Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Mohammed bin Salman

Isn’t it a genocide forced on Yemenis?

For how long the US/Israel will go on submitting this nation into famine and slow death?

And for what?

To take total control of the Aden water way, and control of Eastern Africa?

44 Small Graves Stir Questions About U.S. Policy in Yemen

By Shuaib AlmosawaBen Hubbard and Aug. 15, 2018

DAHYAN, Yemen — The boys crammed into the bus, their thin bodies packed three to a seat, with latecomers jammed in the aisle. They fidgeted with excitement about the day’s field trip, talking so loudly that a tall boy struggling to get their attention put his hands over his ears and yelled.

Hours later, most of them were dead.

On Aug. 9, during a stop for snacks in the poor village of Dahyan in northern Yemen, an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition with Sudan, Gulf Emirate, Britain, USA and Israel hit nearby, blasting the bus into a jagged mass of twisted metal and scattering its human cargo — wounded, bleeding and dead — in the street below, according to witnesses and parents.

“My leg is bent,” cried a young boy covered in blood, examining his damaged limb. “A jet hit us,” he said in a video taken at the scene after the airstrike.

Yemeni health officials said 54 people were killed, 44 of them children, and many more were wounded.

Yemeni children in the northern Yemeni city of Saada on Monday vented their anger during a mass funeral for children killed in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition last week.

Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Yemen’s conflict began in 2014 when Houthi rebels, whom Iran aligned with after the genocide onslaught, seized control of the capital Sana, and sent the government of Hadi into exile.

In March 2015, Saudi Kingdom paid a coalition of poorer “Arab” nations and launched a military intervention aimed at restoring Yemen’s government. It has so far failed to do so.

The Aug. 9 attack was particularly shocking, even for a war in which children have been the primary victims, suffering through one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises: rampant malnutrition and outbreaks of cholera.

The war has so far killed more than 10,000 people before the United Nations stopped updating the death toll two years ago. (Why this nonchalance from the UN?)

The strike also revived questions about the coalition’s tactics and the United States’ support for the campaign.

American military leaders, exasperated by strikes that have killed civilians at markets, weddings and funerals, insist that the United States is not a party to the war. (During Trump, it is the State department that is playing the role of the Pentagon)

Human rights organizations say the United States cannot deny its role, given that it has sold billions of dollars in weapons to allied coalition states, provided them with intelligence and refueled their bombers in midair.

Congress has shown increasing concern about the war recently.

A defense policy bill that President Trump signed on Monday included a bipartisan provision that requires Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to certify that Saudi Arabia and its close ally the United Arab Emirates — the two countries leading the coalition — are taking steps to prevent civilian deaths.

If Mr. Pompeo cannot provide the certification, the legislation prohibits the American refueling of coalition jets.

Mr. Pompeo raised the bus attack by phone this week with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 34 years old and (effective ruler of this Wahhabi Kingdom) and the kingdom’s defense minister. And Defense Secretary Jim Mattis dispatched a three-star general to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, to press the Saudis to investigate the bus bombing.

In the wake of this attack, individual members of Congress have gone further, calling on the military to clarify its role in airstrikes on Yemen and investigate whether the support for those strikes could expose American military personnel to legal jeopardy, including for war crimes.

ImageA Yemeni man held a boy who was injured by the airstrike in Saada last week.
Credit…Naif Rahma/Reuters

At the same time, however, the defense contractor Raytheon has lobbied lawmakers and the State Department to allow it to sell 60,000 precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in deals worth billions of dollars.

The Saudi-led coalition says it works to avoid civilian casualties and accuses its enemies, the Houthis, of using civilians as human shields.

The day of the strike, the coalition’s spokesman, Col. Turki al-Malki, said coalition forces had hit a “legitimate military target” after a Houthi missile killed one person and injured 11 in southern Saudi Arabia, which borders Yemen.

“All of the elements that were in the bus were targeted,” Colonel Malki told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network, saying they included “operators and planners.”

The next day, the coalition said the bombing had been referred for internal investigation after reports that “a bus was subject to collateral damage.”

Human rights groups say that they doubt the coalition would find itself at fault in any investigation.

(As the countless massacres committed by the colonial powers?)

