi Arabia for funding, walking out of the Saudi embassy with a $500,000 check. Michael Petruzzello, the longtime Washington hand for Saudi Arabia, is also on the MEI board.
Gulf countries that are family-run dynasties tend to produce the same kind of family rivalries seen the world over. In Abu Dhabi, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Otaiba’s mentor and boss who is known as MBZ, has long detested Mohammed bin Nayef, who was in line for the Saudi throne, going so far as to publicly call him a monkey. MBZ and Otaiba saw MBS as the way to derail bin Nayef, and exert control over the larger country by elevating the junior prince.
The campaign worked and was largely cheered in Washington.
Scholars at the think tanks that are backed with Saudi and UAE money say they pride themselves on their ability to speak and write freely, and bristle at any suggestion that the funding corrupts the intellectual product.
That claim has always been dubious, but the next few days will put it to the test in a way it never has been tested before.
Top photo: In this photo released by Saudi Royal Council, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud, center, attends a ceremony held for pledging Saudi local emirs and other notable people’s allegiance to him as the new crown prince of Saudi Arabia in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on June 21, 2017.
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Ryan Grim
ryan.grim@​theintercept.com
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67 Comments (closed)
THREADS LATEST
Yesil Sermaye
November 13 2017, 5:42 a.m.
It is all because George Papadopoulos is talking to Mueller about Yesil Sermaye of Sfakianakis and Catsambas which funded the anti-Israel post-Cyprus canards in Greece. Papadopoulos is a London Greek Oil SHipping attorney. Greeks ship all the Saudi oil, just as Greeks shiped another black gold, Nigerian Slaves provided by the Sudan.
Formica D.
November 10 2017, 3:15 p.m.
What part of the Saudi government isn’t corrupt? It’s a dictatorship. The word “corrupt” has no meanng in the context of an illegitimate “government”.
JOHN CHUCKMAN
November 10 2017, 7:41 a.m.
WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IN SAUDI ARABIA?
John Chuckman
Trump Says Saudi Elites Caught In Anti-Corruption Probe Were ‘Milking’ Kingdom For Years
This is just nonsense from Trump.
Corruption is and has been everywhere in Saudi Arabia. How else could it be with all the countless billions changing hands in a fairly closed society?
So, it is easy for a guy like the new Crown Prince to glance around and conveniently find some corruption among people he wants to discredit anyway.
It may go beyond merely discrediting them to having hundreds of billions seized by the Crown Prince. Not a bad day’s work.
What is going on is a kind of coup against the old order by the new usurper Crown Prince. His recent appointment was by a King well known for his senility, and it suddenly and surprisingly upset the established order of succession and all kinds of extended family compacts.
We likely will never know what truly happened in this secretive kingdom. But we do know the abrupt changes created lots of enemies who needed attending to, and that seems to be what is happening.
And the enemies have no friends in Washington to whom they can appeal. The old order in Saudi Arabia suffered terribly in the wake of 9/11, and despite great efforts to pacify the US with new levels of cooperation, it is now being swept out.
Now, whatever is considered good for a hyper-aggressive United States is coincidentally good for its de facto colony in the Middle East.
Trump himself has already proved to be one of Israel’s best-ever American friends. Israel has long had great influence, but it possibly never had it so good as it does now, as with a UN Ambassador who speaks as though she were a joint appointment of Trump and Netanyahu. Trump’s only competitor in this regard would be Lyndon Johnson.
The US and Israel closely embrace the usurper because he has proven his dependability with bloody projects like making illegal war on Yemen. That war is exactly like the proxy war waged by mercenaries – ISIS and Al-Nusra et al – in Syria except that in this case it is the open work of a nation-state. And now he joins Israel in making threats on Lebanon.
In all the Neocon Wars in the Mideast, great effort has been made, one way or another, not to have Israel at center stage, to avoid having Israel appear as aggressor. But, in fact, without the influence of Israel, none of these terrible wars would have happened.
Yes, the Crown Prince will be a dependable component in the years-long American-Israeli project of creating a new Middle East. The Crown Prince is essentially Israel’s man in Saudi Arabia, just as President el-Sisi is in Egypt. Israel is comfortable being surrounded by absolute governments, so long as they are absolute governments beholden to its patron, the United States.
Right now, the new Crown Prince is doing another bloody service for Israeli interests. The Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, was called to come to Riyadh in the King’s name for some business, as it turned out on false pretenses. Hariri had his plane surrounded and he was effectively arrested upon landing. Just pure modern piracy. Later, and who knows after what threats, he announced his sudden and unexpected resignation as prime minister, and he remains in Saudi Arabia.
It just so happens, in very recent time, Netanyahu and some of his officials have made some very ugly noises against Lebanon and even staged a large-scale set of war games, including calling up reservists, clearly threatening the country.
