Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 03, 2016

The Saudi Execution Of Al-Nimr Was A Smart Move

The Saudi government executed  47 longtime prisoners who had be sentenced to death over terrorism and general revolting against the government.

From its viewpoint it was a smart political move.

The Saudis are in trouble over their war on Yemen. After nine month of bombing the hell out of the country there is no chance that the aim of their war, reinstalling their proxy government in Sanaa, will be reached anytime soon. Meanwhile Yemeni forces raid (vid) one Saudi town after another. The Saudi regime change projects via Salafi jihadists in Iraq and Syria are also faltering. The low oil price make it necessary for the Saudi government to introduce taxes on its people. New taxes are hardly ever popular.

To divert from these problems the Saudis decided to get rid of a bunch of prisoners and to use the event to regain some legitimacy. Many of the 47 killed were truly al-Qaida types who a decade ago had killed and blown up buildings in Saudi Arabia and wanted to violently overthrow the Saudi government. With the recent anti-Saudi calls of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda a jailbreak or some hostage taking to free the prisoners were a real possibility. Only four of the killed were of Shia believe. One of those was the prominent rabble rousing Shia preacher Nimr Baqr al-Nimr from the majority Shia eastern Saudi province Qatif.

Al-Nimr had called for the youth in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to raise up against the government. He called for the overthrow of all tyrants not only in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain but also of the Assad government in Syria. He was no Iranian stooge but defended its form of government. Al-Nimr said he was against violence but several of the demonstrations he called for ended with dead policemen and protesters. It was quite astonishing that the Saudi government let him preach for so long. A Sunni cleric in Saudi Arabia would have been put to jail or killed for much less revolutionary talk.

Some dumb people like Human Right Watch's Kenneth Roth say that al-Nimr wanted a democratic state:

Kenneth Roth @KenRoth
Sheikh Nimr's real offense: leading peaceful protests for Saudi democracy, equality for Shia

That is nonsense. A U.S. diplomat talked with al-Nimr in 2008. A cable available through Wikileaks summarizes:

Al-Nimr described his and al-Mudarrasi's attitude towards Islamic governance as being something between "wilayet al-faqih," in which a country is led by a single religious leader, and "shura al-fuqaha," in which a council of religious leaders should lead the state. Al-Nimr, who conducted religious studies for approximately ten years in Tehran and "a few" years in Syria, stated that all governance should be done through consultation, but the amount of official power vested in the hands of a single official should be determined based on the relative quality of the religious leaders and the political situation at the time.

A system led solely by religious judges or clerics is not a democracy. From that interview it also seems that al-Nimr had no clear picture of what he really wanted. His point was to always "side with the people, never with the government" independent of who or what was right or wrong.

The Saudi government's patience ended when in June 2012 al-Nimr disparaged the death of the interior minister and crown prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud:

He stated that "people must rejoice at [Nayef's] death" and that "he will be eaten by worms and will suffer the torments of Hell in his grave"

That did him in. Al-Nimr was imprisoned and sentenced to death.

There was concern that actually killing al-Nimr would increase Sunni-Shia tensions. Several governments and the United Nations had warned that doing so would increase sectarian strife.

Well, that is the point!

The Saudi government's legitimacy depends on financial largess and on being a sectarian Wahhabi "defender of the faith". Raising the sectarian bar by provoking a Shia reaction only helps the Saudis to rally the Wahhabi Sunni clerics and the people to their side. The killing of a prominent Shia also gives cover for executing the al-Qaeda types. These do have many sympathizers within Saudi Arabia and killing them without killing al-Nimr would have led to protests or worse by Sunni radicals. Even with this cover some al-Qaeda type entities outside of Saudi Arabia are threatening revenge.

The Iranian government and Shia organizations in Iraq fell for the trick and protest against al-Nimr's execution. It allowed some organized gangs in Tehran to storm the Saudi embassy and to set it on fire. In Saudi Arabia's eastern province young Shia protesters violently attacked police forces (vid).

This was exactly what the Saudis rulers wanted and need.

It may also have been what some conservative Iranian circles were looking forward to.

Posted by b on January 3, 2016 at 02:16 AM | Permalink

Comments

Is my sarcasm detector broken, or 'b embraces Saudi sectarianism?

Actually it was a very stupid move. Short term yes, Saudis may get sunnis and radicals to rally for them. Long term - Iran may extensively supply weapons to Houthis and oppressed Shias, who properly led and armed could take over oil fields, all of them. Genocide wont work either if Shias are armed to the teeth, nor Saudis would have man power to fight multiple wars. Hell, they dont have enough mercenaries to fight Houthis.

Iran has long memory, and while I doubt they'll escalate with creating Shias "Arab spring", but they'll really hurt Saudis in the long term, the only question is - by what means.

Posted by: Harry | Jan 3, 2016 2:51:29 AM | 1

Harry, the real threat to the Kingdom is the hardline Wahabis who think the government is too soft on the Shias. Killing off Al Nimr worked beautifully in terms of uniting the non Shia population behind the government. The Iranians burning the embassy was just icing on the cake. There's nothing like visceral anti Shia rage to inspire warm fuzzy feelings towards the regime in the minds of the nutjob Wahabi majority in KSA.

Posted by: TestUser | Jan 3, 2016 3:01:56 AM | 2

B is right about murdering a prominent Shia for political gain. All those disasters by the Saudi corrupt and tyrannical leadership needed a distraction, and religious Sunni sectarian fucktards are an easy target for manipulation. Same goes for the other side it seems

Don't forget the thousands killed during the hajj, many Sunni blame the Saudi royalty for that disaster.

Posted by: tom | Jan 3, 2016 3:25:44 AM | 3

Sorry, there's nothing good about executing the political opposition, whether it's Barack Obama incinerating wedding parties and funerals and killing the sons of people he's already killed or the Saudi Royals chopping heads of Shia Muslims.

I hope they've finally fired up the Shia opposition to bring the dynasty down.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 3, 2016 3:52:40 AM | 4

This is just making official what has been unofficial since the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Iran and the Sauds are at war.

Executing al-Nimr was a given based on how the Saud regime behaves. So it can't be seen as a surprise and any response has been planned in detail not a spur of hot anger. And I think Iran is just using the event as a way to openly declare war on the Sauds. The war has been increasingly hot lately (Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen) but it was already hot in the 80s when Saddam invaded Iran paid by Saud oil money and was never openly declared. Until now the Iranian government has never treated the 'custodian of the two holy mosques' as open enemies.

The Sauds will fall or survive based on external support, as they always have, the number of Wahabists or Al Qaeda or IS supporters inside the Arabian Peninsula is as irrelevant as it has been always been. Foreign support is what keeps the Saud regime alive. If there was a Sunni revolt external forces, Pakistani (again) or Egyptian for example as 'moderate Sunni muslims' will cleanse the crazies.

The question now, which may be why Iran is moving now, is if the external support for the Sauds is as firm as it has been since the British and US promoted them to be the leaders of Islam. There are signs that the support may be finally cracking and this political assassination, support for IS and increasing 'irrational' behavior of the leadership may be deciding points. The Iranian government may be feeling this way and exploiting the situation to position on front of the wave for 'change in Islam's leadership'. Also chaos in the Arabian Peninsula now could solve the deflation and oil price problem the world economy is facing. Russia would and Iran would pretty happy if 10 million oil barrels a day disappear for a time ... perhaps also the US oil fracking industry.

Of course the Sauds may be feeling the same and their answer is to try to coerce their western supporters into an open war on Iran from their side (with the support of the Zionist crazies). And those the Yemen war and this expected provocation. But that has not been working and I don't expect it to work given the current balance of forces in the US. The US Army won't go at war with Iran for the Sauds (or the little colonizer entity in the Levant). This could change next year with a new US president but the internal resistance inside the US establishment won't change as easily with a more warmonger Hillary. Even a US president with full Zionist support has limits on her powers.

Posted by: ThePaper | Jan 3, 2016 5:19:15 AM | 5

"It was exactly what the Saudi rulers needed and wanted" I do not credit the cretins with with so much fore sight, they are bankrolling Jihadis and mercenaries in Syria and Yemen on a sectarian basis, their only aim is regional hegemomy for which they would kill their own Grandparents, they are the scum of the earth, time the Iranian 'arc of resistance' bankrolled some mercenaries of their own. First job take out the main oil terminal at Ras Tanura..."An assault on Ras Tanura, however, would be vastly more serious. As much as 80% of the near 9m barrels of oil a day pumped out by Saudi is believed to end up being piped from fields such as Ghawar to Ras Tanura in the Gulf to be loaded on to supertankers bound for the west". http://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/jun/03/saudiarabia.oil Kill two birds with one stone, bankrupt the Saudis leading to their demise, and push up the price of oil to the benefit of Russia and Iran.