“The Saudis aren’t learning. They’re making the same mistakes they’ve been making all along. And we are not pressing the issue. We are letting them get away with it.” said Larry L. Lewis, a former State Department official who visited Saudi Arabia five times in 2015 and 2016 to help the country’s air force improve its targeting procedures and investigations.

A visit to the site of the attack, interviews with witnesses and a review of videos from the day painted a picture of the strike’s human cost.

The boys on the bus ranged in age from 6 to about 16, and most were from Dahyan, a poor village in Saada Province along the border with Saudi Arabia.

The province is the homeland of the Houthis, and the coalition has bombed it heavily. For their part, the Houthis have used the area to launch attacks on the Saudi border and to fire missiles into the kingdom.

The boys had been part of a religious summer program organized by the Houthis, and the field trip was meant to be a treat.

When they packed into the bus that morning, one boy, Osama al-Humran, filmed his classmates squirming in their seats with his cellphone. Many were wearing sport coats over their Yemeni gowns, dressed up for a special occasion.

مشاهد توثق لحظات ما قبل مجزرة طلاب ضحيان صعدةCredit…CreditVideo by هنا المسيرة

The video then shows them at their next stop, a memorial and graveyard called the Garden of the Martyrs in a nearby village.

Image

Yemenis gathered last week next to a destroyed bus at the site of a Saudi-led coalition airstrike that targeted the Dahyan market.
Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In a large hangar decorated with photos of men killed in the war, a man led the boys through prayers and chants. A sign next to the door bore the Houthis slogan: “God is great. Death to America. Death to Israel. Curse the Jews. Victory for Islam.”

Some of the boys giggled when Osama filmed them or put their hands over his camera.

Then they ran into the adjoining graveyard, where grass grew on rows of graves marked with white headstones or plastic signs bearing photos of the deceased.

“I am filming!” Osama yells as he walks among the graves.

Two other boys stand next to a fountain and he calls out, “Come here so I can take your picture.” There, the video ends.

The bus was supposed to continue to Saada, the provincial capital, for a visit to a historic mosque. But it never made it.

The group had stopped along the way to buy juice and snacks when the bomb hit.

Ali Abdullah Hamlah, a local bakery owner, said he heard the explosion and saw a huge cloud billow from the site before seeing a young man covered in blood dragging himself away. Mr. Hamlah approached and saw the bodies of seven children scattered around.

“In some cases, only the upper bodies of the kids were found,” he said. The mangled body of one child was found on the roof of a building, propelled by the force of the blast.

Videos shot in the aftermath show the demolished bus with the lifeless bodies of two boys on the floor. Other boys are on the ground nearby. Some struggle to move. Others are dead and eviscerated, their remains mixed up in the street with the detritus from the explosion.

“It was the first time in my life that I have seen such a horrific massacre,” Mr. Hamlah said.

Among the dead was Osama, the boy who had filmed his classmates. His videos were found on his phone after the bombing, according to Yahya al-Shami, who works for the Houthis’ Al-Maseera television station, which broadcast the images. Parents of boys on the bus confirmed the day’s program and that their children were in the video.

A few days later, local security officials showed The New York Times a metal fin they said had been attached to the bomb and had been found nearby. Writing on the fin indicated it was manufactured by General Dynamics and had been attached as a guidance system on a 500-pound bomb. The Times could not confirm that the fin was from the bomb used in the strike.

But the remnants of American-made weapons have frequently been found in the rubble of airstrikes in Yemen.

Trump administration officials say they have no control over the bombs that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates buy commercially from American or other Western defense contractors.

Pentagon officials say they have repeatedly offered assistance to both countries on creating “no strike” lists, but they are not involved in picking targets and do not know the missions of the coalition warplanes that the United States refuels. (Very funny)

At a nearby hospital, Abdul-Rahman al-Ejri comforted his 11-year-old son, Hassan, who was wailing from the pain of a broken leg. He had been on the bus and his father was enraged that the coalition had said it carried military plotters.

“This is the mastermind, along with his companions,” Mr. Ejri said sarcastically. “How can they plot anything? They’re kids and only armed with pens, notebooks and books.”

He did not hesitate to assign blame.

“America is the head of evil, as well as the Saudi regime and the mercenaries of the Wahhabi Saudi Kingdom,” he said.