Israel just cannot stand the idea of Hezbollah being part of the Lebanese government whereas a reasonable observer would say Lebanon had achieved a peaceful balance in governing a land of many diverse political and religious groups.
After all, it hasn’t been that long ago since Israel helped catapult Lebanon into a terrible, bloody civil war, and it did so with its own bloody and unwarranted invasion of the country. Hezbollah, an organization which has never been a true terrorist group no matter what Israel goes on about, came into its own by opposing Israel’s long-term, illegal occupation of Southern Lebanon.
They were only defending what is theirs, but they made Israel look very bad, and that is an unforgivable offence. So, here we have the new Saudi Crown Prince doing more dirty work on Israel’s behalf, much as with his war in Yemen where he bombs civilians regularly, saving Israel from having to act on its own to get what it wants in someone else’s country.
You see, if Israel itself actually had to do all the ugly deeds it wants done in the region, the world would see it with blinding clarity for the pariah state that it truly is, starting wars incessantly. Proxies – whether mercenary gangs like ISIS and Al-Nusra in Syria or tyrants like the new Saudi Crown Prince in Yemen and Lebanon – are the latest fashion statement from Tel Aviv.
Uncle Bob
November 10 2017, 7:13 a.m.
The Riyadh Ritz-Carlton is booked up until at least February..It’s now a luxury prison
https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/11/kingdom-fear-saudi-arabia-lockdown.html
dn
November 7 2017, 2:21 p.m.
Another Anglo /America creation is in chaos and all Donald Tramp cares about is their investment in the U.S. specifically in his money laundering center “Trump Organization”.
Ctesias62
November 7 2017, 2:20 a.m.
Another one bites the dust! The disconcertingly wealthy Abdul Aziz bin Fahd “shot while resisting arrest” per Wikipedia Deaths.
Benito Mussolini
November 7 2017, 2:17 a.m.
bristle at any suggestion that the funding corrupts the intellectual product
‘Corruption’ has negative connotations. The industry prefers to use the term ‘business model’. The business model of the think tanks is to place their intellectual product at the service of their clients. Focusing on the client’s needs is the hallmark of any good business. Is it corrupt when a chef serves your favourite meal, cooked just the way you like it? Should the chef ignore the clientele’s tastes in favor of some sort of aesthetic purity?
Of course, referring to the think tanks’ output as an ‘intellectual product’ is a bit of a stretch, so maybe they can be criticized for overselling their services. If they simply referred to themselves as public relations agencies, all of this confusion would go away
fudmier
November 7 2017, 1:09 a.m.
Where did MBS get the structural details required to visualize plan, organize and structure: a Lenin coup (replace opposition power with self-emulating power in every important political, military and bureaucratic position all at once) in SA. Where and from whom did MBS get the tactical, strategic, planning support needed to accomplish a 1917 Bolshevik coup in 2017 SA?
involved but not yet understood include:
1) recent Israeli visit in SA, 2) US state department involvement, 3) Mossud. 4) British, 5) high profile lobbying years of MBS within establishment Washington, 6) shift to target and displace Hezbollah in Lebanon in the same manner as Sisi displaced the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; and as Erdodan recently accomplished in Turkey. 7) the urgent need of the locally located, investor owned oil and LNG global empires to coordinate international ways to force the global oil and gas market to raise the global price of oil (cheap oil is threatening Mafia market power) and 8) the involvement of Russia..HMMMMM!. This coup is about the price of oil, targeting Iran and Russia and the one road one bridge China deals and Venezuela’s shift from the petrodollar all things that threaten to keep oil prices competitive; it has Multi-national corporate imposed conspiratorial cooperation” stamped all over it. As the Don used to say, “a few legs need to be broken in order to alert the people that the protection plan is an essential cost of doing business. upcoming is a wall street bid to get Americans to fund the financial needs of the SA empire. Wall Street will fail without a friendly oil empire. .
dave
November 6 2017, 6:54 p.m.
“an openness to reconsidering Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers.”- Here you are trying to conceal the fact they have overturned the ban, and are not merely ‘open to reconsidering it’.
“A heightening of tensions with Iran”- Iran certainly can’t be heightening the tensions by intervening in Syria (with tens of thousands of foreign Shia mercenaries) and Iraq (with Iraq militias founded and controlled by Iran), or in Yemen (arming and funding the Houthis) or by giving IED materiels to Bahraini terror groups? MBS is pushing back against Iranian terror
“a catastrophic war on Yemen” – the war is on Ansar Allah, a tribal, religious extremist movement backed by Iran. Ansar Allah was founded in 1994 (when MBS was 9 years old) and in 2004 began a war on the government of Abdullah Saleh after he tried to arrest their leader Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi. Can MBS really be blamed for a war that had been going on for 11 years before he became Saudi defence minister? As for claims of civilian causalities, they are actually limited compared to the US airwar in Iraq and Syria.