Posted by: harry law | Jan 3, 2016 6:17:51 AM | 6

It smells of Saudi desperation.

The interesting part is not so much Nimr whom they executed for balance but the "Al Qaeda types" who seem to have been among this set returning from Afghanistan.

With Syria, Iraq and Yemen going badly for US/Saudi proxy groups a lot of experienced fighters will return to Saudi to get - what - for their services.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 3, 2016 6:45:27 AM | 7

It will hasten the fall of the House of Saud, thank goodness .. 'deo gratias'.

Posted by: Oui | Jan 3, 2016 7:55:00 AM | 8

I rather agree with somebody. There's a smell of desperation here - an extreme move, which may or may not work out. The danger is destabilising the Shi'a populations in Saudi, pushing them towards revolt.

In any case, public opinion is of no importance in Saudi. What counts is the opinion of the clan of princes of Al Sa'ud. They have to be satisfied, and there a lot of rumours that they are unhappy the way things are going.

Posted by: Laguerre | Jan 3, 2016 7:56:20 AM | 9

Executions and UK Military Alliance with KSA

The death wish tweeted by Iran's leader Khanenei ...
Doubtlessly, unfairly-spilled blood
of oppressed martyr #SheikhNimr
will affect rapidly & Divine revenge
will seize Saudi politicians.

The world confounded by beheading of teenager
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr

Posted by: Oui | Jan 3, 2016 8:06:20 AM | 10

BBC seems to be "sand niggering" the Saudis via the epithet The Desert Kingdom.
More Perfidious Albion-ism?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 3, 2016 8:19:22 AM | 11

jfl | Jan 3, 2016 3:52:40 AM | 4

Got to go with jfl on this one. Bad choices by bad governments; nothing good will come of this execution.

Posted by: V. Arnold | Jan 3, 2016 8:33:10 AM | 12

...
With Syria, Iraq and Yemen going badly for US/Saudi proxy groups a lot of experienced fighters will return to Saudi to get - what - for their services.
Posted by: somebody | Jan 3, 2016 6:45:27 AM | 7

Go Directly To Jail (from whence they came) and/or clarify the conditional Royal Pardon?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 3, 2016 9:09:38 AM | 13

Still and all, it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good and the execution of any Muslim cleric, Shia or Sunni, is a good thing. But they should be less selective and more inclusive.

Posted by: erik | Jan 3, 2016 9:12:48 AM | 14

Good analysis of Realpolitik.

Posted by: par4 | Jan 3, 2016 9:23:53 AM | 15

It sounds like al-Nimr wants something along the lines of Iran's government, which does not exclude democracy.

Posted by: Edward | Jan 3, 2016 9:33:03 AM | 16

"A smart move" on side of the Saudis, and your explanation, is just like when the west promote a Smart car, a smart bomb, green this and that, solar and wind this and that, carbon reduction this and that, etc.

All in all, living under intense and hysteric propaganda in no matter what a country you are living in you adopt "their" vocabulary and lexicon. Unless you stop to watch, read and follow "their" media outlets you became a victim of a fascist propaganda. Although in all fairness propaganda isn't a Nazi or fascist's invention. It is invention of Anglo-Saxon's political establishment. And unless you do deem their media as it's own because you are member of that nation-state.

Everything about the execution was well known, and announced, or if you like, leaked by Al-Jazeera at Dec.15 or so. To be sure the announcing bells are at max decibel level the article was "blocked". Given his history it was known even before this. There were small-scandal in the UK ruling circles about that. And than nothing...nobody gives damn about them, or rather that Shiia man. Including Tehran, he was maybe too revolutionary for their taste, like Samir Quntar.

The west, their governments and public concern can be easily dismissed given their societal pathology. In fact gives them more fuel and arguments against Islam and to dumb down even more own population.

Tehran had found itself in Zugzwang position, but "angry street mob" is alway handy in a chauvinistic societies when the official channels can not handle crisis of external affairs.

Posted by: Neretv'43 | Jan 3, 2016 9:44:14 AM | 17

A terrible and bloodthirsty act that will increase worldwide condemnation of these crazy headchoppers,who exist at the Wests benevolence.If there is any place to invade for America,it would be there,the epicenter of corruption,terror and Zionist reacharounds.
47 heads.

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 3, 2016 9:52:05 AM | 18

Sorta surprised it took so long for the Saudi embassy to be attacked so totally.

Posted by: karlof1 | Jan 3, 2016 10:15:42 AM | 19

KSA regime is a local west enforcer. This this terrible event should be seen in geopolitical context.

KSA still is source of, now cheap, mineral wealth. And buyer of sickening amount of weaponry that they have no use of. Nor human capability of using it. KSA is probably collateral victim of the Western oil price manipulation which targeting Russia.

But let's not forget the big picture, who is the biggest head chopper in the world and the more persistent trough several decades. Measuring by this metric the USA is by far the bloodiest executor in world's history

http://atimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/George-Bush.jpg

Posted by: Neretva'43 | Jan 3, 2016 10:24:05 AM | 20

There has not been any execution of a prominent Shia cleric by Sunnis in decades, other than the 'disappearance' of Iman Moussa attributed to Libya. Whatever ideas Al Nimr had, his death is a powerful reminder to the Shias of the humiliation and beheading of the revered Iman Hossein as well as the subsequent historical oppression of the Shias by the Sunnis. This explain the burst of emotions following the execution
By killing Al Nimr in a dramatic way the Saudis hope that Iran will make some foolish moves that will delay and hamper the application of the USA-Iran deal that Saudi Arabia has still in its throat

As it is the case for Iman Hossein and Moussa Sadr, the Shias will not seek immediate revenge. The Shias are people who do not neither forget nor forgive. They will look at the Saudi King as another Yazid, a hated figure, pray for his death and wait for the right moment to get justice done.
After the first popular shock, the Iranians will come back to what we are used to now, realpolitik. The undermining the Saudis in Yemen and Syria will certainly increase.
The Saudi leaders are about to a get a huge humiliation to their 'manhood' in Yemen and Syria, they needed to show off that they are not 'half men' to their increasingly suspicious Sunni population.
Yet that murder without much reactions won't be enough. It may also backfire by revealing to the Saudi population that their leaders, unable to win wars are showing off by beheading rather peaceful dissents.

Posted by: virgile | Jan 3, 2016 10:24:20 AM | 21


Posted by: Edward | Jan 3, 2016 9:33:03 AM | 16

Not for atheists and Buddhists, nor protestants or catholics. Not for most of the Iranians who cannot vote on their "Supreme Leader".

The Iranian system has checks and balances that make it stable, but it is not what the West calls democracy.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 3, 2016 10:58:01 AM | 22

Everybody also knows about the thousands of lashes the Saudis administer to anyone in their unhappy kingdom who happens to be a square peg or remotely critical of the local repression. Iran has dished out its own brutal jurisprudence from time to time; and from the standpoint of its own periodic harshness is hardly in a position to criticize the Saudis. And some hellholes exist, to be sure, in the US, with its gulag that crawls with neglect, and torture in the form of prolonged solitary confinement.

But whether b is being sarcastic or not, I think there is at least some error in shrugging all this off as a logical confirmation of realpolitik. It's clear that the Saudi executions over the objections of other nations, their funding and support of Daesh, and their endless massacre in Yemen, represents in essence, more fuel poured on a raging fire which may end with a full-blown Armageddon.

This has also been the week when Erdogan, the Turkish president, paused to admire in retrospect, the National Socialist government of Adolf Hitler, as he expanded his own zoological hatred of Kurds, with a view towards disenfranchising them from participation in Turkish politics

Whither are we drifting? There are too many unhinged players in this political melodrama. This is a dangerous period to be sure.

Posted by: Copeland | Jan 3, 2016 12:05:23 PM | 23

I'm moderately stunned. We're over 20 comments into this cui bono? analysis of a Sunni extremist government murdering a much respected Shia cleric and nobody has raised the Government of Ysrael (GoY).

Nobody in the entire known universe profits more from the constant Shia/Sunni internecine bloodbath than GoY. They have been promoting Shia-Sunni hatred since at least the 1950's, with utterly outstanding results, at least from the GoY PoV. With al-Nimr's beheading ratcheting up Muslim sectarian tensions by a factor of 5 or more, it would certainly be worth our time to ask how or whether GoY was able to help swing the sword.

Suspicious: Erdogan left Riyadh the day before the execution. On the way back to Ankara he made huge reconciliation yada to GoY, saying it is time for Turkey and GoY to kiss and make up. Coincidence? Did Erdogan press that Saudi-slimeball bin Salman for al-Nimr's beheading in Goy's behalf to help grease the skids for Turk-GoY reconciliation?

USG/Goy/Turks are spoiling for an expanded fight with the Shia-network. If they can draw Hezbollah and/or Iran into a fight, GoY would be the huge wiener -- sorry, winner. As usual, GoY will not be doing any actual fighting, but they'll do anything they can to get it going among the others.

Posted by: Denis | Jan 3, 2016 12:13:54 PM | 24

thanks b.. i like your analysis.. i don't know if i agree with it, but i think it has merit..

i relate to virgiles response @ 21.

i think denis @24 raises good questions too.. i never thought i'd get round to saying erdogan is really a whack job, but this is where i find myself with regard to erdogan.. nothing he does makes any sense...joining hands with the saudi leadership or wanting a better bond with israel is more of the same.. what a whackjob he is..

Posted by: james | Jan 3, 2016 12:50:35 PM | 25

@25 I think Erdogan represents a part of the Turkish psyche that can't decide whether it is European or Asian. They feel rejected by the EU and superior to Arabs. He seems to think re-installing some kind of neo-Ottoman Empire will solve the problem.

Posted by: dh | Jan 3, 2016 1:00:57 PM | 26

Posted by: virgile | Jan 3, 2016 10:24:20 AM | 21
IMO you have it right/analysis, IMO this will increase help for internal dissidence/destabilization of KSA and related non elected extremist Sunnistans

Posted by: kooshy | Jan 3, 2016 1:08:56 PM | 27

@26 dh.. at this point he looks like a useful tool for just about everyone else except the people of turkey.. i think he has really f+k'd up here and gotten his country into a meat-grinder that it will be hard to get out of..

Posted by: james | Jan 3, 2016 1:09:38 PM | 28

I think b has accurately described what the Saudi motives for doing these executions. Whether or not that it was a smart move remains to be seen. The immediate downside to this act is , of course, the international condemnation. It will undo considerable amounts of the positive PR that the Saudis have purchased in the West. As was mentioned above it will also be seen as an act of desperation and will emphasize to even the most casual observer that the Saudis are struggling if not losing their war in Yemen. This will make it even more difficult for them to attract allies in that effort (though after Pakistan and Egypt refused to send troops, perhaps the Saudis have given up on doing that). The only forces that will support this action are those whose desire is to see even more chaos in ME though it does look like that these forces are dwindling or at least keeping a relatively low profile for now. On one positive note for us, it might make it easier for Russia to attract European nations to their effort to end the war in Syria.

Posted by: ToivoS | Jan 3, 2016 1:19:07 PM | 29

Iranians know exactly that SA is trying to instigate more problems between the Shias and Sunnis. Give them a little credit because if they can withstand ALL of the US provocations for the past 30 years I am pretty sure they can handle SA. The protests in the streets are exactly that just protests. Shia and Sunni clerics and officials in both Iran AND Iraq are not happy. This execution ties in with the murders in Nigeria and the brutal arrest of the Shia leader. Something ALWAYS happens for reason.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941013001102
http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/01/03/444335/Pakistan-Karachi-Islamabad-Kashmir-Saudi-Arabia-Nimr/
http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/01/03/444310/Iran-Saudi-Arabia-Rouhani-Nimr-execution/

Couldn't find the article that tied the events of Nigeria and al-Nimr execution with SA.

Posted by: NewYorker | Jan 3, 2016 1:25:46 PM | 30

It's amazing Lebanon has not imploded in a sectarian civil war. There have been many bombings of neighborhoods, several executions and all that in a political stalemate; in addition Israel provoking across borders with air strikes. Iranian backed Hezbollah doing a lot of weight lifting by protecting the eastern border with Syria and preventing free movement of Sunni fighters and arms. The highway from Damascus via Homs to Latakia is now in possession of the Syrian Army with support of coalition forces/Russian air power.

With the Russian intervention and US sitting back with respect to NATO ally Turkey; Erdogan bombing the Kurds in Syria, Iraq and in SE provinces for electoral gain. Israel doing business with Al Nusra terrorists along the Golan Heights and Jordan choosing to be passive as the Russians started bombing. The Gulf States with Saudi Arabian leadership, have pulled out of the US coalition to favor military action in Yemen. The British are doing all-out support for the Saudis, a client state for gross sale of military goods. AQAP militants in Yemen have been surging due to the GCC coalition going after the Houthi northerners. Quite similar action as with Iraq-born ISIS conquering Anbar province, Mosul and the Euphrates valley in Syria up to the border with Turkey.

ISW map of frontlines in Syria – Dec. 23, 2015 [pdf]

Posted by: Oui | Jan 3, 2016 1:35:27 PM | 31

The Emir of Qatar had already taken a beating with its foolish enterprise with Secretary Clinton and the Muslim Brotherhood with Turkey, Hamas and Egypt under Morsi. After Sisi grabbed power in Egypt, renewed alliance with KSA and GCC states to remove MB terror in Egypt, especially in the Sinai. The elder emir abdicated in favor of his son and a necessary adjustment on foreign policy started. As HRC found out, the Salafists and Muslim Brothers prefer internecine fighting instead of a united front against Assad in Syria. Geneva 2 became a failure as was the recent Riyadh conference with main rebel groups.

Saudi Arabia is witnessing it's lack of political cloud with the US and western nations as soon as Putin made his move in Syria. The threat by Prince Bandar expressed in the Kremlin meeting ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi sort of back-fired. PM Cameron in simplistic thought, believes the fairy tale by cooperating with the KSA, the British will be safe from terror attacks.

Btw, under leadership of Prince Bandar, many terrorists on death row were released with a one-way ticket to Syria and a Allah willing, short-cut to paradise. Unfortunately, Bandar did not get a guarantee of no-return to the Kingdom. Borders are porous.

In conclusion, I assess the execution order for Sheikh Nimr was an act of desperation by the royal court in Jeddah. When crown prince Salman became king, a purge of loyalists took place. I see his position in power as weak, and it's more likely for domestic purpose this number of executions took place and many to follow.

Posted by: Oui | Jan 3, 2016 1:39:03 PM | 32

@28 Useful tool yes but he is desperate to show Turkey having an independent policy. I'm not sympathizing with him. He's messed up badly. Shooting down the Sukhoi was just plain dumb. I suspect he was quietly encouraged to do it.

Posted by: dh | Jan 3, 2016 1:41:12 PM | 33

'His point was to always "side with the people, never with the government" independent of who or what was right or wrong.'

Sounds pretty democratic to me.

Posted by: Everyone | Jan 3, 2016 1:59:25 PM | 34

Yes, a provocation. The part of the story where al-Nimr insulted a crown prince is telling -- that's obviously not allowed.

I'd expect that this won't have any effect on SA, since the royal family must be prepared enough to defend themselves. The future of Iraq is another matter. I suppose the reaction will take place there, maybe in the form of mobilization of Iraqi Shiites (similar to 2005 or thereabouts??), once again turning central Iraq into a proxy battleground.

I always wondered whether a nice east-west strip of chaos didn't actually suit the major outside powers, as far as being a mutual lowest-common-denominator outcome that the outside powers could accept.

Posted by: peteybee | Jan 3, 2016 2:38:18 PM | 35

@5 "The Sauds will fall or survive based on external support..."

Exactly. Seems like Salman does not enjoy the same level of support the House of Saud had the past. That does not *necessarily* mean that the US will topple Salman and partition the Kingdom. For now, US will be happy to keep KSA fecklessly busy at war in Yemen and increasingly terrified of losing its oil fields to Shia insurgents. Partition could happen. There are indications that US has plans for that.

In the meantime, the future is with Iran and the east rather than the Gulf Monarchies and Europe, and US knows it. Iran knows it too, and isn't likely to trust overtures made by the Great Satan.

Posted by: yellowsnapdragon | Jan 3, 2016 2:47:47 PM | 36

I suppose b's 'smart' epithet was, in fact, jaded 'realpolitik' and not his own, personal appraisal of Saudi actions. I do agree that the Saudis see their only hope to retain their 'leadership of Islam' title - one awarded not by Islam but by USrael/UK - in rallying Sunni support around themselves in the face of 'Shia terrorism'. It's hard for me to see that working. I do hope we're watching the Saudis lights going out. No one in the oil patch - not Sunni, not Shia, nor Good ole Boy, certainly neither Russia nor Iran - will shed tears if the KSA goes offline for awhile, then comes back under new management.

Wouldn't it be sweet if someone actually developed an alternative to the oil wars?

Posted by: jfl | Jan 3, 2016 2:53:49 PM | 37

A weaker, more subservient, more dependent KSA still allied with US and Israel. That's the goal, I'm betting.

Posted by: yellowsnapdragon | Jan 3, 2016 3:03:10 PM | 38

I like this headline by Atlantic, I didn’t read the entire article, but the headline sounds like this ME cleric, just had some sort of accidental death, maybe a heart attack. One wonders why this folks were demonstrating instead of mourning this clerics death.

“The Protests of a Cleric's Death in the Middle East”
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/01/iran-saudi-arabia-cleric/422415/

Posted by: kooshy | Jan 3, 2016 3:09:04 PM | 39

@37 Won't it be sweet when someone actually develops an alternative to the oil wars?

Posted by: jfl | Jan 3, 2016 3:18:05 PM | 40

Whew... ME is a messed up place. I wouldn't read into the executions too deeply. Relationships between ME governments seem too entrenched to be affected in any serious way. But symbolism is a powerful tool. Chopping heads, burning embassies. Nobody in power really gives a shit, they just want to seem like they do.
What I do find worrying though, is the incessant upping of the delirium in the cheer leading media that usually precedes a fucking huge war.

Posted by: Dan | Jan 3, 2016 3:24:41 PM | 41

Saudis have just cut diplomatic ties with Iran. The pretense is over.

Posted by: Dan | Jan 3, 2016 3:29:11 PM | 42

@12 V. Arnold

So I guess that puts us on the same side in opposition to the Thai dictator? Who decrees decades of imprisonment and exercises 'suicide detentions' for those whom he views as opposition?

Posted by: jfl | Jan 3, 2016 3:30:36 PM | 43

b-
Predictably and correctly once again the Shia top clergies and militias didn’t bite the bate, they kept the leash on their constituencies disallowing spread to a real street level sectorial fight.

“The leader of Lebanon's Shia Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, launched his sharpest attack yet on the Saudi ruling family, accusing them of seeking to ignite a civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims across the world.”

“Ex-CIA official: Iran "acted responsibly" on Saudi Embassy arson”

Posted by: kooshy | Jan 3, 2016 3:30:48 PM | 44

@42 Dan

I wonder if Saudi agents torched their own embassy in Iran?

They've been too clever by half on this one.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 3, 2016 3:34:03 PM | 45

" ... Al-Nimr had called for the youth in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to raise up against the government. He called for the overthrow of all tyrants not only in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain but also of the Assad government in Syria. He was no Iranian stooge but defended its form of government. Al-Nimr said he was against violence but several of the demonstrations he called for ended with dead policemen and protesters. It was quite astonishing that the Saudi government let him preach for so long. A Sunni cleric in Saudi Arabia would have been put to jail or killed for much less revolutionary talk ..."

Dear B: I'm afraid that this information about Sheikh Al-Nimr does not really tell us much about his politics. Plenty of well-meaning people believe Bashar al Assad is a tyrant. One can hardly fault Al-Nimr and ordinary Saudis if their access to information about the Syrian President is severely restricted by the KSA and they have to rely on KSA and Western MSM propaganda. It is also hardly Al-Nimr's fault if the demonstrations he calls for are suppressed violently by KSA police and security thugs.

Defending the form of government that Iran has is not the same as defending the country's leaders and their competence. Iran's political structure is about as democratic as the current Grand Ayatollah Khamenei allows: Iranians are at least able to nominate themselves for the Presidency and, subject to approval, can campaign and garner votes. Al-Nimr might like the system but not necessarily the people who manipulate it.

Also one Wikileaks cable doesn't tell us much about Al-Nimr's political ideal. As one other commenter has noted, his apparent wishy-washy opinion might actually be based on democratic principles. In a Muslim-majority country, a democratically elected government could work together with a council of religious scholars on creating and carrying out a long-term political vision and strategy. The council could exist to provide advice but would not interfere with policy-making. Is that any worse than having a government where the main party has a name like Christian Democratic Union and bases its policies and programs on conservative Roman Catholic or Protestant beliefs not subject to critical examination and reevaluation?

Posted by: Jen | Jan 3, 2016 3:49:30 PM | 46

Posted by: Everyone | Jan 3, 2016 1:59:25 PM | 34

That is very difficult when people don't agree. I suppose the correct translation is "be on the side of the opressed".

This obviously is a crime in Saudi Arabia, but does not mean you have to be "democratic". Democracy is quite capable of opressing people.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 3, 2016 3:51:19 PM | 47

@45 jfl

Wouldn't surprise me but much too early to tell. Yes,
They have been very naughty recently, and apparently they're not very good at it.

Posted by: Dan | Jan 3, 2016 3:54:18 PM | 48

@42 dan.. re sa cutting diplomatic ties with iran.. it is interesting.. it seems more and more that sa is acting like erdogan - basically moving this way and that without pondering the impact of their actions on themselves or others too much or any.. did iran cut diplomatic ties when hundreds of there citizens were killed in the stampede to visit the holy places in saudi arabia? they were upset, but they didn't do this.. iran appears to take a much more calculated and nuanced position then sa is even remotely capable of taking..

at any rate - sa breakdown/dissolution is looking a lot closer now then it did a year or 2 ago..goes with my general prediction for something completely different in sa by 2020..

Posted by: james | Jan 3, 2016 3:56:45 PM | 49

Nazemroaya recently observed on Erdogan:

the clash between Turkey and Russia serves Washington’s interests of political and economical destabilization of Eurasia by using its own allies as cannon fodder against its rivals

This could be a similar case.

Posted by: jaqwith | Jan 3, 2016 3:58:17 PM | 50

@ThePaper@5

The question now, which may be why Iran is moving now, is if the external support for the Sauds is as firm as it has been since the British and US promoted them to be the leaders of Islam. There are signs that the support may be finally cracking and this political assassination, support for IS and increasing 'irrational' behavior of the leadership may be deciding points. The Iranian government may be feeling this way and exploiting the situation to position on front of the wave for 'change in Islam's leadership'. Also chaos in the Arabian Peninsula now could solve the deflation and oil price problem the world economy is facing. Russia would and Iran would pretty happy if 10 million oil barrels a day disappear for a time ... perhaps also the US oil fracking industry.

Excellent insights, thank you.

Survival has pushed the Saudi beasts to pull politics to the extreme, and while Salafism gave them some extra mileage, it never was or will be a sustainable policy. Their money has bought them "friends" and "allies" that might dump them at the drop of a hat, once the Persian winds start blowing stronger in the region, and the Russians become a more permanent, stabilizing force in the ME.

The assassination of Al-Nimr and the other 46 prisoners is pure and old vulgar Roman circus (wonder if any of the depraved Saudi "princes" had just watched "47 Ronin" before deciding on the number of executed), done for entertainment and diversion of the Saudi masses after a more than 50% increase in petrol prices, with prices up also for electricity, water, diesel and kerosene, to compensate for a $135 billion deficit, the highest in the history of Saudi Arabia. Bogged down in a quagmire in Yemen that is depleting their war chest by the billions weekly, the increase in prices are the equivalent of a war tax on the Saudi people.

The executions followed the price increases across the board, sending a message to the Saudi masses at large that complaints or revolts against the satraps will end with death. Saudi "allies" are beginning to worry about the repercussions long term of yet another erratic minion in the ME, hence the US "criticism" of the Saudi's behavior. Haven't checked if the spineless Eurostanians have already expressed their "concerns" about the development, or if any of the "human rights" State Dept. fronts have issued any communique, but I don't expect much from rotten Roth or anyone else.

Saudis are shamelessly propped up in power by the US/UK/NATO/ISrael, however, the geopolitical configuration in the ME/Persian Gulf is changing quickly, Saudi ambitions to cut Syria in pieces were blocked by Russia/Iran, and the Shiite Axis of Resistance is a lot more powerful now than it was a year ago. Saudi's takfiri proxy forces are being turned into desert dust by the hundreds, and they might survive to fight another day, just not for long. Saudi's future is tied up to external forces, as ThePaper pointed out above, but as their foreign adventures produce nothing but thousands of dead, their foreign support will also weaken along with their geopolitical clout.

The life expectation of the Saudi regime has been diminished with the execution of Al-Nimr and his 46 death companions. I wouldn't call that "a smart move" by far.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jan 3, 2016 4:33:40 PM | 51

World War One started because Russia thought it was worth going to war to defend the terrorist state of Serbia, and France and Britain supported that decision.

Let us hope Western support of the terrorist state of Saudi Arabia does not lead to a new world war.

With respect to #51, Germany and Austria thought they could finally get away with disciplining Serbia, because the assassination of a royal heir was one step too far that the other powers (they thought) would find unacceptable. The same may be true of the Saudi execution of Nimr: Iran may think it is one step too far for Saudi, and they may be wrong. Let us hope that they are not.

Posted by: lysias | Jan 3, 2016 4:50:52 PM | 52

https://youtu.be/B57fEpPJoeI

This is site of Kataib Hizballah https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kata%27ib_Hezbollah
another Shi'a paramilitary force. In this video they are allegedly on border with KSA with the rocket launcher. What symptomatic is, that logo on that video which make me to think about authenticity of the video.

...and there is more to it on their Youtube site, just be careful, only for those with strong stomach. You are being warned.

Posted by: Neretva'43 | Jan 3, 2016 5:22:00 PM | 53

Here's an excellent article about Saudi Arabia. Far more truthful that the rationalizations and pussyfooting found in the US media:

Saudi Arabia wages a phony war on terror by Brahma Chellaney

CONTAINING the scourge of Islamist terror will be impossible without containing the ideology that drives it: Wahhabism, a messianic, jihad- extolling form of Sunni fundamentalism whose international expansion has been bankrolled by oil-rich sheikhdoms, especially Saudi Arabia.

That is why the newly announced Saudi-led anti-terror coalition, the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism, should be viewed with profound skepticism....

Saudi Arabia has been bankrolling Islamist terrorism since the oil-price boom of the 1970s dramatically boosted the country’s wealth. According to a 2013 European Parliament report, some of the €9bn invested by Saudi Arabia for “its Wahhabi agenda” in South and Southeast Asia was “diverted” to terrorist groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Western leaders have recognised the Saudi role for many years. In a 2009 diplomatic cable, then-US secretary of state Hillary Clinton identified Saudi Arabia as “the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”. Thanks largely to the West’s interest in Saudi oil, however, the kingdom has faced no international sanctions.

Now, with the growth of terrorist movements like the Islamic State, priorities are changing. As German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said in a recent interview: “We must make it clear to the Saudis that the time of looking the other way is over.”...

From this perspective, Saudi Arabia’s surprise announcement of a 34-country anti-terror alliance, with a joint operations centre based in Riyadh, is a logical step, aimed at blunting growing Western criticism, while boosting Sunni influence in the Middle East.

But, of course, the alliance is a sham — as a closer look at its membership makes clear.

Tellingly, the alliance includes all of the world’s main sponsors of extremist and terrorist groups, from Qatar to Pakistan. It is as if a drug cartel claimed to be spearheading a counter-narcotics campaign....

At home, Salman’s reign so far has meant a marked increase in the number of sentences of death by decapitation, often carried out in public — a method emulated by the Islamic State. Abroad, it has meant a clear preference for violent solutions in Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.....

But beyond Saudi Arabia’s strategic manipulations lies the fundamental problem with which we started: The kingdom’s official ideology forms the heart of the terrorist creed.

Though I'm not so convinced by the part that claims the Saudis have slipped the US leash, overall this article points to the basic truth of Saudi Arabia that seems wholly excluded from the US press.

The more trouble in the Kingdom, the better. The sooner the House of Saud falls, the better for the peace of the whole world.

Posted by: guest77 | Jan 3, 2016 5:22:16 PM | 54

Interesting that the day the Saudis close their embassy in Tehran, they open one in Baghdad. PErhaps this is part of their effort to trim the Kingdom's budget .... ;)

Saudi Arabia, Squeezed by Low Oil Prices, Cuts Spending to Shrink Deficit

The price of oil, Saudi Arabia’s most important export, has tumbled this year because of reduced global demand and fierce competition by producers — including the Saudis — to keep their share of the market. The market is expected to be increasingly competitive because Iran could soon be free to sell its oil under relaxed international sanctions after Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers. In the summer of 2014, oil exceeded $100 a barrel, but it is now trading well below $40.

Seems to me the Saudis are getting themselves into quite a bind by being America's belly dancer. Probably this latest wave of executions is meant to let their subjects know that no dissent will be accepted during the Saudi's upcoming "special period".

Posted by: guest77 | Jan 3, 2016 5:30:48 PM | 55

@50 Jaqwith Yes. I'm guessing KSA got to big for their britches in the US/Saudi alliance and need to be put back a few notches. Feels like Salman is being played, making several decisions that are both desperate and demanding of US, which is unlikely to respond to the liking of the King.

Posted by: yellowsnapdragon | Jan 3, 2016 5:37:53 PM | 56

Western media, while not overly critical, is not showing anything like the typical Saudi love fest. I think what we are seeing is a realization that the US is not in a position to protect KSA from its own stupidity. The US is weaker than it was a few years ago, while Iran and Russia are stronger. They are willing and able to take advantage of any stupid move KSA makes. Hence the US tells them, "Don't be stupid. the sort of thing we used to get away with routinely now has a price attached." A Wahabi-Shia' civil war (notice I don't say Sunni-Shia' because there are plenty of Sunnis who despise KSA government and its terrorists beyond description) is fine unless the Wahabis are going to loose it. And that is precisely why the US thought it was a great idea a while ago but are now thinking better of it. Whereas KSA probably assumes the US can pull their chestnuts out of the fire when it comes down to it. The US, meanwhile, is not so sure anymore.

Posted by: Lysander | Jan 3, 2016 6:10:38 PM | 57

@4 jfl,

Sure there is. If you're the House of Saud and your goal is to reproduce same. Or if you're the Shia opposition and your goal is to prevent the reproduction of same. Anyway, b said smart (for the House of Saud), not good.

@12 V. Arnold,

Can you kindly leave your bourgeois perspective-hostile arrogance over at Ian Welsh's? Your class interests have been poisoning Western society since your class came to be.

Posted by: Jonathan | Jan 3, 2016 6:19:10 PM | 58

US spox John Kirby made statement about Nimr described in the Guardian: "He said the US was calling on Saudi Arabia to ensure fair judicial proceedings and permit peaceful expression of dissent while working with all community leaders to defuse tensions after the executions."

That sounds more like a statement that would be made by the US in a color revolution than after a Saudi execution of a Shia. This could get interesting.

Posted by: yellowsnapdragon | Jan 3, 2016 6:27:58 PM | 59

Few restful Arabian nights in store for the Saudis. Lying and scheming will eventually lead to total spiritual exhaustion

Posted by: rosco | Jan 3, 2016 7:11:22 PM | 60

Saudi execution aimed at provoking regional bloodbath.

Posted by: lysias | Jan 3, 2016 7:17:50 PM | 61

@Neretva'43@53

...and there is more to it on their Youtube site, just be careful, only for those with strong stomach. You are being warned.

I don't understand your warning. The Youtube video link you posted is merely promotional, I searched Youtube for "kata'ib hezbollah saudi arabia border" and there is only one 9 months old video.

Kata'ib Hezbollah Rocket Launchers at the Border of Saudi-Arabia (Hezbollah-Brigades in Iraq)

Is there any info I am missing from your post?

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jan 3, 2016 7:17:51 PM | 62

jfl | Jan 3, 2016 3:30:36 PM | 43
So I guess that puts us on the same side in opposition to the Thai dictator?

I didn't say that, you did.
For what it's worth, I'm against all governments who view citizens as property; which would include the U.S. government. You seem to think you're on some noble crusade or some such. I don't really know.
If your present situation is so upsetting why don't you change it?
When faced with an untenable situation; I change it and have done so more than once.
Cheers

Posted by: V. Arnold | Jan 3, 2016 7:30:52 PM | 63

jlk @ # 45 You might be on to someyhing there. The initial report I say was from RT which contained tweets from Iran reporters on the scene. There was what looked like a fairly heavy police/riot squad presence at the embassy before the crowd scene got out of control and reporters said protesters threw molotov cocktails AT the building yet photo's show it engulfed in flames.

KAS has just broken diplomatic ties with Iran so playing nice is obviously now publicly over

Posted by: Kiwicris | Jan 3, 2016 8:05:00 PM | 64

I googled "nimr worms" just to get a better idea of this guy's great sense of humor.

Holy wee-wee, did you ever see this guy when he was fired up?? How about when he was fired upon?

Here's a YT showing both --
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--fsVHVvxec

and a longer one (2:31) of just the speech
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSEG34wxgaY

The guy was obviously headed for trouble, if you'll forgive the pun.

Posted by: Denis | Jan 3, 2016 8:05:09 PM | 65

Oops Should be jfl sorry 'bout that bro - shoulda previewed

Posted by: Kiwicris | Jan 3, 2016 8:06:53 PM | 66

Dear B , while you are entitled to your observation, it seems like many have disagreed with you on this one. Being the non arrogant person you are, and like you have done plenty of times in the past, when you realise in the future that what you have said about Nimr is wrong, then you will admit to it as per usual.

There are forces at play here that no wikileak cable or encyclopedia or twitter feed can comprehend. In the middle east, especially the shiite half, politics and money comes second. Saudis have caused their own downfall and it will happen.

Hopefully when the saudis decide to sway the nigerian "gov" into executing another shiite leader ( sheik zakzaky from nigeria ), your outlook may be a little different !!!

But on a blog where respect is clearly shown amongst 90% of commentators, i say i respect your view but i beg to differ

Posted by: Deebo | Jan 3, 2016 8:23:00 PM | 67

@rosco@60

Few restful Arabian nights in store for the Saudis. Lying and scheming will eventually lead to total spiritual exhaustion

There is nothing spiritual about the Saudis, they are greedy gluttons who know no limits to their possessiveness, the root of all evil; pervert pedophiles who enslave men, women and children, sexually and otherwise, junkies who combat their exhaustion with a sea of drugs that flood the kingdom from all over the world.

Saudis are dirt merchants, the so-called "guardians" of Mecca and Medina are just merchants of a phony religion of death, not different from their pre-Islamic ancestors the Quraysh, who were at the root of the Great Schism of Islam, and have been killing people to remain in power ever since Karbala.

The Saudis, and I mean the ruling classes, are the scum of the earth.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jan 3, 2016 8:28:17 PM | 68

@rosco@60

Few restful Arabian nights in store for the Saudis. Lying and scheming will eventually lead to total spiritual exhaustion

There is nothing spiritual about the Saudis, they are greedy gluttons who know no limits to their possessiveness, the root of all evil, pervert pedophiles who enslave men, women and children, sexually and otherwise, junkies who combat their exhaustion with a sea of drugs that flood the kingdom from all over the world.

Saudis are dirt merchants, the so-called "guardians" of Mecca and Medina are just merchants of a phony religion of death, not different from their pre-Islamic ancestors the Quraysh, who were at the root of the Great Schism of Islam, and have been killing people to remain in power ever since Karbala.

The Saudis, and I mean the ruling classes, are the scum of the earth.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jan 3, 2016 8:32:21 PM | 69

@ Jonathan | Jan 3, 2016 6:19:10 PM | 58


I'm so sorry; I hope you get well soon. Cheers

Posted by: V. Arnold | Jan 3, 2016 8:44:53 PM | 70

Saudi Arabia has little to worry about – no state has the moral authority or will to attack this butchery

We have to remember that on the UN Council we can find such vigorous defenders of human rights as China and Russia

When Saudi Arabia was elected to the UN Human Rights Council in 2013 – with Dave Cameron’s help – we all regarded it as farce. Now, only hours after the Sunni Muslim Saudis chopped off the heads of 47 of their enemies – including a prominent Shia Muslim cleric – the Saudi appointment is grotesque. Of course, the world of human rights is appalled – and Shia Iran is talking of the “divine punishment” that will destroy the House of Saud. Crowds attack the Saudi embassy in Tehran. So what’s new?

“Divine” and secular punishment have been variously sought against Middle East leaders for centuries, most recently against Bashar al-Assad of Syria who, according to the French Foreign Minister, did not “deserve to live on this planet”.

The Saudis were long ago telling the Americans to “cut off the head of the serpent” – Iran’s head, needless to say – but they have obviously settled for the head of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, at least for now. But all the shouting and screaming doesn’t stop the oil flowing from Saudi wells – nor the kingdom’s friends from using the usual weasel language to excuse their outrages.

The executions are an “internal matter”, a “retrograde step” perhaps, and certainly the executions were “events that don’t help” peace in the Middle East. All of this classic verbiage, I should add, from Crispin Blunt, the Tory chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, came within hours of the mass head-chopping.

He also told Channel 4 that “we’ve got to judge when it’s right to engage” with the Saudis on such “matters”. You bet we have. “Never” would be my guess. After all, you can’t fly your flags at half mast when the last King of Saudi Arabia dies a natural death, and then get all antsy when the Saudis start slashing at the necks of their enemies.

There is, however, one little step that those who protest and roar and rage over the latest Saudi butchery might contemplate, if they can calm down enough to concentrate on the small print. For the resolution which established the United Nations Human Rights Council – upon which the Saudis are proud to sit – says that “members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”.

Even more to the point, the UN General Assembly, which elects those members who occupy the Council’s 47 seats, is empowered – with a two-thirds majority – to suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member which has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights while a member of the Council.

But here’s the snag. Quite apart from the fawning Western leaders who would object to such a slur being uttered against Saudi Arabia – Dave, obviously, along with his counterparts in France, Germany, Italy, indeed the whole EU and the US (of course) and any recipient of Saudi largesse – we’d have to witness the absurd vote of Iran against Saudi Arabia. Iran, you see, has hanged an estimated 570 prisoners – 10 of them women – in the first half of 2015 alone. That’s about two lynchings a day – of “criminals” and “enemies of God” – and far outdoes the poor old Saudis who were, scarcely two years ago, advertising for more official executioners. In March, six Sunnis were put to death in Iran in a mass hanging.

In other words, he who casts the first stone – this would be literal if the Taliban were still in power in Afghanistan (though they may yet return) – had better look at his own track record. And quite apart from the US (28 executions in 2015, not counting drone attacks, “targeted killings” and other extrajudicial murders), we have to remember that on the UN Council we can find such vigorous defenders of human rights as China and Russia.

So the Saudis have little to worry about from the UN. Or from the US or the EU or Dave. Until the revolution.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jan 3, 2016 9:29:59 PM | 71

Roosevelt's 70 year old handshake with Abdul Aziz showing signs of weakening...?

Is the 'we take your money, you take our oil, you leave our backward wahabi cult alone...' agreement about to finish up...?


DEC 16 2015

The US Is About to Export Oil for the First Time in 40 Years

The export ban dates back to the 1970s, when Arab oil producers slapped an embargo on the United States over its support for Israel in the 1973 Mideast war. The resulting gas lines highlighted a new vulnerability, and the administration of President Gerald Ford and Congress responded by keeping American oil on American markets. But the shale boom that has made the United States the world's top petroleum producer again has left oil companies looking for new markets to sell what they pump.

Posted by: MadMax2 | Jan 3, 2016 9:46:57 PM | 72

Link re: Post 71
https://news.vice.com/article/the-us-is-about-to-export-oil-for-the-first-time-in-40-years

Posted by: MadMax2 | Jan 3, 2016 9:50:00 PM | 73

Issue is that Saudi Arabia does not come close to the governance, political, social & military maturity of Iran.
It is obvious, there is an attempt to provoke a polarised movement leading to a war.
Lately, Saudi created a voalition of XX followers against terrorism & to help with the yemeni war ...
Only Pakistan , Iran & Algeria did not join.

In my humble opinion, Saudi is making too many mistakes as the current leadership is either too young or too
Oriented towards solving conflicts the hard way . Which the cant even resolve themselves.
Saudi should have invested in more opening, education for Men & Women instead of choosing the path
arming themselves heavily as they dont even have the bandwith nor the history.

I believe we will see a growing internal instability doubled with an external stability & with
Complete inability to come up with long term solutions.

Posted by: Said B | Jan 3, 2016 9:55:27 PM | 74

@Deebo@67

[...] when you realise in the future that what you have said about Nimr is wrong, then you will admit to it as per usual [...]

I seriously doubt it, but you're welcome to keep your hope high. From my experience here, I have never seen b attacking someone for disagreements on positions, and people express their dissent quite frequently and forcefully, sometimes even disrespectfully. b's not a fascist, like the infamous saker.

Besides b's profile of Al-Nimr, which IMHO was more a caricature of the man due to the limited sources used to expound on his beliefs, another aspect called my attention: for any uninitiated reader, meaning someone that doesn't know b's credentials, the perception could be created that Al-Nimr was guilty of sedition, and the Saudi government was justified on arresting him.

Sentences like, Al-Nimr said he was against violence but several of the demonstrations he called for ended with dead policemen and protesters. projects malice on the part of Al-Nimr. We all know that any demonstration can be peaceful but powerful at the same time, so much so any concerned government could insert agent provocateurs to turn the peaceful demonstration into a violent one, a point b didn't contemplate, which leaves the perception Al-Nimr lied on being peaceful, that he was a violent man.

OTOH, the following sentences, It was quite astonishing that the Saudi government let him preach for so long. A Sunni cleric in Saudi Arabia would have been put to jail or killed for much less revolutionary talk. give the impression of a lenient Saudi government, that didn't act against Al-Nimr despite his attacks against the state, but then The Saudi government's patience ended when in June 2012 al-Nimr disparaged the death of the interior minister and crown prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud:

The provocation was too much, Al-Nimr insulted the soooo lenient Saudi government to a point it was forced to act against him, having waited looooong enough for Al-Nimr to mend his ways, at no avail. And I will leave it there, for now.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jan 3, 2016 11:31:19 PM | 75

The Saudi "royals" are just being themselves. Fat royal pigs. It looks like they are in trouble now.

The Sunnis are stuck with Turkey and the Saudis. There is a huge vacuum there. I wonder what Pakistan will do (not that they are angels).

Posted by: blues | Jan 4, 2016 12:14:41 AM | 76

I think their reason for stirring up trouble is probably multi-pronged but increasingly thinking it is designed to sabotage the Syria peace process. Serious work will start up again on it in a couple of days. Next session is just 3 weeks away.

Right after they executed Nimr, they started bombing the heck out of Sana'a again and today, even worse. One person said it was the worst bombardment in Yemen since early September.

And watching this sabotage of a peace process and bombing the hell out of next door neighbors, I can't help but wonder if Saudis-in-charge are listening to their neocon and Netanyahu gang friends for advice because it sounds an awful like like an Israeli hard liner Likud strategy.

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Jan 4, 2016 12:25:39 AM | 77

@58 jonathan '... If you're the House of Saud and your goal is to reproduce same ... b said smart (for the House of Saud), not good. '

Yeah. I don't think it's smart. I think the Saudis are isolating themselves, rather than Iran or the Shia. Actually not unlike Obama's moves in Ukraine and in support of Daesh in Syriaq. He's isolating the USA as well. The USA can control the press, and Saudis can ride their coattails in that respect, see the non-reportage on Yemen, but the people of the world know ... we don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows. Playing to the captive MSM is itself becoming more and more a losers' game. That's just me, of course. Opinions vary.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 4, 2016 4:07:40 AM | 78

Posted by: Said B | Jan 3, 2016 9:55:27 PM | 73

That is basically what German BND very publicly said (probably with some edging on from others).

Saudi desperately needs an exterior ennemy - even if it tears their country - and the Gulf - apart.

For Western "allies" this creates a real problem.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 4, 2016 4:45:02 AM | 79

The Saudi regime, like their Israeli counterpart thrives on tensions... b might be right in saying the execution of the cleric was a smart move. But I fail to see how this will help the Saudi clan in the long term. I think people underestimate how much many people across the region are pissed at the Al-Sauds.

On the plus side, the disintegration of the Al_Saud family will lead to the other monarchies to crumble as well..

Posted by: Zico | Jan 4, 2016 4:56:07 AM | 80

It is beginning to look as if the Saudis just beheaded the West's favourite Shiite.

German transatlantic media titles with a dramatic Nimr quote - "The shouting of words is more effective than a sword" - and quotes a BBC interview with him (can anybody find it?) - that martyrdom is the strongest weapon of all.

The Guardian subtitles "Nimr, whose execution has sparked condemnation across the Middle East, was a vocal backer of pro-democracy protests".

Ah yes, and Nimr's wife died in a New York hospital.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 4, 2016 5:47:09 AM | 81

BREMMER: 'Saudi Arabia is in serious trouble, and they know it'

http://www.businessinsider.com/saudi-arabia-iran-tension-trouble-2016-1

As strategic security intelligence firm The Soufan Group noted in its daily briefing, however, "If the execution of Sheikh Nimr is intended to take the minds of Saudi’s Sunni population off the recent 40% price hike in gasoline and point the finger at an external enemy as the cause of current economic woes, it may not be enough."

The group added: "To pursue that line of exculpation, the Saudi royal family will have to continue to escalate its rhetoric and action against Iran."

Posted by: virgile | Jan 4, 2016 10:13:52 AM | 82

Are the Saudis rehabbed by the Western Ziomedia,or just ignored?I go with the latter,as they can't really protect these criminals,same as with Israel,they ignore or excuse the reality of their evil.

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 4, 2016 11:14:08 AM | 83

Remember when the US "got carried away" (That was actually their excuse.) and flew planeloads of their proxies out of Afghanistan? It was only a couple months after 9-11, and their proxies were trapped by the US army, so they just flew them out! After all, if there had been a decisive US victory they'd have had to leave all those poppies.

Same deal now in Iraq: As cities are retaken, the fighters are found to be mostly gone. Puppet al-Abadi has held his forces back to let the US take ISIS to safety. Iran's Mjr General Soleimani wants to replace him with democratically elected al-Maliki, who was deposed by the US. http://www.4thmedia.org/2016/01/u-s-accused-of-smuggling-2000-islamic-state-isisdaesh-fighters-out-of-ramadi/

Posted by: Penelope | Jan 4, 2016 12:02:49 PM | 84

It may seem paradoxical to "escort" the enemy to safety but I think it's better than the alternatives ... another "highway of death" or simple slaughter or massive POW camps (with all their attendant problems).
Back in 2012 (iirc) Assad helped relocate some rebel leaders who were willing to give up the fight (in the face of a life-threatening jihadi second front opening up within the "rebel" movement). These are "useful" demonstrations of trustworthiness in advance of negotiations... even if they appear contrary to the American "kill for peace" mantra.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 4, 2016 12:52:07 PM | 85

If the Saudi monarchy falls, I wonder if we will finally found out the truth about what happened on 9/11.

Posted by: lysias | Jan 4, 2016 12:55:59 PM | 86

Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Iran without even bothering to give an official explanation about their move. It looks as if the Saudi/Bahrain response to the assassination of Al-Nimr had been prepared well in advance, and escalation in the confrontation with Iran was already contemplated.

Bahrain Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Iran

Bahrain has joined Saudi Arabia in cutting all diplomatic relations with Iran. All Iranian diplomats have been given 48 hours to leave the Island Gulf State. This was announced by the Ministry of Information Affairs of Bahrain. This has been followed after Saudi Arabia withdrew all diplomatic relations with Iran after its embassy in Tehran was attacked by Iranian students following the Saudi execution of Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni absolute-monarchy despite majority of its civilians calling for their overthrow. Majority of Bahraini’s are Shi’ite and the island kingdom is only separated by Saudi Arabia by a short causeway. Bahrain has historically been an Iranian island, but was mostly Arabized in the last two centuries. Bahrain are yet to give an official reason for cutting all diplomatic relations with Iran.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jan 4, 2016 1:04:39 PM | 87

@ Susan Sunflower 84

You assume they US and ISIS are enemies, why? ISIS is a tool US uses (Obama himself admitted it), and they dont want to lose their terrorists, this is nothing like amnesties done by Assad, nor these ISIS rescued by US will stop fighting. Simply saved from the sure death, and moved to another front.

Posted by: Harry | Jan 4, 2016 1:06:40 PM | 88

re 85. Well, if it does fall, I'm sure Delta Force will be in there to pick up the bits of paper flying in the wind, as well as evacuate the remaining Saudi princes. There were a lot of Saddam's papers that were never released.

Posted by: Laguerre | Jan 4, 2016 1:06:48 PM | 89

Harry

My understanding as well.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 4, 2016 1:08:50 PM | 90

I think the "good faith" juice created by not-slaughtering the surrenders is much more important than "saving" individual lives ... who "we" certainly may kill with impunity "another day"...
Assad and the Iraqis (like Gadafi before them) will have to live with the consequences of that sort of "kill them all and let god sort them out" barbarity ... on a very up-close-and-personal level.
Demonstrating that it is safe to surrender is golden ...

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 4, 2016 1:15:44 PM | 91

Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Iran without even bothering to give an official explanation about their move. It looks as if the Saudi/Bahrain response to the assassination of Al-Nimr had been prepared well in advance, and escalation in the confrontation with Iran was already contemplated.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jan 4, 2016 1:17:06 PM | 92

p.s. I'm not convinced that on a "granular" or individual level, ISIS fighters "know" they are fighting for the interests of the USA ... nor am I convinced that we hold puppet-like strings beyond our fat purse and an unlimited supply of promises and weapons ...

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 4, 2016 1:19:45 PM | 93

It looks rather like a failed move further splitting the GCC and re-enforcing Iran.

The fact that only Bahrain and Sudan joined in breaking diplomatic relations highlighted ambivalence in the GCC about the Saudi policies. The United Arab Emirates followed with some half measures against Iran. Other GCC members may not even do that. Despite the Iranian role in fueling tensions after the executions, they seem to have already won this round of the regional propaganda war.

http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/the-saudi-iran-break-politics-of-fear-in-the-gulf

Posted by: virgile | Jan 4, 2016 1:21:15 PM | 94

Saudi Arabia stews in policy hell: Spengler

Last week’s mass executions in Saudi Arabia suggest panic at the highest level of the monarchy. The action is without precedent, even by the grim standards of Saudi repression. In 1980 Riyadh killed 63 jihadists who had attacked the Grand Mosque of Mecca, but that was fresh after the event. Most of the 47 prisoners shot and beheaded on Jan. 2 had sat in Saudi jails for a decade. The decision to kill the prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, the most prominent spokesman for restive Saudi Shia Muslims in Eastern Province, betrays fear of subversion with Iranian sponsorship.

Why kill them all now? It is very hard to evaluate the scale of internal threats to the Saudi monarchy, but the broader context for its concern is clear: Saudi Arabia finds itself isolated, abandoned by its longstanding American ally, at odds with China, and pressured by Russia’s sudden preeminence in the region. The Saudi-backed Army of Conquest in Syria seems to be crumbling under Russian attack. The Saudi intervention in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi rebels has gone poorly. And its Turkish ally-of-convenience is consumed by a low-level civil war. Nothing has gone right for Riyadh.

Worst of all, the collapse of Saudi oil revenues threatens to exhaust the kingdom’s $700 billion in financial reserves within five years, according to an October estimate by the International Monetary Fund (as I discussed here). The House of Saud relies on subsidies to buy the loyalty of the vast majority of its subjects, and its reduced spending power is the biggest threat to its rule. Last week Riyadh cut subsidies for water, electricity and gasoline. The timing of the executions may be more than coincidence: the royal family’s capacity to buy popular support is eroding just as its regional security policy has fallen apart [...]

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jan 4, 2016 1:51:59 PM | 95

@Susan Sunflower@93

p.s. I'm not convinced that on a "granular" or individual level, ISIS fighters "know" they are fighting for the interests of the USA ... nor am I convinced that we hold puppet-like strings beyond our fat purse and an unlimited supply of promises and weapons ...

If they knew they were fighting for the USA, that would defeat the purpose of the brainwashing, ie fighting for the phony caliphate, the 72 virgins and all the crap. The rhetoric inside IS is anti-West, anti-US, keeping hot the feverish fundamentalist dreams of burning the infidel, depraved West, the last obstacle for the establishment of the caliphate on the planet, in a gigantic pyre.

For further info on what you call "puppet-like strings," and what the CIA calls the "rat line," I refer you to Sy Hersh's The Red Line and the Rat Line, and more recently to Pepe Escobar How Russia is smashing the Turkish game in Syria. That would give you an idea of how the CIA manages the "puppet-like strings."

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jan 4, 2016 2:25:33 PM | 96

@Susan Sunflower@93

A very good FB summary of Sy Hersh's article referred above, by Pepe Escobar.

https://www.facebook.com/pepe.escobar.77377/posts/10153723040156678

Remember Obama's Red Line? Remember the CIA's Rat Line (still in effect)? It's all here - as of April 2014. ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL BACKGROUND READING to understand Sultan Erdogan's latest aerial adventure, thanks to Sy Hersh.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jan 4, 2016 2:33:41 PM | 97

The Saudis are likely trying to demonstrate to the Muslim world that they are not America's lap dog (see Tony Blair) at a moment when they are -- by all the measures mentioned -- losing rather badly -- but they can still "refuse" to be bullied in a land where anti-western defiance has currency. Perhaps in this instance they're emulating Putin (ha!!), but yes, I think they are trying to rally internal / domestic support in the face of foreign enemies ... rather like some of Erdogan's moves, there's a petulant/grade-school a->b->c it's too simplistic to feel like a credible explanation ... If the Saudi populous comes out swinging to defend the caliphate, we're (the USA) going to be deeply embarrassed ...My suspicion of a long time now is that within the Muslim community the (idealized) caliphate may well be deeply "popular" even if ISIS (ruffian barbarians!!!) is not.
The absurdity of the Saudis and Baharainis getting huffy of over an attack on a building (a symbolic presence) after having just executed a Shiia religious leader ... well, it's indelicate to mention, particularly as we are apparently already standing-with the Saudis against Iran. On a petulant grade-school level, this looks like the Saudi's having hissy fit over our various rapproachments with the Iranians (likely egged on by the McCain camp as usual).

(The 2000 number wrt evacuations from Ramadi seems very high ... after months of fighting -- I'd mention also that evacuating/sparing those in leadership positions is part of conventional warfare since those are the folks most likely to be able to effectively, meaningfully negotiate in the future and, as such, I don't think it's necessarily nefarious. The Iraqis also, fwiw, have domestic reasons to avoid another Shiia-killing-Sunni slaughter. Saw speculation that Fallujah is "next" to be "liberated" (again).. )

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 4, 2016 2:40:49 PM | 98

I suspect there was a deeper motivation than just re-establishing Saudi Arabia as "defenders of the (Sunni) faith. I suspect this was a move directed at IRAN.

By provoking Iran, the Saudis get some (false) legitimacy for their war in Yemen. More importantly, it allows Saudi Arabia to "retaliate" by increasing its moves in Syria - which are in turn supported by both Israel and the US military-industrial complex.

The end goal of the Syria crisis is 1) the degradation of Hizballah in Lebanon for the benefit of Israel, and 2) war with Iran for the benefit of Israel and the US military-industrial complex which wants another decades-long war to boost war profits being lost now that Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down (however slowly and despite the useful existence of ISIS).

Watch developments over the next couple months. If the Saudis move against Iran in Syria, this could lead to a new phase in the Syria crisis which the US and NATO might use to justify attacking Syria. Remember: once Syria is down and out, Hizballah in Lebanon will be next. Then, and only then, can Israel get its war with Iran - with the US doing the heavy lifting.

The goal, despite the Iran nuclear deal, is still war with Iran. Both Israel and the US elites NEED that war. They will not stop trying to get it, no matter how long it takes.

Posted by: Richard Steven Hack | Jan 4, 2016 8:25:09 PM | 99

"A smart move" ??? Or was this meant to be a sarcastic remark ?

The good folks at "Foreign Policy In Focus" don't think it was a smart move. "It’s Going to Cost Them (the saudis) Big.".
http://fpif.org/saudi-arabia-executed-non-violent-shiite-cleric-going-cost-big/

Gwynn Dyer was right in 2007. The US invasion of Iraq has set in motion a series of events that will create more "instability" in the Middle East. Governments will fall & overthrown.

Posted by: Willy2 | Jan 6, 2016 1:06:46 PM | 100

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