Shuaib Almosawa reported from Dahyan, Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon, Eric Schmitt from Washington. John Ismay contributed reporting from Washington.

Saudi Mohammed bin Salman: Maybe The Palestinians Should’ve Taken The Deals They Were Offered

Or maybe they should stop sucking up to Iran. (Or it is Saudi Kingdom sucking up to Israel and the USA?)

That’s the real subtext of the surprising rhetoric coming from Mohammed bin Salman, the young crown prince of Saudi Arabia who’s rewriting the Middle East script after seizing power in a family feud last year. (And will be dethroned by another family feud?)

Barak Ravid reports for Axios that MBS, as he’s colloquially known, told representatives of Jewish groups last month that while Saudi Arabia still wants a just and lasting settlement for the Palestinians, they could have gotten that themselves.

According to my sources, the Saudi Crown Prince told the Jewish leaders:

“In the last several decades the Palestinian leadership has missed one opportunity after the other and rejected all the peace proposals it was given. It is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiations table or shut up and stop complaining.” (What does he know? Even Bill Clinton put the blame on the Israeli side for failing every peace proposal)

MBS also made two other points on the Palestinian issue during the meeting:

  1. He made clear the Palestinian issue was not a top priority for the Saudi government or Saudi public opinion. MBS said Saudi Arabia “has much more urgent and important issues to deal with” like confronting Iran’s influence in the region.(Saudi Kingdom urgent issues were to finance coup d’etat in Syria and Iraq in the 50’s and 60’s)
  2. Regardless of all his criticism of the Palestinian leadership, MBS also made clear that in order for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to normalize relations with Israel there will have to be significant progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. (Like what? Palestinians bowing to Trump pronouncement on Jerusalem as Capital of Israel?)

Under MBS’ leadership since taking effective power in June 2017, Saudi Kingdom has aligned itself far more with the West. (Since when Saudi Kingdom aligned itself but with USA?)

Decrees from the royal palace are now allowing women to drive and to dress in something other than black abayas and niqabs while in public.

MBS has opened cinemas in Saudi Arabia for the first time in decades.

He’s either cleaning up corruption or purging dissidents and hardliners, but either way MBS is making sure that he directs public policy for Saudi Arabia for the next several decades, and directs it to come closer to the West. (He is one of the main corrupt princes)

The main intention of all this appears to be an effort to isolate Iran, which has become an existential threat to Sunni power in the region. (As Israel has been an existential threat to all its neighboring Sates?)

Our invasion and then abandonment of Iraq didn’t help in that effort, which is why even the previous crown prince took a distinctly cool approach to Barack Obama at the end of his presidency.

MBS knows that he’ll have to modernize in order to make Western nations comfortable with any partnership for the region, and that the glut on oil markets means that the Saudis can’t simply use energy as leverage any more.

Unfortunately for the Palestinians, they’ve been playing footsie with Tehran more than Riyadh, and now they’re going to pay for it. (Since when Saudi Kingdom funded the Palestinian authority and its public servants?)

Choosing sides has consequences, and with the stakes as high as they are now, the Saudis see the Palestinians as dispensable.

They’d rather ally openly with Israel to keep Iran at bay, and the best way to do that is for the Palestinians to take a deal and get on with their lives. (And then what?)

Unfortunately again for the Palestinians, they still can’t decide what they want, or even how to discuss it:

A powerful but rarely convened assembly that calls itself the Palestinian “supreme authority” meets for the first time in 22 years on Monday, but boycotts and rifts suggest it will struggle to achieve its stated goal of unity against Israel and the United States.

President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to use the four-day Palestinian National Council (PNC) meeting to renew his legitimacy and to install loyalists in powerful positions to begin shaping his legacy.

Abbas has billed the meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the de facto parliament of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, as a chance to establish a united front against Israel and the United States, after President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The hardline Islamists in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both of which are aligned with Iran, have boycotted the event, (as well as half a dozen national parties), ostensibly because its West Bank location puts them at risk of arrest by Israel.

But Reuters notes that three factions of the PLO are also boycotting, in part because they believe Abbas hasn’t been open enough to working with IJ or Hamas. (Over 100 deputies demanded to postpone the meeting for another month to negotiate with other Palestinian parties and organizations)

The event is seen as an anachronism by other Palestinians, a desperate attempt by Abbas to emphasize his legitimacy as the Palestinian Authority leader while being largely ignored by all sides.