“and a blockade of ostensible ally Qatar” (as everyone knows and was recently admitted by the former PM, Qatar funds AQ, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic terror groups) (​http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/qatar-maybe-supported-al-qaeda-syria-says-former-pm-1280907406​) So a blockade is evidently justified.
MBS is a visionary reformer who is confronting Islamic extremism and terror in all its forms at home and abroad. Anybody with sense will cheer the man, not throw baseless accusations of recklessness at him.
Gladio
November 6 2017, 4:27 p.m.
Having read all the comments below, which add much context to the meaning of this event, and including SA recent visits to Russia and China, and adding in Trump’s world wide weapons sales tour sans CGI donation requirements, my simple guess is that MBS has the backing of the CIA because decisions in SA need to be less complicated as the world’s Tangle of the Titans match enters the final playoffs. I reason it is that simple because wealth thievery may seem complicated but simple and stupid is really all that is required in times of the global conflict they perpetrate; civility is out and ultimatums the weapon of choice.
Repoman
November 6 2017, 4:07 p.m.
Great article, Deep state loves the Saudis. Scared to death of losing them to Russia and China
Thanks!
Jose
November 6 2017, 3:38 p.m.
Would very much appreciate Saudi Arabia doing their IPO of Aramco with the New York Stock Exchange. Important to the United States!
US imperialism has always operated somewhat like the Mafia. But not this openly.
broken hearted jade
November 6 2017, 9:30 a.m.
Our president tweeted this almost two years ago:
Donald J. Trump ?@realDonaldTrump
Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected. #Trump2016
10:53 PM – Dec 11, 2015
https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/675523728055410689?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.infowars.com%2Ftrump-era-saudi-purge-signals-death-of-bushclinton-globalism%2F
So you’re getting effective executive representation that knows a little more than you think he does.
Jamie
November 6 2017, 9:11 a.m.
This is an idiotic article. Saudi bribery was much more rampant when Hillary was SOS. She not only took bribes from the Saudis but other gulf dictatorships:
Saudi Arabia: $25,000,000 – State Dept. approval for U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia
Prince of Abu Dhabi: $5,000,000 – Muted criticism by State of Bahrain’s abysmal human rights practices.
Brunei: $5,000,000 – State Dept. clearance for U.S. weapons sales to Brunei.
GEMS Education, Dubai: $5,600,000 – Bill Clinton made honorary chairman.
Kuwait: $10,000,000 – State Dept. clearance for U.S. weapons sales to Kuwait.
Sheikh Mohammed H. Al Amoudi: $10,000,000 – Influence-buying within the Clinton State Dept.
Qatar: $5,000,000 – State Dept. approval for U.S. arms sales to Qatar.
United Arab Emirates: $5,000,000 – State Dept. approval for U.S. weapons sales to the UAE.
Oman: $5,000,000 – State clearance for U.S. weapons sales to Oman.
RochJamie
November 6 2017, 9:23 a.m.
True, but this is not bout US.
Mostly about Saudi Arabia’s Domestic corruption— ex, you take your child to a physician, who was not correctly certified, but bough testing answers or someone’s favor— your child dies. Houses are not built to code standards and more die. Roads as well. Etc, etc.
These people donot care about out of their country corruption one bit.
barry carroll
November 6 2017, 8:49 a.m.
Good article, but it’s too early to tell. Maybe this is the start of a clean-up in SA. I agree that rounding up people without due process is likely very wrong, but let’s let this play out and it may be start of cleaning up a toxic sort-of-ally
Rochbarry carroll
November 6 2017, 9:16 a.m.
Hold your horses! This could be a promising large territory to have another war for profit? This cold dwarf Iraq! You cannot really remove corruption from a royal-for-favors societal system? Unless it is very small and disciplined as the U.K. and a few others. Very few. The nature of it is corrupt to being with.
Roch
November 6 2017, 8:14 a.m.
King IbhSaud consolidated his power over SaudiArabia in 1932. He followed accepted culture of marrying a daughter of each enemy or challenging tribe, which gave him 45 sons. In those days, progeny and longevity had serious obstacles to survive.
Petrol was discovered early in his reign.
So Grim’s observation of typical family rivalries are greatly magnified.
PresObama’s promise to establish the US as the globe’s supplier of energy stands mostly on this. We donot produce much else.
If new Saudi leadership decides to experiment in petroleum-€ or petro-China not petro-$, then th US collapses financially.
burnerRoch
November 8 2017, 4:38 a.m.
Oh…hmmm
Mattski
November 6 2017, 4:59 a.m.
Good as far as it goes. But IMHO any investigative piece that’s going to serve in the current climate needs to underline the bipartisan character of such corruption. A light read of this and you might be inclined to pin everything on the Trump admin.
RochMattski
November 6 2017, 7:41 a.m.
True, but since the Reps are in power now, they sit at the head of the table. PresObama and CrookdClinton certainly did their share to support, as you say. But that is moving into the past, and since the GOP maintains, they now own it.
Wnt
November 6 2017, 3:35 a.m.
… and now that share of Fox and Twitter will presumably end up in the hands of the Saudi dictatorship. Which means that if you want those little birdy icons you have at the bar at the top of the page and at the top of the article and by your name to keep doing whatever it is you think they do for you, within a couple of years you’ll be trying to pretend you never even wrote this article. The medium is the message, or it will be.
Al_KiloWnt
November 6 2017, 4:22 a.m.
Actually with MBS’ crackdown on Wahhabi religious police it may be the other way around.
Twitter for years would not remove ISIS propaganda indefied by Saudi activist.
So perhaps it’s the beginning of the end of the alliance between Saudi’s Fatwa Valley makers of fanatical content and Silicone Valley/Bay Area purveyors of this content.
WntAl_Kilo
November 6 2017, 4:45 a.m.
So you expect him to amp up the censorship and you’re cheering him on. Thrills. As the recent article on the German American Bund failed to comprehend, letting fascists talk is the right thing to do. Because a) they’re wrong, and people need to learn that, and b) the alternative is they do violence, which is what they excel at.
If Al Qaida spends its effort convincing ten losers to mow down ten people apiece with ten trucks, that is still *way* better than if they shut up, got organized, and arranged another air show.
Al_KiloWnt
November 6 2017, 6:23 a.m.
Just amp up closing down fake news ISIS and Al Qeada sites. Or is it only Russian fake news you are against?
Al_KiloWnt
November 6 2017, 6:39 a.m.
Right, like propaganda and disinformation has never been an effective tool.
“If you tell a lie long enough, it becomes the truth.”
“The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it.”
J Goebbels
Btw the last paragraph is the most senseless thing I have read. How do you think almost 1/2 million people were killed in Syria? How were proxy GCC armies recruiting? Thanks to FB, Twitter and Google
WntAl_Kilo
November 6 2017, 4:38 p.m.
Syrians didn’t get recruited by social media. They got “recruited” by having military forces come into their town and give them a choice of working with them or getting killed. Also, by having the choice of fighting for Barrel Bomb Man or miscellaneous honest-we’re-not-quite-the-caliph local militia units that then turned around and became more dogmatic.
Hitler’s Big Lie principle has a certain ironic ring of truth to it, but bear in mind, it is only true to those who can tell a lie long enough to a large enough group of people. Dominate the media, and you can do the Big Lie. But if you dominate the media, who is going to shut you down as fake news???
The bottom line here is that we need to denounce, not the occasional nutjob on Twitter with the wrong ideas, but the corporate system of Twitter and the practice of intellectual slavery — copyrights and even patents on ideas — that underlie such concerns. The corrupt institution of “intellectual property” casts a shadow in many realms. For example, the various stars who were hugging Harvey Weinstein a few years ago (after claiming to have been “raped” previously) regard themselves as “raped” because they had to choose between ever-making-a-movie-again and objecting-to-sex. And that power comes from the copyright system. Copyright literally is rape, because the two are both expressions of a fundamental essence of slavery.
Create media with a low Gini coefficient, where people are equal, create media that are free. Take the Usenet system and buff it up with some modern capacity, selectivity, peer-to-peer networking, but not the censorship and to hell with the corporations, and you can make a medium where the fakes will lose out. You have to be clever — designing a truly free and fair forum is the central question of democracy. But it was done better in the past than it is on the corrupt systems used today, which is why extremely crude systems like The Intercept’s comments are a hundred times superior to fancy glitzy corporate crap made to modern pseudo-democratic (PR-driven) mores.
RochWnt
November 6 2017, 7:45 a.m.
Yes, that is the difficult beauty of free speech— when it gets out there, and looked at by all, it speaks for itself. Covering, forbidding it, then gives it the heft of been silenced and thereby, persecuted.
Al_KiloRoch
November 6 2017, 9:39 a.m.
There is free speech like we are trying to do (althought 50% of my comments are cencored) and corporate/state manipulation of speech with $billons to back it up. It’s like saying we are persons and corporations are persons. Apples and oranges. Just read Glenn’s last piece on how effective corporate free speech is in manufacturing opinion. ISIS does something similar with its GCC backers and US IT corporate promoters but much worse.
Seema Sapra @SeemaSapraLaw
November 5 2017, 10:25 p.m.
read Lebanon – Hariri’s Resignation – The Opening Shot Of The Saudi War On Hizbullah
http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/11/lebanon-hariris-resignation-the-opening-shot-of-the-saudi-war-on-hizbullah.html#more
HippoDaveSeema Sapra @SeemaSapraLaw
November 6 2017, 11:16 a.m.
Yeah. The US-Israel-Saudi alliance failed in Syria but still won’t accept regional defeat, even as every foolish aggressive action they take strengthens Iran, and recently Russia (who if they hadn’t intervened in Syria, well it may have gone much differently.) Next failure up is Lebanon, which may be particularly embarrassing as Hezbollah’s missles could reach major Israel locales. And even on their own I don’t think Lebanon/Hezbollah will lose.
And apparently the Houthis may have shot a missle that reached Riyadh’s airport. So…the desire to do proxy or safe war may backfire on their home territories. If only the US mainland was reachable by missiles of the various territories we destroy.
Add to that the Saudi attempt to isolate Qatar, which so far instead also pushed more towards Iran. The disastrous genocide upon Yemen which has cost a lot of money and been a near-complete failure.
I think this situation/time is much more volatile than most realize. I also think bin Salman is kind of a moron who has no clue what he’s doing (not overtly, not subtly, not long-term strategically).
JungleRulez
November 5 2017, 9:13 p.m.
Hariri IS A SA citizen and is part of the sweep and was made to resign so SA can arrest him withought having to deal with international fallout.
He is no longer a head of state so he will be treated like a common criminal by SA.
SA needs cash and they will use this pretex to extract money from the people they arrested in order to continue funding their aggression.
photosymbiosis
November 5 2017, 6:34 p.m.
Wow, Omidyar Network has LOTS of ties to McKinsey, Saudi Arabia’s lead consultant! Isn’t that interesting!
DuckDuckGo: Omidyar McKinsey
photosymbiosis
November 5 2017, 6:32 p.m.
House of Saud
This looks rather like an internal House of Saud power struggle that will minimally effect the client relationship between the House of Saud and the United States. Repercussions affecting Wall Street and global multinational corporations that benefit from the Saudi relationship are probably going to be minimal. The Saudi public will continue to get the dribbles off the banquet table.
For those who don’t know, the terms of the U.S.-Saudi relationship were set in the mid-1970s around the time King Faisal was assassinated. A good primer is John Pilger’s chapter on Saudi Arabia in “Confessions of an Economic Hitman”.
The basis of the deal is that Saudi Arabia produces 10 million barrels of oil a day; that’s $500 million in revenue at today’s oil prices. In exchange for directing a very large percentage of this money to American firms in the form of consulting fees, arms sales, construction contracts, investment in Wall Street via private equity firms, etc., the U.S. government protects the House of Saud from all enemies foreign and domestic. Helping crush pro-democracy movements (as in Bahrain, 2011) is part of the package deal. This deal extends to all the GCC monarchies, but Saudi Arabia is at the heart of it.
The current lead consultancy outfit ‘advising’ the House of Saud is McKinsey. One of the best discussions of McKinsey’s role, identical to that described by John Pilger, is here:
What does a country do when it enters a period of crisis? It calls the consulting firm McKinsey. That is precisely what Saudi Arabia did. McKinsey sent its crack analysts to the Kingdom. They returned—in December 2015—with Saudi Arabia Without Oil: The Investment and Productivity Transformation. This report could have been written without a site visit. It carries all the clichés of neo-liberalism: transform the economy from a government-led to a market-led one, cut subsidies and transfer payments, and sell government assets to finance the transition. There is not one hint of the peculiar political economy and cultural context of Saudi Arabia. The report calls for a cut in Saudi Arabia’s public-sector employment and a cut in its three million low-wage foreign workers. But the entire political economy of Saudi Arabia and the culture of its Saudi subjects are reliant upon state employment for the subjects and low-wage subservience from the guest workers. To change these two pillars calls into question the survival of the monarchy. A Saudi Arabia without oil, McKinsey should have honestly said, is a Saudi Arabia without a monarchy.
https://www.alternet.org/world/why-saudi-arabia-suddenly-serious-trouble
McKinsey and similar consulting firms (Bearingpoint in Iraq in 2003, etc.) get little media coverage but are key intermediaries in these U.S.-client state relationships that underpin the American Empire. The game plan is tediously repetitive: prop up some corrupt ruler with military and financial support in exchange for being allowed to loot the country’s resources or redirect their cash flows as desired. The consultancy firms get paid billions to pull this off. National leaders who place their trust in such outfits are fools.
Really, the best thing the Saudi people could do at this point is to establish a parliamentary democracy which would guarantee that the country’s interests come first. End the war in Yemen, establish diplomatic relations with Iran, and focus on economic revitalization – but the major stumbling block in any such effort is the corrupt House of Saud and its ties to the American empire.
Of course, once the oil money runs out, the support for the House of Saud by Wall Street and Washington will vanish overnight; the House of Saud likely has an emergency escape option to Europe in place in this event (which would indeed look like the fall of the Shah in Iran, 1979). Really, it’s in everyone’s best interests to have a more managed transition to democratic rule in Saudi Arabia…
Joshua88
November 5 2017, 5:14 p.m.
Behavioral Econ – money influences everybody.
I haven’t tested this and like to think that I am immune, but most people are not.
Appreciate the background to the roundup, Mr Grim.
DaveS
November 5 2017, 4:55 p.m.
Saudi influence is Washington is a old story, I think that should’ve been mentioned in the article. 45 is just carrying with an old tradition, so much for draining the swamp.
GarrDaveS
November 6 2017, 9:51 a.m.
Actually, Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia do more to run Weaselton than the other way – The ME is the proof.
j2
November 5 2017, 3:57 p.m.
Mr. Grimm – If one pulls back a bit, and considers that the aforementioned Saudis recently “imprisoned,” having been caught in corruption (whatever that means in SA), one sees that these particular “corrupt” Saudis are the ones who are intimately tied to the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation.
Now consider the recent Donna Brazile book chapter that alleges unethical behavior by Hillary Clinton with the DNC, the arrest of Manafort for work Manafort did in connection with the the Podesta Group, and rumors of indictments of John Podesta and others. There is also an arrest warrant for HRC waiting in Egypt, should HRC ever dare cross the Egyptian border again.
It would seem there is a world-wide purge going on of any-and-everything Clinton. Except, strangely, Bill Clinton seems to left out, up till now, anyway.
Perhaps not. One can hope. Although not a progressive, one still wishes for a fair fight with the progressives in the arena of ideas, not in unethical behavior and corruption. Sadly, the other branch of the Uniparty, the RNC, is giving the DNC a run for their money in lack of ethics and corruption.
Regards.
GeorgeNotBush
November 5 2017, 3:42 p.m.
Corruption!?
The entire Saudi treasury is a private piggy bank for the royals.
MbS is a loose cannon who has picked up lessons in bombing civilians back into the Stone Age from Israel, Assad and the Coalition. Yemen shows him an apt student.
Abdul Azziz would be disgusted.
clawhammerjake
November 5 2017, 3:18 p.m.
The countries (if that is what you want to call them) of the Middle East long ago took our measure: it is all about the money.
Ali
November 5 2017, 1:58 p.m.
Inshallah #saudi comes down to ruins. BUT we all know Trump targeted one particular one because he bashed him on Twitter. Mind you Trump was always filing bankruptcy but Saudi bailed him out. May the monarchy fall into ruins. May IN get dismantled and Russia takes lead power of America….well the latter is there, Trump is handing Russia the destruction of American policy and democracy. Wonder if a Movie is going to be made to make America as a hero. Like they do always as they invade, bomb, rape and kill. BUT keep funding israel to the hill with weapons so to protect the oil, drugs and gold. May the day come when israel attacks America, Muslim TRUE nations take down Saudi, UAE and Britain falls behind America. Inshallah
NickAli
November 5 2017, 2:50 p.m.
Another lunatic. The US is just grabbing the Saudi oil before The Chinese come into with their PetroYuan
W Ghost
November 5 2017, 12:51 p.m.
I don’t think that you have solid evidence , it’s all nothing but assumptions or maybe worse , some sort of manipulation , there are people who knows what’s really going on .
MartinWhy
November 5 2017, 12:00 p.m.
Great Piece Ryan. The $ 2 Trillion lofty valuation of ARAMCO, the Utopian NEOM Project and his new founded love for Sophia, the robot has made MBS a laughing stock in Saudi Arabia. I work as a senior advisor in an institutional investor firm whose executives visited the Saudi conference recently. All of them have been joking around how the investors’ conference seemed like a kids conference where young, enthusiast kids talked about their utopian dream. The Saudi Crown prince is someone who studied with the rest of the princes in the “College for Princes” where he studied the Wahhabi Islam which considers non -believers as Kafirs. If anyone thinks that he is a reformist intellectual, they are living in a fools paradise. He is old win in new bottle who wants to prove himself to his embattled father. You are right, this is indeed a UAE project, but, a UAE project to destroy Saudi Arabia from within. UAE dos not want a tourism competitor and is probably laughing at the self destruction by the inexperienced crown prince. The region is imploding as our investment head told us in a meeting, they will stay at a barge pole distance from this region’s investments. End of the Babylon is coming.
photosymbiosis
November 5 2017, 11:42 a.m.
This looks rather like an internal House of Saud power struggle that will minimally effect the client relationship between the House of Saud and the United States. Repercussions affecting Wall Street and global multinational corporations that benefit from the Saudi relationship are probably going to be minimal. The Saudi public will continue to get the dribbles off the banquet table.
For those who don’t know, the terms of the U.S.-Saudi relationship were set in the mid-1970s around the time King Faisal was assassinated. A good primer is John Pilger’s chapter on Saudi Arabia in “Confessions of an Economic Hitman”.
The basis of the deal is that Saudi Arabia produces 10 million barrels of oil a day; that’s $500 million in revenue at today’s oil prices. In exchange for directing a very large percentage of this money to American firms in the form of consulting fees, arms sales, construction contracts, investment in Wall Street via private equity firms, etc., the U.S. government protects the House of Saud from all enemies foreign and domestic. Helping crush pro-democracy movements (as in Bahrain, 2011) is part of the package deal. This deal extends to all the GCC monarchies, but Saudi Arabia is at the heart of it.
The current lead consultancy outfit ‘advising’ the House of Saud is McKinsey. One of the best discussions of McKinsey’s role, identical to that described by John Pilger, is here:
What does a country do when it enters a period of crisis? It calls the consulting firm McKinsey. That is precisely what Saudi Arabia did. McKinsey sent its crack analysts to the Kingdom. They returned—in December 2015—with Saudi Arabia Without Oil: The Investment and Productivity Transformation. This report could have been written without a site visit. It carries all the clichés of neo-liberalism: transform the economy from a government-led to a market-led one, cut subsidies and transfer payments, and sell government assets to finance the transition. There is not one hint of the peculiar political economy and cultural context of Saudi Arabia. The report calls for a cut in Saudi Arabia’s public-sector employment and a cut in its three million low-wage foreign workers. But the entire political economy of Saudi Arabia and the culture of its Saudi subjects are reliant upon state employment for the subjects and low-wage subservience from the guest workers. To change these two pillars calls into question the survival of the monarchy. A Saudi Arabia without oil, McKinsey should have honestly said, is a Saudi Arabia without a monarchy.
https://www.alternet.org/world/why-saudi-arabia-suddenly-serious-trouble
McKinsey and similar consulting firms (Bearingpoint in Iraq in 2003, etc.) get little media coverage but are key intermediaries in these U.S.-client state relationships that underpin the American Empire. The game plan is tediously repetitive: prop up some corrupt ruler with military and financial support in exchange for being allowed to loot the country’s resources or redirect their cash flows as desired. The consultancy firms get paid billions to pull this off. National leaders who place their trust in such outfits are fools.
Really, the best thing the Saudi people could do at this point is to establish a parliamentary democracy which would guarantee that the country’s interests come first. End the war in Yemen, establish diplomatic relations with Iran, and focus on economic revitalization – but the major stumbling block in any such effort is the corrupt House of Saud and its ties to the American empire.
Of course, once the oil money runs out, the support for the House of Saud by Wall Street and Washington will vanish overnight; the House of Saud likely has an emergency escape option to Europe in place in this event (which would indeed look like the fall of the Shah in Iran, 1979). Really, it’s in everyone’s best interests to have a more managed transition to democratic rule in Saudi Arabia.
Jeff Dphotosymbiosis
November 7 2017, 12:17 a.m.
This shows the evils of oil. The best thing we as individuals can do about this is to give up driving. I got rid of my car over 18 years ago and never looked back.
Rasha
November 5 2017, 10:04 a.m.
As usual a moron journalist like u paid by qatar to push Al Otaiba name in whatever article u’re writing ….u should get fired @$$ hole …this is corrupted journalism.
AtaharRasha
November 5 2017, 11:03 a.m.
Otaiba is pure satanic evil.
RochRasha
November 5 2017, 11:50 a.m.
You could be right, could be wrong— you need to explain yourself. Nothing corrupted here, certainly if you cannot explain it.
CarmenRasha
November 5 2017, 12:03 p.m.
You are right. It is an absolute sacrilege to include Al Otaiba’s name everywhere. Al Otaiba should instead be given a noble prize for his endeavours which are destabilizing the region. Hopefully, Mueller investigation will uncover Saudi and UAE lobbying records very soon turning American perception against the Saudis and UAE. Clock is ticking….tick tock…tick tock…
Hasaan
November 5 2017, 9:31 a.m.
Thank you The Intercept and great work Ryan Grim. From the moment I heard this news I knew there must be more to it then Saudis just growing a conscience and cleaning house..
Scandinavian
November 5 2017, 9:30 a.m.
So the Crown Prince is trying to push through reforms and is modernizing Saudi Arabia, trying to replace Wahhabism with a more moderate Islam.
But according to The Intercept, all this is bad, because something-something-Trump. Oh, and he also arrested some Wahhabi preachers.
Trump Derangement Syndrome in full bloom? Or is it just your garden variety Marxist contrarian grumbling?
TheScalemanScandinavian
November 5 2017, 9:53 a.m.
Prince Alwaleed : Are you a man who enjoys games?
The Donald : Depends with whom I’m playing.
Prince Alwaleed : Do you lose as gracefully as you win?
The Donald: I don’t know, I’ve never lost.
?smailScandinavian
November 5 2017, 1:20 p.m.
I fully agree with your first paragraph…
TheScaleman
November 5 2017, 8:55 a.m.
Revenge is a Flying Saucer best served cold.
Khalid
November 5 2017, 8:44 a.m.
As the saying goes, damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Nonetheless, a crack down on corruption is always good for the struggling average citizen.
HasaanKhalid
November 5 2017, 9:33 a.m.
If they really started to crack down on corruption in Saudi Arabia. No one from the House of Saud would be left to rule the country.. this is just a smokescreen to give daddy’s boy unlimited power..
MartyKhalid
November 5 2017, 11:32 a.m.
What part of “power consolidation” don’t you understand? These men aren’t being arrested because they are ‘corrupt’, they are being arrested because they might be political opponents of MBS. If this had something to do with corruption, then the committee (who am I kidding it’s a kangaroo court) wouldn’t have handed down its verdict within hours.
The end result of this is going to be an orgy of corruption as everyone tries to convince MBS that he shouldn’t take their assets and throw them in jail. No average citizen is going to benefit from this (though, I suppose it might be better than a civil war…)
Patrick ShawMarty
November 6 2017, 3:32 a.m.
A civil war is coming and, although I think this is a coup of sorts, it will lead to another coup by the opposition.
The GCC’s time is up, siding with undisciplined mercenaries and terrorists, which we help to fund is coming back to bite them. Their last play is to make America think they are the good guys so Likud and the US will attack Iran, as they have no loyalty or discipline among troops.
It’s already happening. Saudis blame Iran for missile attack:
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/saudi-arabia-blames-iran-for-attempted-missile-attack-on-airport
Saudi Prince dies in Helicopter crash:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/saudi-prince-killed-helicopter-crash-day-royal-purge-article-1.3613527
JoseKhalid
November 6 2017, 9:26 a.m.
a crack down on corruption
If that’s what it is. One should be careful. While corruption is common and expected, it’s very often used to persecute political opponents. Principles like “presumption of innocence” should not be thrown out the window when it comes to corruption allegations.
Jeff and Karen Hay
November 5 2017, 8:14 a.m.
Does it seem a little odd that Ryan manages to insinuate wrong doing by the Trumps with regard to this power grab but leaves out the much more important context of US support (to the tune of billions of dollars in arms) to the Saudi Royal Family and diplomatic cover that has maintained their family dynasty up until the present moment. This includes virtually every president since WWII – not the least notable was President Barack Obama who drastically increased the level of support (via arms sales etc.) to the Royal Family. However, Ryan does not include the obvious disclaimer – “I’m a pro Obama Democrat whose job it is to minimize and obscure all the damage that Obama did while vilifying Trump”. Bias is only natural in all reporting (claims of “objectivity” notwithstanding). .. it would be nice if Ryan admitted his bias.
ScandinavianJeff and Karen Hay
November 5 2017, 9:31 a.m.
Sounds like you’re on to something here…
“Trump is marginally involved, therefore this is bad!”
Al_Kilo
November 5 2017, 8:09 a.m.
As a follower of GCC events there more to the story than what is publicly available. Contrary to this article it’s not all black and white.
On that negative:
-MBS and father are hardly examples of honest gardians of public funds. MBS bought a yacht on a win for close $1/2 billion, and a few months ago they spent $100 million on a family vacation in Morocco.
-the war in Yemen, including the de facto biological warfare with cholera, attacks on civilians with help of western powers are as bad human rights abuses as anything in Syria, except that there is no CNN or Clooney’s “white helmets”.
-the largely uncovered mass destruction of Shia historic Saudi urban areas.
-as described in the article, ongoing buying of US influence, regardless of who is in power. This also includes massive money laundering via so called arms sales (who really believes that 10% of the GDP actually buys real military hardware).
– love bombing with kindnesses of detained Jihadi terrorists and releasing 20% of them to fight proxy wars with groups like Al Qaeda (a program touted by an ex CIA as “pioneering”) vs lashes and beheadings of teenagers, bloggers and poets that protest the regime.
-spending $billions on useless frivolous infrastructure projects but not one cent to build a pediatric hospital for injured and sickened children by GCC proxy wars.
-use of refugees as massive geopolitical human shields (more on this).
On the positive:
-allowing women to drive.
-crackdown on the Wahhabi religious police and curtailing their power.
-crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its Qatar supporters.
-realization that reform is critical.
-establishing links with Iraq, including with Shia Muqtada al-Sadr.
-call for a return of a moderate, pre 1979 Islam, tolerant of other religions. A similar statement was made by Egypts Sunni Al Hazar grand Imam at the time of the Popes visit. This is huge, if real.
KhalidAl_Kilo
November 5 2017, 8:40 a.m.
I think you should advise your Iranian boss to stop their nonsense and join MBS in building our region instead of ruining it.
We can be stroger as partners, but not as adversaries.
Al_KiloKhalid
November 6 2017, 7:33 p.m.
Thanks but apart for an occasional meal at a local Persian joint with a belly dancer with a Southern drawl, I have no links with Iran.
BobAl_Kilo
November 5 2017, 2:02 p.m.
It is all so Byzantine over there
tup
November 5 2017, 7:39 a.m.
Well, the old adage ” it takes a crook to know a crook” is proven true once more.
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