The Saudis have had enough. Perhaps Abbas should take MBS’ advice and cut a deal while he still can. (Or delay it for another month for this Salman to be deposed?)

Spread of Wahhabism was done at request of West during Cold War – Saudi Kingdom crown prince Mohammed bin Salman

The Saudi-funded spread of Wahhabism began as a result of Western countries asking Riyadh to help counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the Washington Post.
(Saudi Kingdom absolute monarchy was glad to have an exit to all these new extremist Wahhabi out of the country. Since then, religious extremist sect spread all over the world)

Speaking to the paper, bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia’s Western allies urged the country to invest in mosques and madrassas (religious schools) overseas during the Cold War, in an effort to prevent encroachment in Muslim countries by the Soviet Union.

(Saudi kingdom invested about $70 bn on mosques and appointed their brand of Wahhabi Sheikhs to preach in these mosques. Pakistan got infested with these madrassats)

US President Donald Trump holds a chart of military hardware sales as he welcomes Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, March 20, 2018 / Jonathan Ernst 

He added that successive Saudi governments had lost track of that effort, saying “we have to get it all back.” Bin Salman said that funding now comes mostly from Saudi-based “foundations, rather than from the government.

The crown prince’s 75-minute interview with the Washington Post took place on March 22.

Another topic of discussion included a previous claim by US media that bin Salman had said that he had White House senior adviser Jared Kushner “in his pocket.” (Kushner is “investing” heavily in Saudi Kingdom)

Bin Salman denied reports that when he and Kushner – who is also Donald Trump’s son-in-law – met in Riyadh in October, he had sought or received a greenlight from Kushner for the massive crackdown on alleged corruption which led to widespread arrests in the kingdom shortly afterwards. (Saudi Kingdom claimed it generated $177 bn from these princes, held hostage for months)

(Not to mention the pronouncement of Trump on Jerusalem as Capital of Israel)

According to bin Salman, the arrests were a domestic issue and had been in the works for years.

He said it would be “really insane” for him to trade classified information with Kushner, or to try to use him to advance Saudi interests within the Trump administration.

He stated that their relationship was within a normal governmental context, but did acknowledge that he and Kushner “work together as friends, more than partners.” He stated that he had good relationships with Vice President Mike Pence and others within the White House. (Mostly with those extremist Evangelical Zionists within the administration)

The crown prince also spoke about the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition continues to launch a bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in an attempt to reinstate ousted Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi as president (Whom Saudi Kingdom doesn’t want him anymore).

The conflict has killed thousands, displaced many more, driven the country to the brink of famine, and led to a major cholera outbreak. (Most of the casualties are consequences of infested drinking water and malnutrition, cholera and diphtheria epidemics, due to bombing all Yemen infrastructure, hospitals and lack of medicines)

Although the coalition has been accused of a large number of civilian deaths and disregard for civilian lives – an accusation which Riyadh denies – the crown prince said his country has not passed up “any opportunity” to improve the humanitarian situation in the country. “There are not good options and bad options. The options are between bad and worse,” he said.

The interview with the crown prince was initially held off the record.

However, the Saudi embassy later agreed to led the Washington Post publish specific portions of the meeting.

Why Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to London was a fiasco

Nabil Ennasri. Thursday 15 March 2018

#Diplomacy

The Saudi crown prince’s eagerly awaited visit to London did not go off as well as was hoped.

The visit was supposed to lend credibility to the international stature of a crown prince aspiring to one day rule the world’s leading oil power.

It turned out instead to be a fierce attack on Saudi Arabia’s brutal and amateurish foreign policy in the Gulf state region.

The three-day state visit to the UK, which began on 6 March, was organised to both bolster the image of Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), as head of state, and to reinforce the strategic UK-Saudi partnership.

(The crown prince spent one $million to promote his visit)

Strategic partners

A long-standing ally, London is seen as one of the Wahhabi kingdom’s key strategic partners, second only to the United States and far ahead of France.

(Britain was the main suppliers of weapons to the Wahhabi tribes during the Ottoman Empire)

The Saudi ruler’s visit was quickly derailed as he came under fierce attack for his role in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, which began in March 2015 and has since killed thousands of civilians.

Indeed, three years after the launching of Operation Decisive Storm, the situation is no less than catastrophic. Not only has the Saudi army failed to subdue the Houthi rebels, perceived by the Saudis as the armed extension of Iran in the Arabian Peninsula, but the rebels have put up an incredible fight.

On several occasions they successfully launched missile attacks on the outskirts of Riyadh, and they continue to inflict heavy losses on an increasingly discredited and dispirited Saudi army. And for Riyadh, the war has turned into a financial quagmire as well.

Every month, hundreds of millions of dollars – or even billions according to the most alarming estimates – are squandered, while domestic spending remains in the red. In a country plagued by endemic youth unemployment, social unrest is growing.

(Even before the pre-emptive war on Yemen, 25% of Saudi were living under poverty level in shantytowns)

A Typhoon jet manufactured by BAE Systems and operated by the Saudi air force (Creative Commons)

But the greatest losses are unquestionably humanitarian. The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people, and the wounded and refugees now number in the millions.

(Diphtheria and cholera epidemics have decimated the Yemenis, targeting the infants who lacks clean drinking water)

Yemen’s catastrophic food supply situation and dilapidated public services have triggered epidemics like cholera. The combination of devastating disease with famine and water shortages has alarmed humanitarian partners and led UN officials to call the Yemen humanitarian crisis the “worst in the world“.

The visit of a ‘war criminal’

MBS’s problems in London were largely due to the fiasco of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. Numerous human rights organisations have called for protest marches, forums and other symbolic gatherings to denounce the visit of a “war criminal”.

Activists have also rallied near Westminster, the home of the UK parliament.

Seventeen MPs published an op-ed piece criticising Saudi Arabia for its record on human rights and demanding a moratorium on UK arms sales to the Gulf state monarchy. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sharply condemned Theresa May’s misguided support for the crown prince’s policies.

According to the opposition leader, the values of the nation should not be sacrificed to the prime minister’s desire to offset the spiralling consequences of Brexit by developing a privileged relationship with the Saudi oil power.

Demonstrators protest the visit of Mohammed bin Salman, Wednesday, 7 March (AFP)

Because this is indeed one of the unavowed reasons for the crown prince’s UK visit: Britain hopes to capture a share of the juicy investments the Saudi authorities are getting ready to move forward on.

But discreet discussions on the forthcoming public listing of the all-powerful state oil firm, Saudi Aramco, were a particularly important part of the trip. Aside from this, it was about selling arms.

Vision 2030

The European consortium that manufactures Typhoon fighter jets, of which the British group BAE Systems is a partner company, has welcomed a memorandum of intent signed with Riyadh for the purchase of 48 fighter aircraft.

The announcement came at the end of the Saudi prince’s visit to the UK and could lead to an order worth over $10bn.

MBS and his advisors are also seeking foreign investment as part of Vision 2030, an ambitious plan to liberalise the kingdom’s economy through the privatisation of state-held concerns.

The spin machine behind Saudi Arabia’s ‘humanitarian aid plan’ for Yemen

Scheduled for later this year or early 2019, the public listing of the Saudi oil giant is expected to value it at $2,000bn with 5 percent of the company’s stock, worth $100bn, floated. Among the few details that remain to be settled – the stock exchange where Aramco will be listed.

One thing we do know is that the British government was hoping to convince the Saudi royal to choose London over New York, a city he will soon be visiting as part of an extensive tour of the United States.

Given the less than warm welcome he received in the UK, it is highly unlikely the Saudi crown prince will have many fond memories of the heavy weather in London.

– Nabil Ennasri is a doctor in political science and the director of the Observatoire du Qatar. He is the author of L’énigme du Qatar (Armand Colin). You can follow him on Twitter: @NabilEnnasri

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

This story originally appeared in the MEE French edition and was translated by Heather Allen.

Note: The crown prince had his mother in solitary confinement in the last 2 years: She does Not agree with her son’s insane activities.

The Upstart Saudi Prince Who’s Throwing Caution to the Winds

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — With the tacit backing of his father, Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince (wali al 3ahd) has established himself as the most powerful figure in the Arab world, rushing into confrontations on all sides at once.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the arrest of 11 princes in his royal family and nearly 200 members of the Saudi business elite, and has begun to take power from the kingdom’s conservative clerics.

He has blockaded neighboring Qatar, accused Iran of acts of war and encouraged the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister. And in Yemen, his armed forces are fighting an Iranian-aligned faction in an intractable war that created a humanitarian crisis.

The crown prince has moved so quickly that American officials and others worry that he is destabilizing the region. Signs of potential blowback are growing.

Investors, nervous about his plans, have been moving money out of the kingdom. Prince Mohammed has sought to counter the capital flight by squeezing detainees and others to surrender assets. He has presented the arrests as a campaign against corruption, but his targets call it a shakedown, and he has turned for advice to a former Egyptian security chief who has been pilloried at home for brutality and graft.

Prince Mohammed’s supporters say he is simply taking the drastic measures needed to turn around the kingdom’s graft-ridden and oil-dependent economy while pushing back against Iranian aggression.

But analysts around the region debate whether the headlong rush might be driven more by a desire to consolidate power before a possible royal succession, desperation for cash to pay for his plans or simply unchecked ambition to put his stamp on the broader Middle East.

And despite President Trump’s enthusiasm for the prince, some in the State Department, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies say they fear that his impulsiveness could both set back his own goals and destabilize the region.

“He’s decided he doesn’t do anything cautiously,” said Philip Gordon, the White House Middle East coordinator under President Barack Obama. But, Mr. Gordon said, “if the crown prince alienates too many other princes and other pillars of the regime, pursues costly regional conflicts and scares off foreign investors, he could undermine the prospects for the very reforms he is trying to implement.”

The extrajudicial arrests have spooked investors enough, analysts say, to extinguish the prince’s plans for an public stock offering of Aramco, the Saudi state oil company, in New York or London next year. It had been a centerpiece of his overhaul.

Photo

President Trump and King Salman joined Arab leaders for a family photo in Riyadh in May.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

The crown prince’s threats against Iran and Lebanon have raised the specter of wars that the Saudi military, already bogged down in Yemen, is ill-equipped to fight. Riyadh would be forced to depend on the United States and ill-prepared Israel in any new conflict.

His corruption purge at home, meanwhile, risks alienating parts of the royal family and the financial elite at a moment that would appear to demand unity, either to smooth a succession or to face off against Iran.

As many as 17 people detained in the anti-corruption campaign have required medical treatment for abuse by their captors, according to a doctor from the nearest hospital and an American official tracking the situation.

The former Egyptian security chief, Habib el-Adli, said by one of his advisers and a former Egyptian interior minister to be advising Prince Mohammed, earned a reputation for brutality and torture under President Hosni Mubarak. His lawyers say he plans to appeal his recent sentence in absentia in Egypt to seven years in prison on charges of corruption.

Officials of the Saudi Royal Court referred press queries about these reports to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Washington, where a spokeswoman, Fatimah Baeshen, said the embassy could not confirm or dispute them.

With the decline in the price of oil in recent years, Saudi Arabia has frozen projects and spent more than a third of its financial reserves, draining them to about $475 billion this fall from a peak of $737 billion in August 2014.

At that burn rate, the kingdom has only a few years to lift its revenue or slash its spending to forestall a financial crisis.

Against that backdrop, the prince’s supporters argue that the anti-corruption campaign aims to recapture hundreds of billions of dollars that have leaked from the state budget through graft and self-dealing — money he needs to fund his development plans.

Prince Mohammed had appealed to the kingdom’s wealthy for months to invest in his modernization program. But some groused that his plans — like a new $500 billion business hub “for the dreamers of the world,” built from scratch and fueled entirely by clean energy — were ill-conceived and grandiose, and instead of investing at home they quietly moved their assets abroad.

Now, he is no longer merely asking.

The Saudi government is pressing some of those detained and others still at large to sign over large sums in exchange for better treatment, according to an American official briefed on the crackdown and associates of the royal family. Employees of some of those arrested had been summoned months before to answer questions about their bosses, a sign that the purge was planned well in advance.

A senior Saudi official defending the crackdown said this week that it was meant to show that the old rules of business in the kingdom had changed.

Photo

Prince Mohammed kissing the hand of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (sacked since then) at the royal palace in Mecca in June. CreditAl-Ekhbariya, via Associated Press

“Corruption is at every level, and there are hundreds of billions of riyals that are lost from the national economy every year,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive government matters. “The point here was mainly to shock the system, to send a message that this will not be tolerated anymore and that nobody is immune.”

Corruption has been so endemic for so long — from inflated government contracts for large projects to simple bribes to obtain passports — that countless Saudis have participated. Yet, some princes with reputations for conspicuous corruption appear to have been left alone, raising questions about who is being targeted, and why.

Other signs suggest that Prince Mohammed may also be seeking to thwart perceived rivals.

In June, he and his father stripped the titles of crown prince and interior minister from Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 58, temporarily confining him to his palace. Admirers of the ousted crown prince were relieved last week when a video surfaced showing him moving freely through a family funeral, receiving kisses on his shoulder in a show of deference and loyalty from a procession of well-wishers.

That display of his continued popularity, however, may have been too much for the younger Prince Mohammed, who the next day ordered the seizure of the former crown prince’s assets, along with those of his wife and daughters, according to two family associates.

Ms. Baeshen, the Saudi embassy spokeswoman, said she could not comment on any potential investigations.

Some American officials suspect that Prince Mohammed may be rushing to lock down the levers of power in anticipation of a formal abdication by his father, King Salman, who scholars and Western officials say could be suffering from dementia.

When President Trump visited Riyadh for a summit meeting last summer, the king remained seated as he struggled to read a prepared statement. His speech was at times weak, halting or slurred. He seldom speaks publicly. Saudi officials, however, insist his mental capacities are sound.

Prince Mohammed’s supporters argue that Saudi Arabia’s recent threats against Iran and Lebanon came in response to provocations beyond his control.

As he was preparing his anti-corruption roundup, they say, Tehran’s allies in Yemen launched an Iranian-made missile in the direction of Riyadh, where it was intercepted over the outskirts of the city (the damage shown by videos prove otherwise).

The Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, resigned his position the same day with a televised speech from Riyadh that accused Iran and its Lebanese client Hezbollah of sowing “discord, devastation and destruction” in the region.

But many, including current and former American diplomats, say Prince Mohammed’s boldness also reflects his conviction that he has the support of Mr. Trump.

Photo

Mr. Trump meeting with Prince Mohammed, center, in the Oval Office in March.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

Even in the last days of the Obama administration, another Persian Gulf royal who had already forged deep ties around Washington, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi began to promote his Saudi counterpart to the incoming Trump team as a useful ally. Both princes appear to have formed a particular bond with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, who at 36 is a contemporary of the young Saudi prince.

Mr. Trump chose Saudi Arabia for the first foreign trip of his presidency, and Prince Mohammed and Mr. Kushner have built such a strong rapport that other American officials say they are not briefed on what the two discuss.

“Jared is a bit of a black hole,” said one State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss frustration with the White House. “There is no sense of the positions he has advocated. We can only guess, based on what he has done and where he has been.”

The official added: “The Emiratis and the Saudis have been very careful to cultivate him and bring him along” toward their “confrontational posture in the region.”

A White House official who also insisted on anonymity disputed the characterization of Mr. Kushner, saying he regularly briefed the State Department and National Security Council on his trips and conversations.

Mr. Kushner made his third visit to the kingdom this year ( and many to Israel)— this time unannounced until his return to Washington — in late October, when American officials say he stayed up late talking with Prince Mohammed at his ranch.

The sweep of arrests unfolded days later, and Mr. Trump was quick to applaud, although several White House officials said the Saudis gave Mr. Kushner no heads up on what was about to take place.

“I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing,” President Trump said on Twitter after the arrests had begun. “Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years.”

Ms. Baeshen, the embassy spokeswoman, said that Saudi Arabia and the United States “enjoy a wide range of cooperative discussions” but that “domestic affairs are just that: domestic affairs.”

The State Department official, though, said that its diplomats, the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency all felt “growing alarm” that Prince Mohammed “is behaving recklessly without sufficient consideration to the likely consequences of his behavior, and that has the potential to damage U.S. interests.”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Blog Stats

  • 1,427,413 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 774 other followers

%d bloggers like this: