Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 20, 2017

The Saudi System And Why Its Change May Fail

The Saudi clown prince Mohammad Bin Salman is an impulsive tyrant. But what accounts for his urge to purge the country of any potential competing power center Why does he run a such an activist foreign policy? The answer might be Iran. Not Iran the country, but Iran the system.

Since the U.S. war on Iraq the sclerotic Saudi Arabia continuously lost standing in its region. The Iranian model gained ground. A decade later the authoritarian Arab systems were challenged by the so called "Arab spring". While the movements in the various countries -as far as they were genuine- have failed, they were a warning sign for things to come.

Saudi Arabia reacted to the challenges by moving away from a sedate, consensual run family business towards a centrally controlled, supercharged tyranny. The move allows for more flexible and faster reactions to any future challenge. But it also increases the chance of making mistakes. To understand why this endeavor is likely to fail one needs look at the traditional economic and social system that is the fabric of the country. The fate of the Hariri dynasty is an example for it.

Since Salman climbed the throne he has moved to eliminate all competition to his rule. The religious establishment was purged of any opposition. Its police arm was reigned in. First crown prince Murqrin was removed and then crown prince Nayef. They were replaced with Salman's inexperienced son. Economic and military powers were concentrated in his hands. During the recent night of the long knives powerful family members and business people were detained. The Wall Street Journal reports of a second arrest wave. More higher ups have been incarcerated. This round includes senior military commanders and very wealthy business people.


As the prison for the arrested VIPs, the Ritz-Carlton hotel, is fully booked, the next door Mariott is now put to use. Qualified staff was hired to handle the prisoners:

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.

After the torture reports spread due to employees of local hospitals, a medical unit was established in the Ritz itself.

My assertion in earlier pieces, that one motive of the arrest wave was to fleece the prisoners, has been confirmed. The arrested rich people are pressed into "plea deals" in which they give up their assets in exchange for better treatment and some restricted kind of freedom. The aim is to "recover" up to $800 billion in so called "corruption" money. Thousands of domestic and international accounts have been blocked by the central bank of Saudi Arabia. They will eventually be confiscated. But Saudi billionaires have long been looking for ways to park their money outside of the country. The accounts which were blocked are likely small change compared to their total holdings in this or that tax haven. Historically the recoveries of such assets is problematic:

Asset recovery programs never really go quite to plan. They are beset by obstacles -- most often in the form of wealth squirreled away offshore and political infighting over wealth seized onshore.

Most likely, Saudi Arabia will obtain a sliver of these assets -- say in the tens of billions of dollars -- a useful, but temporary, gain. What happens after that depends on how Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman re-sets relations with business.

The financial success of the MbS raids will be small. The financial damage he causes with his jihad against his own family members will be significant. It ruins his plans for attracting foreign investment:

“Half my Rolodex is in the Ritz right now. And they want me to invest there now? No way,” said one senior investor. “The wall of money that was going to deploy into the kingdom is falling apart.”

One can not steal money from some people and then expect other people to trust assurances that such could never happen to them. MbS's big plans for Neom, a $500 billion artificial city financed by foreign investors, will fall apart.


To accuse princes and high officials of "corruption" is a fancy excuse. "Corruption" is how business is done in Saudi Arabia. It is tightly connected to the traditional ruling system. The king and his son are trying to change both:

Foreign investors tend to enter the Saudi market via partnerships with established business franchises or princes as they seek to exploit their domestic clout to navigate a complicated bureaucratic landscape.

The same goes for any state tender. To contract for building a road or public housing a company will have to find a prince or high official with the necessary clout. To get a tender signed it will have to promise, or pay upfront, a share of the expected profits. When the job is finishes it will need to come back to its protector to get its bill paid. No money will flow for the delivered work unless another bribe is handed over. Contracts are calculated with 40% on top to compensate for these necessary lubricants.

The systems works. The Saudi State has enough money to compensate for such distribution. The system is only problematic when a contractor delivers shoddy work, but can still bribe his patron into accepting it. Drainage man-hole covers in Saudi streets without the necessary drainage tunnels below them are a well known and despised phenomenon.


Rafic Hariri, the father of the Lebanese premier minister Saad Hariri, built a construction empire in Saudi Arabia by paying the right people. He knew how to work within the  system. He was also a capable manager who ran his business, Saudi Oger, well. He was also the Saudis man in Lebanon and did his best to fulfill that role.

His son Saad never got a grip on the business site. By 2012, seven years after Rafic Hariri had been assassinated, the family business in Saudi Arabia ran into trouble:

Almost a year ago, the Saudis began keeping an eye on Hariri’s company, which reeked of corruption. Several high-ranking officials – some close to Saad Hariri – were accused of theft and extortion. But Hariri could not find a solution to the crisis, nor was he able to restore the confidence that the company lost in the market.

So he began a major pruning operation, laying off lower-level employees without any indication of objections to their job performance. The dismissals did not even spare Saudi nationals, leading to widespread dissent.
The Saudis once treated the company with care, providing it with contracts in the region’s biggest oil economy. Now, the company is suffering from internal disputes and theft. It became closer to a scrapyard for the Kingdom.

Saad Hariri had the wrong contacts, bribed the wrong people and delivered shoddy work which made his company an easy target. He also failed to be a reliable Saudi asset in Lebanon. There the Shia Hizbullah gained in standing while the Sunnis, led by Hariri, lost political ground.

The Hariri company took up large loans to finance its giant construction projects for the Saudi government. But by 2014 oil prices had fallen and the Kingdom simply stopped paying its bills. It is said to own $9 billion to the Hariri enterprises. Other Saudi constructions companies, like the Bin Laden group, also had troublesome times. But they were bailed out by the Saudi government with fresh loans and new contracts.

No new contracts were issued to Hariri. No new bank loans were available to him and his bills were not paid. The Saudis demanded control over Lebanon but Hariri could not deliver. In July, after 39 mostly successful years, Saudi Oger went out of business. The Hariri family is practically bankrupt.

Hariri's two youngest children, 16 and 12 years old, are kept hostage in Saudi Arabia. After the recent trip to Paris his wife also returned to Riyadh. The French President Macron had intervened and Hariri was allowed to leave Saudi Arabia. But Macron failed (intentionally?) to free him from Saudi influence. Hariri's financial means and his family are under control of the Saudi tyrant. He is not free in any of his political, business and personal decisions.

Hariri is pressed to now drive a political hardline against Hizbullah in Lebanon. He knows that this can not be successful but his mischievous Saudi minder, the Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer, does not understand this. His boss, MbS, believes that the whole world can and should be run the same way he wants to run his country.


Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker has long observed how business is done in Saudi Arabia. He had portrait the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. His recent observations at a nightly desert picnic explains how the wider al Saud family used to run the country:

It was almost midnight when the prince held a Majlis, a traditional Bedouin ceremony in which tribesmen come to pay their respects and ask for charity. A line of men in white robes and red-and-white Arab headdresses stretched into the darkness. One by one they approached, removing their sandals, bowing and handing him pieces of paper. Some recited poetry. The prince scribbled on each cover sheet and put the papers on a stack.

Saudi Arabia used to run on such patronage:

Saudi society is divided by tribe, region, sect, degree (or nature of religiosity), and class. Although these various groups are only rarely organized in formal structures outside of the state, many developed special connections with specific state bodies, turning the sprawling state apparatus into constituencies of sorts.
Middle East expert Steffen Hertog has aptly described how the Saudi state emerged in the oil era: leading princes carved out structures they could dominate; state institutions worked in silos and coordinated poorly; and networks of beneficiaries, contractors, and influence brokers populated various bureaucracies. The Saudi state expanded rapidly into an uncoordinated group of what Hertog goes so far as to call “fiefdoms.”

High up princes take care of lower ranking ones. Each has common folks, clans or whole tribes he is supposed to take care of. Obedience is bought by controlling the "social" spending that trickles down through this pyramid. The princes make their money by having their fingers in, or "taxing", all kind of state businesses. It is this money that sponsors their luxurious life as well as the benefits they distribute to lower folks. This was never seen as corruption as it is understood in the west. For decades these tribute payments were simply owned to the princes. They had a birth-right to them.

MbS "corruption" ride is destroying that system without him having a replacement. Saudi Arabia has been run as a family business. Decisions in recent decades were taken by consensus. Every part of the family was allowed to have its cash generating fiefdom and patronage network. The rule of King Salman and his activist son are trying to change that. They want to concentrate all business and all decisions in one hand. But what will replace the old system?


Mohammad bin Salman's view of the world is that of Louis XIV - "L'etat, c'est moi" - I am the state. In his own view MbS is not just a crown prince or the future king of the state of Saudi Arabia. He, and he alone, is Saudi Arabia. He is the state. He let this view known in an interview with the Economist in January 2016:

[W]e have clear programmes over the next five years. We announced some of them, and the rest we will announce in the near future. In addition to this, my debt-to-GDP is only 5%. So I have all points of strength, and I have the opportunities to increase our non-oil revenues in many sectors, and I have a global economic network.

As I remarked at that time:

The young dude not only thinks he owns the country, he actually thinks he is the country. He has debt-to-GDP, he has ten million jobs in reserve, he has all women of Saudi Arabia as productive factor and he has scary population growth.

Does the guy understand that such an attitude guarantees that he personally will be held responsible for everything that will inevitably go wrong with his country?

Saudi Arabia and its state apparatus have for decades been build on an informal but elaborate system of personal relations and patronage. MbS expects that he can take out one part of the system, the princes and businessmen, and the rest will follow from that. That he will be the one to control it all.

That is a doubtful endeavor. The ministries and local administrations are used to do their business under tutelage. Eliminating the leadership caste that controlled them will not turn them into corruption free technocracies. Seeing the exemplary punishments MbS hands out at the Ritz the bureaucracies will stop working. They will delay any decisions out of fear until they have the okay from the very top.

Ten-thousands of tribal and clan leaders are bound to and depend on the patronage system. The hundreds of people who sought audience with Alwaleed bin Talal at the desert picnic will turn whereto? Who will take up their issues with higher authorities? Who will provide them with hand outs and the "trickle down" money they depend on?

Another target of Mohammed bin Salman's activities have been the religious authorities. Some critical sheiks have been incarcerated, others are held incommunicado. The Salman "revolution from the top" extends into their judiciary role:

Historically, Saudi leaders have propounded the view that the sharia is the country’s highest law and the overall legal system operates within its bounds.
the domination of the religious establishment in law is ending. The king and crown prince are clearly favoring (and fostering) religious figures who repudiate some long-standing official views.

Bin Salman is purging the religious establishment, the military, the competing members of the families, the business people and the bureaucracy. He wants to run the state on his own. He demands the right to review any decision in the legal, business and foreign policy realm. He has authority to punish people responsible for decisions he dislikes. Under his system any personal initiatives will become extinct.

The country is too big for one person to control. MbS can not take all decisions by himself. No large system can work like that. The people will soon become unhappy with his centralized and unresponsive control.

That centralization does not work well is already visible in his failing foreign policy. MbS wants to be seen as the indisputable "leader of the Islamic world". His hate for everything Iran originates there. The Iranian system of a participatory and democratic Islamic state is a living alternative to the autocratic model he wants to implement in Saudi Arabia. The western model of a "liberal democracy" does not adapt well to the historic social models that are prevalent in the Middle East. But the Iranian system is genuine and fits the local culture. It is the sole competition he fears. It must be destroyed by any means.

But all his attempts to counter Iran (even where it was not involved) have been unsuccessful. Saudi interventions in Yemen, Qatar, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have been disastrous. Over the weekend the Arab League delivered the usual criticism of Iran but decided on nothing else. Half of the Arab League states, including the powerful Egypt, are not willing to follow the aggressive Saudi course. Mohammed bin Salman's grand scheme of using Israel and the U.S. to fight Iran in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iran itself is unraveling.

The Saudi response to the competition of the Iranian system is a move towards more authoritarian rule. This is hoped to allow for more agile policies and responses. But the move breaks the traditional ruling system. It removes the sensible impediments to impulsive foreign policies. It creates the conditions for its very failure.

Posted by b on November 20, 2017 at 19:33 UTC | Permalink


Could it be MBS needs the wealth his new prisoners hold sway over, in order to fulfill the promises made to rank and file Saudis, and keep the social order at status quo?

Posted by: ben | Nov 20 2017 19:51 utc | 1

The Saudi "system" was dangerous as there were no proper constitutional or legal balances to check the power of a deranged dictator. It was prone to dangerously malfunctioning. That's what's happened.

An 80 year old senile man has handed power to a crazy, hyped up "joy-rider", trigger-happy type 32 year old kid.

An old man gave total power to a young mad thug.

That thug has now gone beserk and is killing, torturing, arresting, intimidating people, left, right and centre. If they do boot MBS they need to create a proper system which avoids the repetition of such a crazy scenario.

Posted by: Muslim Dude | Nov 20 2017 19:54 utc | 2

This clownprince gets way to much credit. The 500 billion desert morgana is for the benefit of israel, they wil make the money if necessary. After the election of trump they sold some useless but overexpensive military stuff and now kushner is demanding the arabs to fight the persians. This clownprince has removed the smartest pro clinton princes and does anything when asked in the right way, so he must be stupid, this makes him the perfect king.

Posted by: Mark2 | Nov 20 2017 20:11 utc | 3

Muslim Dude: Indeed, Saudis face the same issue the early Roman Empire faced: what happens when Augustus and Tiberius are dead, and all they're left with is Caligula, a person who knows he's the most powerful human being ever in history, and who decides to act accordingly and to usee that power for whatever he wants to?

As B said, MbS big problem is that he's got no replacement, and chaos might soon ensue if things go bad or out of control. One has to wonder if he's actually put any thought into it, like Lenin, for instance, did, or if he just goes ahead with the flow. Maybe he's hoping that seizing hundreds of billions will allow him to drown Saudi people with money and they'll leave him be, but that's a fool's errand.
Besides, there are several problems with his plan. Not only does he not have a replacement plan for the Saudi system, he might not even have replacement people. Purging the Saudi leadership like this is risky, because they don't have many competent people to begin with and are just running out of the few around by jailing them like this. For a starter, I'd expect the Saudi army to be even more useless than it's been until now.
Then, as B suspects, comes the fact many princes will still have hidden treasuries at their disposal, possibly most of their fortunes actually. If it is so, then they'll still be filthy rich, and leaving so many rich but enraged people around you is kind of a death wish. They'll have enough money to plot, bribe military, conspire with tribal leaders. And that's not even taking into account the possibility some of them might have been forced - as in threatened with torture if not downright tortured (and as much as I loathe and mistrust Saudi royals, I wouldn't have thought MbS would actually go as far as torturing dozens of his peers, if only because it's the Saudis, to whom family is kind of serious business, not the Ottomans who had better kill off their siblings if they wanted to rule).

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Nov 20 2017 20:19 utc | 4

thanks b... saudi arabia is going to implode....israel, usa/uk - will all help it along via the attack iran route.. sad situation, but a final conclusion to the wests carve up and support for this type of system too.. i think you are bang on - mbs can't stand a system like iran functioning in the middle east world.. it is 100% opposite of everything he stands for..the west will continue to give him as much rope as he needs to hang himself, hoping for some big payoff via the war on iran... criminals supporting other criminals... goes on all the time... my question is - just when does mbs and the empire he oversees bite the dust? it is only a matter of time with this loser running things.. it's a slower process with usa/uk/israel...

Posted by: james | Nov 20 2017 20:27 utc | 5

Why does he run a such an activist foreign policy?

Because he has likely been told to do so, by his Imperial masters in Washington and Israel, would be the obvious answer. There is no real mystery here.

The answer might be Iran.

Yes, both the US and the Zio-Nazis use Iran as a bogeyman to stir up trouble in the M.E. They have done so for several decades. None of this is new. again: There is no real mystery here.

Since the U.S. war on Iraq . . . . A decade later the authoritarian Arab systems were challenged by the so called "Arab spring".

The Arab Spring's were organised and controlled by and for the US. This is pretty much common knowledge by now. You yourself have made plenty of blogposts stating that very point. Again: there is no mystery here.

While the movements in the various countries -as far as their were genuine-

Precisely. "As far as they were genuine" - the majority were either fully controlled from the US or hijacked shortly after they gained momentum. Again: this is common knowledge by now.

Mohmmed bin Salman's grant scheme of using Israel and the U.S. to fight Iran in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iran itself is unravelling.

This is complete nonsense.

You have the situation completely 180 degrees backward.

Only an imbecile would claim that US and Zio-Nazis actions and rhetoric against Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iran is controlled from Saudi Arabia, and expect to be believed.

Seriously - this is utter tripe.

What are you smoking?

Posted by: Just Sayin' | Nov 20 2017 21:02 utc | 6

A political/social implosion in Saudi Arabia should rock the hegemon's financial boat a bit.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Nov 20 2017 21:12 utc | 7

i wonder how all this impacts uae, another country that has a more controlled, but just as fanatical group running it? uae is right in their making war on yemen and supporting moderate headchoppers in syria and etc. etc. too..

Posted by: james | Nov 20 2017 21:36 utc | 8

Pulling out fingernails looking for account codes of off shore loot. If the American's resorted to 'innovative' processes instead of offering 2 cents on the dollar, we would all enjoy tax breaks.

Posted by: ger | Nov 20 2017 21:50 utc | 9

The biggest problem I see here is that by relying so much on the patronage system Saudi Arabia has no proper bureaucracy that could keep the country running in spite of whatever leadership it has. True, MbS would staff that bureaucracy with cronies but after he is gone - and I suspect he will not last long, or he will only last as long as the next disaster that can be blamed on him - the bureaucracy could revive with appropriate appointments and even regain some of its old staff. As is, Saudi Arabia with MbS and after him, is a veritable house built on a foundation of ... erm, sand.

Posted by: Jen | Nov 20 2017 22:02 utc | 10

It seems to me that Saudi Arabia is the next war not Iran. Iran beligerance is a red herring while the KSA is ratf@cked by Israel and USA. Whoever stumbles first is taken by the jackals. There is enough oil from other sources to temporarily sustain supply (at higher cost) and if chaos breaks out in KSA then the good old Yankees will rush in to 'stabilise' the emergency. I hope I am wrong but the Yankees are primed and prone to be used this way. The perpetual destabilising of people's governments and states in the Middle East is nothing other than mendacious evil.

Posted by: uncle tungsten | Nov 20 2017 22:14 utc | 11

@Clueless Joe,

There are a couple of good twitter accounts which have access to insider information about Saudi, one of this is @Saudi_bodyguard, who has just tweeted this:

3h3 hours ago
Former Minister of #Saudi National Guard Prince Miteb Bin Abdullah, is refusing to cooperate with Clown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman on either a planned transition of power in the #Kingdom or an ongoing investigation into corruption cases in #SalmanArabia"

1. Miteb, the son of the previous King was tortured and so was Waleed bin Talal. It's been reported from reliable twitter sources that he attempted to commit suicide by cutting his veins due to the intensity of the torture, beatings. Other princes have been hospitalized and one was in intensive care i.e. close to death.

Another source, a bit more "mainstream" which corroborates this is:

The sheer stupidity of MBS is he is so delusional in that he thinks he can torture these men, drive them close to death or suicide, get them to handing over their billions and then release them and be safe, without them at least waiting for a couple of years to "get revenge". Your point about Caligula is totally valid.

2. @Everyone, the Saudi princes had previous thought they were untouchable and could not conceive of a moment like this, in the long run they may reflect upon this if/when MBS is removed and try to think in more general terms, how to ensure that this doesn't happen again. The obvious line of thought is to ensure that absolute power cannot be concentrated in one despotic or deranged individual who can then hand it to another despotic and/or deranged individual which was what has happened, a senile octagenarian gives total power to a brutal thug with no real life experience.

This would mean curtailing the powers of the king but ensuring that there are laws, and institutions which can ensure he does not exceed/transgress the parameters of his allocated power. It's an embryonic form of constitutional monarch or quasi-democracy, or the first step to it.

3. Someone said on this site a week or two ago that the US might be using MBS as the "bad cop" to the "good cop" of Ibn Nayef. This may have some validity as there is no report of Ibn Nayef being arrested or tortured, and in fact he was governmentally more powerful than Waleed as he was the minister of the interior and was responsible for a lot of repression and torture.

Ibn Nayef is known to be a CIA favourite so if MBS goes down, he - as the original successor anyway - may be the replacement and follow the "American" line, I use "American" in speech marks because what exactly is the American line, if we follow the believe there is a division between the US elite i.e. Trump and anti-Trump (e.g. CIA), then Ibn Nayef might follow CIA wishes, who knows. However he is a more stable character than this deluded MBS.

4. Though I think "b"'s article is overall excellent I don't agree with the claim that Saudi wants to destroy Iran as a rival model which could threaten the absolute monarchy of the Saudi state. The Saudis view the Muslim Brotherhood as the main threat in that regard which is why they are targeting Qatar which they believe is a sponsor of the brotherhood which can provide Arabs with a non-monarchical form of government. Iran is Shia and Persian so religiously and ethnically somewhat alien to gulf Arabs. The Iranian threat however is not in the form of a competing model of governance but the threat of Shia ideological and territorial expansionism. Shia ideologues have openly spoken of conquering Mecca and Medina and many in Saudi take this threat seriously, perhaps partly encouraged to do so by the Americans who can then exploit that to sell arms and cement their hold over the Saudis and other GCC states.

5. I think due to the importance of Saudi to the global economy and American influence over him, even Trump can ensure that MBS doesn't go too far and harm the economy to the extent it harms the west. Roughing up a few Saudi princes is not a major concern for Trump or America. I think there are sufficient external powers that can moderate MBS. Germany, France and to a degree Britain are backing Lebanon against Saudi aggressive behaviour. Saudi has pulled out the Saudi ambassador to Germany over a recent German FM statement where he didn't even mention Saudi by name but said Lebanon should not become a place of violence and Germany stood by Lebanon. The Saudis clearly knew that the Germans do not want any Saudi-sponsored/instigated war there. I suspect one reason why Europe is doing this is to avoid another major refugee crisis and influx of immigrants/refugees to the continent.

I don't think there will be a war in Lebanon due to Europe and Russia strongly lobbying against it.

6. In sum, I don't think there'll be a war in Lebanon and the world economy or foreign businessmen won't be allowed to suffer too much. MBS's lunatic behaviour won't be allowed to damage anyone outside Saudi too much.

7. There have been reports of an assassination attempt against MBS in the past two or day by National Guardsmen loyal to their former leader, Mutaib. This alleged attempt is said to have failed. Apparently he was in his car and National Guardsmen started shooting and some reports say his bodyguards died, whilst others say they were injured. He survived and fled.

It's been reported on multiple Arabic sources online and I posted it on Syrian Perspective, if I can find a link I will post it here.

Posted by: Muslim Dude | Nov 20 2017 22:38 utc | 12

Current King Salman is reputedly illiterate, a condition seemingly confirmed by all the authority being vested in his son. Being illiterate, I rather doubt King Salman had any clue as to just how and why his kingdom operated as it did, nor could he educate his son about those points--and since his father didn't know yet is king, why should he seems to inform his thinking. If former Saudi kings could spin in their crypts, they would.

Perhaps most damning is the very great damage caused to Islam--and the Umma's trust in Saudi to being keepers of the Holy Cities--by Wahhabbi extremism and overt sponsorship of terrorism. And now to top the list, abandonment of the cause of Palestinian Justice and overt alliance with the hated and despised Zionist Abomination. As I wrote about a week ago, the Saudis are no longer Arab, as current Arab identity is blood-tied into demanding Palestinian Justice.

Posted by: karlof1 | Nov 20 2017 22:54 utc | 13

Since Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Israel is now being openly admitted by Israeli officials, I hope I will be forgiven for posting this otherwise OT comment here, but I don’t see any mention of it at nearly all MSM and “alternative” news sites.

Israel recently declassified a series of official documents from the months immediately after the 1967 “Six Days War.” In them, Israeli Ministers discuss the future of their military conquest of Palestine, the Sinai Peninsula, and part of Syria, and specifically, the non-Jewish indigenous people now under Israeli military occupation.

From Levi Eshkol, the Israeli Prime Minster, we find his December, 1967 comments:

“What will be the status of these 600,000 Arabs? I suggest that we don’t come to a vote or decision today; there’s time to deal with this joy, or better put, there’s time to deal with this trouble.”

“Perhaps we can expect another war and then this problem will be solved.”

According to the minutes, Eshkol told ministers he was “working on the establishment of a unit or office that will engage in encouraging Arab emigration.” He added, “We should deal with this issue quietly, calmly and covertly, and we should work on finding a way [for] them to emigrate to other countries and not just over the Jordan [River].”

Note that they do not consider the east bank of the Jordan River, in Jordan to be another country. They consider it to be Israel.

“We are interested in emptying out Gaza first.”

“Perhaps if we don’t give them enough water they won’t have a choice, because the orchards will yellow and wither.”

Yigal Allon, another minister, urged “thinning the Galilee of Arabs.” This is important because the Galilee is a region within the land on which Israel was established in 1948 and the Palestinians who live there are nominally Israeli citizens.

Zerah Warhaftig, minister of religious affairs, made the goal clear: “We must increase [the number of] Jews and take all possible measures to reduce the number of Arabs.”

Once again, we see the Zionists clearly planning further genocide.

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 20 2017 22:59 utc | 14

1. I've looked for the English language source which had links to Arabic sites about the attempted assassination of MBS and it's been deleted. However for those who trust me, I can say that I personally read such claims, whether it's true or not I can't say but I doubt it's been fabricated.

2. If Saudi does become unstable and divided then it may conform the long-term agenda of the neo-cons who probably want to divide Saudi in to different pieces as per the Ralph Peters map displayed a few years ago.

3. I've read an Arabic tweet (I have intermediate level Arabic but still need a translator for many things) that Ibn Nayef is said by online government sites to have visited the holy city of Medina a few days ago.

Ibn Nayef hasn't been arrested and this is fishy because if anyone is a threat to MBS it's Ibn Nayef more than relatively apolitical Waleed bin Talal, who's never been a minister. I suspect it's indicative of US patronage of Ibn Nayef and that MBS can't get him even if he wants to. This means there's limits to what MBS can do and he won't go beyond certain limits the Americans set out for him. That means as I suspect he won't be allowed to do anything to crazy that damages western economic interests.

Posted by: Muslim Dude | Nov 20 2017 23:02 utc | 15

@ 11 uncle tungsten.. that makes a lot of sense too.. thanks...

@ 12/15 muslim dude.. thanks for your commentary.. yes - i recall the post from a week or two back as well on nayef as the cia asset that they want in power... and your comment @15 would seem to cement that further... as for an attempt on mbs - that sounds very probable to me given the set up here, in spite of not having a link or anything on the net to substantiate it.. makes total sense... i thought he could maybe squeeze out a few years here with the turnover closer to 2020 - an important astrological date for me and some others.. as i see it, the situation with regard to saudi arabia is very porous and in flux.. uncle tengstens comment could just as easily be valid.. my only problem with it is that israel is clearly threatened by iran, which they aren't in the least with saudi arabia.. i really think israel continues to want to go after iran and they want to use saudi arabia/usa for that purpose as well..

Posted by: james | Nov 20 2017 23:19 utc | 16

MBS has started alone a 'revolution' to remove the decaying system of Saudi Arabia. Yet, he has no clue whatsoever where this is going, but he trusts his instincts and the advices of US zionists and neo-cons. There are no sufficiently intelligent groups within Saudi Arabia that could advise on a new nation building
The result of the break is will be chaos. Let us remember that the neo-cons have always promoted the 'constructive chaos' as a first step in reshaping the Middle East. That is the same idea the neo-cons want MBS to apply to Saudi Arabia : "Break the current system and we will help you to build and take full control of your country with a 'new and modern' system for your country.
MBS thinks he is the Arab Ataturk...
Yet a country transformation takes decades and counter-revolution forces are waiting at every corner. MBS and Jared Kushner are utopist. They have started a shock treatment but they will certainly be a reaction. These princes will not stay idle while been ripped off their fortune, sooner or later they will prepare a revenge and it may be very dirty.
The country will be on a roller coaster that will exhaust it.
After offering Iraq to Iran's allies, the USA may well be offering the oil-rich part of Saudi Arabia to Iran's allies. Saudi Arabia could very well break up as what was gluing the pieces together has been removed by the 'revolution'
We should rejoice that finally the Saudi system has be torn apart.
The question is what is next.

Posted by: Virgile | Nov 20 2017 23:48 utc | 17

@James, the story of the alleged assassination is on Arabic sites, I've found a link. It's easy to find on Arabic online sites but is hushed up on the English language which just goes to prove how despite the social media age exposing a lot, there are still many things we don't know, including the alleged assassination of the de facto ruler of one of the world's most important oil states. Here it is in Arabic and then translation.

"كشف موقع سعودي، أن ولي العهد السعودي محمد بن سلمان نجا من تجربة اغتيال قام بها 5 ضباط من الحرس الوطني الذين كانوا تحت قيادة الأمير متعب بن الملك الراحل عبد الله وقائد الحرس الوطني السعودي الذي يضم 200 ألف ضابط وجندي"

Translation: "A Saudi website has revealed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman survived an assassination attempt by five National Guard officers who used to be under the leadership of Prince Mutaib, son of the late King Abdullah and the commander of the Saudi National Guard, which includes 200,000 officers and a soldier"


1. Waleed bin Talal wasn't particularly that interested in Saudi, his mother was Lebanese and he also had some Armenian blood in him. He spent time abroad studying in the US and was quite different to the other Saudis. I think his arrest and torture is probably instigated by Trump, possibly as payback for his "obnoxiousness" to Trump and being allied to the Clintonites.

2. Ibn Nayef if anything, who as a security guy is much more of a threat to MBS and is quite possible the man who will be inserted if MBS goes too far or needs to be removed. I suspect the US had a plan B just in case MBS ruined everything.

3. I don't foresee a Lebanon war and MBS being allowed to damage international economics too far.

Or he might be allowed to cause damage but not to things which really harm the US or other foreign parties but which weaken Saudi in general and enable it to ultimately be divided in a decade or so.

4. One thing is clear, Saudi will never be the same again whatever happens if MBS does/doesn't stay as ruler. Every Saudi prince now knows that one day he could be rightly/wrongly arrested, even beaten up or tortured by a future leader. If it happened once, it can happen again. Even if MBS is removed quickly it shows the dangers of absolute monarchy and he will be remembered as a man who murdered his own cousins.

Posted by: Muslim Dude | Nov 20 2017 23:56 utc | 18

i think
the problem is not simply consolidating power
rather, it is a much bigger problem, the current system is on the rocks, broke
the fall in price of oil brought down the house of cards
population has more than doubled in past 25 years, now 20Million saudis + 8 million foreigners (mostly laborers)
education is abysmal, skilled workers all foreign, women mostly not allowed to work at all
military spending is greater than Russia! and russia has 144 million people and has not increased much at all in past 25 years
both saudi and russia are biggest oil producers, but russia does many other things, including being the biggest grain exporter on earth
and incredible high tech manufacturing (weapons, rockets, planes, etc)
(and this is notwithstanding us led sanctions against russia)
so consolidation of power is happening, but it will not fix saudi's existential problems
and the demonization of iran is just a coverup

Posted by: mauisurfer | Nov 21 2017 0:01 utc | 19

@18 muslim dude.. thanks for finding a hard copy with that link.. as i said before - makes total sense and i would be surprised if something like that wasn't happening, although i don't know anyone or much about the ordinary culture in saudi arabia.. it seems extremely conservative and repressed at a glance.. that might contribute to no one having the balls to take action into their own hands, but this would confirm saudis are also normal in some respects in spite of the extreme control/conservatism they are steeped in..

Posted by: james | Nov 21 2017 0:13 utc | 20

Has this article been put through an auto-spellchecker?

While the movements in the various countries -as far as their were genuine- have failed

Qualified personal was hired to handle the prisoners:

Mohmmed bin Salman's grant scheme of using Israel and the U.S. to fight Iran in Lebanon.

He wants to run the state by his own.

The hundreds of people who sought audience with Alwaleed bin Talal at the desert picnic will turn whereto.

Posted by: Anonymous | Nov 21 2017 0:19 utc | 21

Events in S A are unraveling at a surprisingly rapid pace.

Can't put all that toothpaste back in the tube.

Posted by: fast freddy | Nov 21 2017 0:26 utc | 22

KSA has over 40,000 princes with wives 200,000 as a Muslim theoretical max with children the sky is the limit.
This tree must be pruned for better control and to give bigger fruit to ZM. MbS is the pruning tool once dull it is trash bound. I can't tell you the rest...

Posted by: dognuke | Nov 21 2017 0:28 utc | 23

Just Sayin' @6

Quite so

Let's have a look at what was going on in Lebanon well before Hariri's resignation - as Hezbollah made major gains in clearing terrorists for Lebanon's border close to the Occupied Golan.

July 2017 - Lebanese MP slams Hezbollah for clearing Arsal from Al-Qaeda

July 2017 - Geagea wants Hezbollah to surrender their weapons

Aug 2017 - Lebanon's Geagea rejects any diplomatic relations with the Syrian government

Aug 2017 - Leader of Lebanese Forces calls Syrian government 'more evil than ISIL'

Sept 2017 - Geagea wants 'white revolution' [ie a standard US-style color coded regime change op.] against Hezbollah's military presence

Sept 2017 - March 14th political bloc lashes out at Lebanese FM for meeting with Syrian counterpart.

The ME is all about Israel. Israel does not have any allies. It uses corrupt politicos from foreign governments for its own ends. It's ideal outcome would be for its enemies to destroy each other, preferably with some major monetary/power gain for Israel. Heck, it is even happy to murder civilians and military personel of its sugar daddy, the US.

So Saudi hates Iran and wants to resolve that by taking out Hezbollah in Lebanon (wtf?). In the process of doing so, it will suffer major losses, possibly with major impacts on energy prices, just as Israel hopes to bring its supply system for the EU on stream. Saudi's Armaco IPO will go down the tubes, allowing well-financed groups to acquire it at below-par.

The only state that benefits from a destroyed Hezbollah is Israel.

Posted by: Anonymous | Nov 21 2017 0:49 utc | 24

@Just Sayin' | Nov 20, 2017 4:02:15 PM | 6

I couldn't agree more. I've been coming here for years from time to time, and the author has always spouted pure drivel and misdirection about the h33bs and their wretched den of thieves on the Med.

Plus, if you have the temerity to point out the outright lies, fake claims, non-arguments, spin and censorship that the author peddles about the h33b's or their criminal nation state, your words get flushed down the memory hole before you can blink. (I assume they count as 'hate truths' and 'hate facts', and must therefore be wiped from existence more rapidly than emails are wiped from a server in Hillary Clinton's bathroom.)

I think I read here that the author is based in Germany? That would explain the disgusting, crawling servility to the very same animals that raped Germany half to death. (Can't disobey one's masters, eh?) Sadly, 99% of modern Germans have no idea how pathetically brainwashed they are, and consequently — both laughably and tragically — they assume that the propaganda sewage that they were pumped full of actually passes for 'historical fact' and 'sound political ideas'. Disgusting.

Or, maybe the author is just a typical huffpost-level idiot, and that's it. Someone raised with typical progressive political blinkers. Someone who stumbled across a few international news websites, and then simply regurgitates the views, ideas and information that GENUINE Middle East-based journalists and academics ACTUALLY deserve the credit for. I see nothing from this author — EVER — that I don't see in other MENA journals and newspapers — usually WELL BEFORE the author repeats them and adds the trademark 'bammy spin to water them down.

Whenever the author is right, it's only because OTHER PEOPLE'S JOURNALISM AND SCHOLARSHIP IS BEING REGURGITATED.

Posted by: truncated | Nov 21 2017 0:51 utc | 25

What I don't understand is why we should be upset about any of this (except for the fate of Yemen). It actually all seems pretty fantastic! An impulsive moron is comprehensively ripping down the corrupt structure of one of the worlds most malignant states upon himself.
I prefer the shitty elite of Saudi and Qatar occupied with throwing shit at each other than throwing it at Syria as they were doing before.
Lebanon is better off without Hariri. And the nature of his disposal has led to a hearteningly politically mature response in Lebanon.
I have a very hard time shedding tears for parasitic royal plutocrats being tortured into giving up their offshore accounts and can only dream that we could do the same to Prince Charles and company. I would gladly vote for life imprisonment for everyone in the 'Paradise Papers'. And 'surgical' bombing raids on Guernsey, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein.. etc.
Yes of course all this money and power is being concentrated right now into the hands of a solitary Sun King, but I see no prospect of him lasting much beyond the elimination of his rivals. For no other reason than that he is so obviously incompetent he will not last long. And maybe, just maybe he can be deposed by a popular uprising and 'saud' can finally be removed from the countries name. Seems a better prospect than Saudi Arabia continuing with the business as usual of the last 60 years...

All with the proviso that of course the devestation MbS has caused in Yemen is abominable and not in the same category as his other misdeeds.

Posted by: Køn | Nov 21 2017 0:55 utc | 26

Thanks b. This is about as close to the reality in Saudi Arabia we can get within the framework of western corporate media. It cannot be a coincidence that MbS is pulling fingernails and Charlie Rose joins Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump pervert lineup at the same time. Nor, is it strange that Frauen Merkel and May hold onto power are currently extremely tenuous. The West is flailing about. I think that the base reason is that the Western Elite’s one goal is to make money by any means possible; damn the consequences. Russia, China and Iran by placing their national interests first have broken the hegemon.

Posted by: VietnamVet | Nov 21 2017 1:25 utc | 27

b - "The hundreds of people who sought audience with Alwaleed bin Talal at the desert picnic will turn whereto?"

This is a supremely elegant sentence in English, and despite criticism from #21 Anonymous who couldn't parse it, I think there are few native-speaking English-language commentators who could turn such a phrase so naturally in an analysis.

I'm amazed, as always, at your command of the language.

Sorry for OT - I was irked by the show of ignorance from your critic, especially as I was struck during my own reading by this phrase, which is perfect.

Posted by: Grieved | Nov 21 2017 1:32 utc | 28

@6 just sayin'... well i give you that you're really annoying sometimes, but i just skip over what i find annoying, except when a few other bozos come chiming in, drolling over what you said...jesus..

b has called him the clown prince.. the dude doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground... b gets that and quite sure b is stating what this doofus actually thinks - he thinks he is using the usa/israel to further his own agenda.. the truth couldn't be further removed... i think it is called irony! so, who is looking really stupid here? the guy who uses irony, or the guy who doesn't get it?

Posted by: james | Nov 21 2017 1:40 utc | 29

The expansion of constructive chaos into SA and Lebanon, the who-is-boss assassination attempt, evidence oil, gas and LNP industry progress in eliminating any and all competition to their global energy empire.

Posted by: wisdomthimble | Nov 21 2017 1:57 utc | 30

james @29--

The guy who doesn't get it! For writing in his non-native language, b's doing an outstanding job; and I should know as I taught ESL--English as Second Language.

Posted by: karlof1 | Nov 21 2017 1:59 utc | 31

Dear b.,
I think that if one were to look at the situation in Saudi through a different prism, it might make more sense.

What is going on is a war between the ‘Globalists’ and everyone else. The ‘Globalists’ are the Neo-Con and Neo-Liberal international elites. They include many of the people behind the world’s largest international banks and public corporations. The public faces are people such as George Soros, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Tony Blair, etc. They control much of what is called the U.S. Deep State (i.e. much of the U.S. intelligence agencies, State Department, Pentagon that are opposed to Trump), NATO, most of the European Union structures and most western mass media. The Muslim Brotherhood is aligned with them, as are several Saudi princes, including Waleed bin Talal, Bandar Bush and Ibn Nayef.

The objective of the ‘Globalists’ is global governance through International Institutions under their control. To achieve this objective, in addition to asserting control over international institutions, they attempt to take control over national governements, by placing their chosen representatitves in power, through whatever method is necessary, including buying politicians, rigging elections (for example Hillary Clinton), over-turning elections (Colour Revolutions, Arab Spring) and Regime Change (Lybia, Syria, Ukraine, etc.) More generally they are trying to weaken and destroy the concept of the Nation State and national soverignty.

All who stand in their way are mortal enemies. The most prominent enemies are Russia and China. Because they have: 1. Blocked the Globalists from intervening in their own political systems; 2. Set up international institutions to by-pass the ‘Globalist’ institutions and 3. Militarily blocked the ‘Globalists’ in Syria and Ukraine.
More recently, a new set of enemies has emerged. These are the ‘Authoritarian Nationalists’, i.e. the generally right-wing indigenous conservative political movements that are blocking the ‘Globalists’ agenda, country by country. These political movements are not, as far as I can see, coordinated, but they do share a common objective: to preserve their national sovereignty. The Brexit vote, Trump’s electroal victory and the rise of right wing populism across Europe are all examples of the rise of ‘Authoritarian Nationalists’.
That the ‘Globalists’ know no limit to what they will do to kill their enemies is demostrated by: 1. The war in Iraq. 2. The nuturing and use of islamists and ISIS in Lybia and Syria, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the destruction of whole societies. 2. The attempt to overthrow Trump’s victory, and the continuing attempt to get rid of Trump even if it means civil-war in the U.S. 3. The attempt to get rid of Corbyn in the UK. 4. The attempted coup against Erdogan in Turkey.
In this light, Mohammed bin Salman, appears to be an ‘Authoritarian Nationalist’, and thus it is readily understandable why he is aligned with Trump, and Netenyahu. However he is a definite enemy of the ‘Globalists’. His sins:
1. Attempting to raise the price of oil, and thus saving Saudi Arabia from an economic disaster. (Dropping the price of oil was a key tool in the ‘Globalist’s’ economic war on Russia.)
2. Cosying up to both Russia and China in terms ofgeo-politics, investment and military purchases.
3. With Trump and Netenyahu, raising the threat level on Iran. (The ‘Globalists’ were trying to use the Iran Nucluear deal to draw Iran to the West and away from Russia and China).

I don't doubt that the reports of assasination attemps on MBS have some grain of truth behind them. @15, is this one? (

Thus my understanding of MBS’ actions is that he is trying to prevent himself being taken out by a ‘Globalist’ directed coup, led by ‘Globalist’ connected Saudi princes with CIA backing.

While I have no doubt that, as b says, MBS will not be a great leader for Saudi Arabia, he is no more a despot than any of the other princes, and at least he seems to attach some importance to the well-being of Saudi Arabia, in marked contrast to the ‘Globalist’ backed princes.

Posted by: dh | Nov 21 2017 2:10 utc | 32

As the saying goes: stupidity kills, just not fast enough.

Posted by: jim f. | Nov 21 2017 2:10 utc | 33

Here's a nice background article on the relationship of Islamists and Arab governments, in particular Saudi Arabia....

Posted by: kafkananda | Nov 21 2017 2:31 utc | 34

@ 2

True but I thought b had made a good point.

It's ultimately about the social system which has also mad Hez work.

Posted by: Forest | Nov 21 2017 2:42 utc | 35

A couple of points:
(1) Prior to this incarceration of the royals, MBS rounded up 72 intellectuals in Saudi society and threw them in prison. This was not as widely reported. Most apparently shared his 'reformist' views but with one crucial factor - they wanted political reforms, too, i.e. some degree of transition to parliamentary democracy. This could be the Morocco model, in which the royal family retains control of foreign policy and the military, but domestic policy is ceded to an elected parliament. In Saudi Arabia, the complicating factor is control of the oil money; if for example construction contracts were distributed through a state bureaucracy which controlled the Aramco funds, then the princelings would be cut out of the process and the House of Saud would host far fewer billionaires and millionaires.

(2) MBS is a protege of MBZ, the UAE ruler, and is allied with Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the United States. UAE has a huge investment portfolio in the United States, and Dubai is an international destination for wealthy people; that's MBS's little dream, it seems. To achieve this, while retaining all the traditional powers of the House of Saud, he has to purge his opponents in the general society as well as in the House of Saud. A kind of Stalinist purge, is what it looks like. What MBS may have failed to account for is the larger and poorer Saudi population, kept under control by the religious police (mullahs) and state security apparatus. The Shah of Iran had SAVAK, which failed to keep control of the Iranian public. . .

(3) Israel and the U.S. like MBS's plan, as evidenced by Trump and Netanyahu's open support for it. It doesn't really matter who is pulling the strings; they're all in bed together with the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan and Egypt. The real question is how economically viable this is; the recent walkback from plans to privatize some part of Saudi Aramco indicates more financial trouble on the horizon. And, oil prices have nowhere to go but down. China's plan to ban gasoline-powered cars and go all-electric, there goes global demand. The only thing that would raise oil prices is massive war in the Middle East, and then production would fall (Iran would blow up Saudi oil facilities).

(4) The competition - i.e. the growing economic alliances between Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Syria and Lebanon (with Turkey possibly involved too) could be far more successful economically than the U.S.-Israel-Saudi-UAE plan. This would draw away European investment and push the tottering Saudi regime one step closer to collapse; also there's Yemen where popular opinion is very anti-Saudi thanks to all the aerial bombardment. This is also what Israel fears, hence the ever-growing Israeli-Saudi alliance. Note also that if China brings Iran into the SCO then there is the possiblity of a global overland trade corridor stretching from China to Europe with no U.S. Empire involvement! That would be a global game-changer, certainly.

It's a bit funny, because the only way MBS reforms (which sound good at first glance) could ever work is if Saudi Arabia has some kind of transition to parliamentary rule and cuts out most of the House of Saud from the gravy train - but MBS appears to be too much of a power-hungry megalomaniac (who thinks Game of Thrones is a historical documentary) to ever consider this.

Posted by: nonsense factory | Nov 21 2017 3:08 utc | 36


"200,000 officers and a soldier"

I feel bad for the soldier. He must just spin in circles all day!

Posted by: Forest | Nov 21 2017 3:11 utc | 37

MbS is portrayed as a reformer. And the plans to reduce reliance on the economy's oil revenues and to allow women to drive actually do indicate change.

But Saudi Arabia needed such changes years ago. So what happened?

Saudi requests for nuclear tech to match Iran were rebuffed (Israel wants to be the only nuclear power in ME). Saudi antagonism toward Iran (along with Saudi money) was redirected to fund a proxy war on Syria using extremists in what amounted to a crime against humanity. The reliance on extremism allowed Saudi clerics to enjoy increased power - preventing any reforms.

Sy Hersh described the KSA-Israeli-US agreement in "The Redirection" in 2007(!) Hersh's article avoided any mention of the nuclear issue.

Now, amidst the desperation caused by the lost war in Syria (tens of billions of dollars wasted as oil revenues sank), we see Saudis once again returning to their former quest for nuclear tech: Saudi Arabia takes first step towards nuclear plant tender: sources. And even turning to China and Russia for nuclear tech: Russia, Saudi Arabia strengthen ties in nuclear energy.

A nuclear program is very expensive. Especially when one is playing catch-up after losing a war. So MbS shaking down wealthy Saudis and possibly capturing Qatar makes sense from a financial perspective.

Is MbS a fall-guy who will do the 'dirty work' before the CIA installs a more compliant leader? I dunno. Might Israel like MbS to fail so as to derail the KSA nuclear program? Maybe that's why they 'leaked' the Foreign Ministry order for Israeli embassies to supported MbS policies and another that details their betrayal of the Palestinians?

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Nov 21 2017 3:23 utc | 38

@31 karlof1... that would have been a more diplomatic way for me to talk to just sayin'... apparently i am really bad at diplomacy, and i agree with you!

@ 34 terry, aka charles drake, etc. etc. - lol! yeah me, eraser head dept, lol.. i like that... i don't think mbs is working on his own, but i think he's really stupid, borne out by his short experience as ksa leader in waiting.. believing any of the shit kushner, mbz or netayahoos disciples blow up his ass IS his biz... so, no - take another spin with your poetic verbiage... read @ 37 nonsense factory (3) in particular.. it really doesn't matter who is yanking mbs's chain, the fact the set up is all wrong and that it ain't gonna work, doesn't stop the clown prince from being the stupid fumbler he is..

Posted by: james | Nov 21 2017 3:24 utc | 39

nonsense factory @37:

(1) Prior to this incarceration of the royals, MBS rounded up 72 intellectuals in Saudi society and threw them in prison. This was not as widely reported. Most apparently shared his 'reformist' views but with one crucial factor - they wanted political reforms ...
You are referring to the September round-up? It was reported that KSA imprisoned clerics who objected to reforms and others that were not sufficiently supported of MbS's anti-Qatar policy.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Nov 21 2017 3:32 utc | 40

Excellent post b. Deeply researched and concise. My only remark: « Mohmmed bin Salman's grant scheme of using Israel and the U.S. to fight Iran in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iran itself is unraveling » may better stated as « Netanyahu’s grant scheme of using KSA and the U.S. to fight Iran in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iran itself is unraveling »..

Posted by: Lozion | Nov 21 2017 3:53 utc | 41

@32 dh & @37 nonsense factory, very interesting perspective and complimentary arguments. An example of why I love this place..

@james, you’ve got a new nick Eraserhead, lol..

Posted by: Lozion | Nov 21 2017 4:31 utc | 42

With Trump/Kushener, MBS and Nutty all shareing the same bed, it is difficult to see who is screwing who. Trump and MBS looked to be the winners of the Saudi power/money grab with Nutty left feeling a bit frustrated.
Saudi disintergrating would hit Trump's revered wall street hard, so perhaps Trump/Kushner are lining the Saudi's up for a good shafting and intend to grab the loot that MBS has concentrated, plus take control of Saudi oil? A Saudi oil grab by the US, as Saudi unravels, to keep China out? Control af Aramco?

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Nov 21 2017 4:38 utc | 43

It seems that the only way to prevent a Saudi-Iranian-Israeli nuclear arms race would be for all ME countries to agree to a nuclear-free ME.

And THAT effort might also prompt Israel to reach a deal with the Palestinians so as to remove the biggest thorn in Arab-Israeli relations.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Nov 21 2017 5:13 utc | 44

There's a twitter account covering some of the people arrested in the months before MBS went after the other Royals:
The gist seems to be that MBS was going after anyone who either opposed his 'reforms' (including some Wahhabist clerics) or who called for more sweeping political changes, that would weaken the House of Saud's control over the country (media figures, etc.).

Posted by: nonsense factory | Nov 21 2017 6:02 utc | 45

'doubtful it will work'??

I worked in the UAE and KSA before I became disabled and could no longer work 6 years ago.

the fiefdom and patronage system you describe VERY accurately is the glue that holds them together and the lubricant that keeps the countries running - albeit horrendously inefficiently and brutally (scratch the UAE and you find the same mentality as saudi).

The 'locals' as they even call themselves have NO clue what work is - real work - in any shape or form.

Lazy, venal and incredibly corrupt/stupid and nasty and incapable of change in any way - they simply lack the intellect, skills or desire to change and the idea is anathema/terrifying to them.

take this system away and they will collapse - in blood.

what has happened is a logical outcome of their mindset - all it took was an overly arrogant idiot like MBS - who will it bring it all crashing down.

The article is VERY accurate!

Many thanks!!

but the outcome is not doubtful - it is CERTAIN...

they are fucked.

not that I will shed any tears - am glad to be out of it despite the loss in income, working there is like having a gun shoved in your face 24/7 - even if you are well-paid....

Good riddance to them - the Gulf monarchies are a plague on the middle east.

Posted by: Ferengi | Nov 21 2017 6:44 utc | 46

@ 47 More comprehensively, 'the Gulf monarchies are a plague on the middle east' and the whole world.

Posted by: Quentin | Nov 21 2017 6:57 utc | 47

@48 More comprehensively, the Gulf monarchies are known as Al Shaytan in the ME..

Posted by: Lozion | Nov 21 2017 7:10 utc | 48

Saudi rulers are like that ugly, imbecile moronic kid at school that bully and pick on his classmates only because his father is powerful.
That Saudiarabia along with its other despicable sunni states now allies openly with Israel against arab Syrian state and Iran just show how corrupt they really are.

Posted by: Anonymous | Nov 21 2017 8:18 utc | 50

Hello B,
Can you please enlighten us what are the good points of Iran. We get very limited news from the media. All I know is it is dependent on crude oil and Pistachio revenues, making their own missile programs without much international help, has a foreign policy opposed to US objectives in middle east. But we know very little about their citizens & government how it functions and progresses.

Posted by: Kaushik | Nov 21 2017 8:49 utc | 51

@52 Kaushik

If you want to hire b to do research for you, contact him privately and negotiate the fee you will pay him to do this work (if he is interested) and take it from there.

The other option you have is making use of this great invention called the internet. Perhaps you are familiar with it? You can easily use it to find all kinds of information about Iran from a wide variety of sources. Pretty cool, huh? You should give it a try!

Posted by: Temporarily Sane | Nov 21 2017 9:12 utc | 52

Posted by: truncated | Nov 20, 2017 7:51:48 PM | 25

„Whenever the author is right, it's only because OTHER PEOPLE'S JOURNALISM AND SCHOLARSHIP IS BEING REGURGITATED.“

Interesting! Are you able to show here such sources? Until now I see only your claims but not yet your arguments.

Posted by: Hausmeister | Nov 21 2017 9:30 utc | 53

The lack of galvanization by all organizations, governments, and lay citizens of the world, in condemning forcefully the ongoing crime against humanity being perpetrated by the Saudis and their backers in Yemen, is apalling. Half-hearted protests are grossly ineffective, and a few years from now, when the full dimensions of the atrocity become known, will constitute no excuse for having failed to prevent the greatest human catastrophe since the holocaust. All those directly and indirectly associated with this heinous crime must immediately be warned that ALL of us will not rest until they are brought before justice, and found accountable. MbS, the hypocrite who sheds tears for the persecuted Rohingyans, while systematically killing millions of children in Yemen, must immediately be characterized a brutal war criminal.

Posted by: SPYRIDON POLITIS | Nov 21 2017 10:12 utc | 54

The Clown Prince of Saudi Arabia, that deranged cynical megalomaniac, who would be a laughing stock were he not the no.1 danger to world peace and humanity, has embarked on an uncharted road that will inevitably lead to turmoil and destruction. Consider this mega-act of hubris and cynicism: in 2015 while lounging on some beach on the french Riviera, he saw a splendid yacht sailing past. He immediately dispatched emissaries to ascertain the ownership of the Serene (a Russian vodka baron) and gave the owner a blank cheque in exchange for the craft. The Russian filled in a sum of 500 million USD, 150 million over the market value, and later that afternoon MsB was lounging on the deck of his new toy. And this spoilt kid is a 'player' on the international scene!

Posted by: SPYRIDON POLITIS | Nov 21 2017 10:52 utc | 55

Part of the Saudi shake up was the HNC heads sacking. New 'negotiators' to be apponted by Saudi for the next Geneva negotiations on Syria. Be interesting to see what happens there.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Nov 21 2017 11:02 utc | 56

Kaushik @ 51:

I've never been to Iran and all I know is what I have read on the Internet and in books, learned from one-day adult education seminars, and eaten at restaurants serving Persian food.

Good points of Iran:
- very friendly, good-looking people
- delicious food (lots of rice, meat, salads and stews)
- a history that goes back 2,500 years and which includes three great Persian empires (Achaemenid, Sassanian, Safavid)
- amazing palace, mosque and madrasah architecture with distinct features (eg huge vaulted entrances, squinches, honeycomb vaulting)
- Persian miniature painting

Can't tell you much about Iranian politics apart from the fact that the President of Iran has much less power than you'd think and is elected directly by the people.

Posted by: Jen | Nov 21 2017 11:23 utc | 57

Thanks, b, for once more pulling all the relevant threads together with your usual clarity and conciseness.

Posted by: Shakesvshav | Nov 21 2017 11:44 utc | 58

Here is an online petition to be delivered to be delivered to Saudi officials regarding Yemen for those who want to participate

My comments were more appropriate towards U.S. lawmakers. I should have ended it after 'war crimes' and not continued on to 'medieval thugs', oh well. They need 1,000 signatures before they will deliver it, they are up to 600.

Posted by: Christian Chuba | Nov 21 2017 12:02 utc | 59

Saudis too big to fail
As much as I hate the Saudis, the most recent lower estimates of their oil reserves are 260B barrels of oil (down from a previous claim of 700B). At $40 bbl this gives them $10T of revenue to play with. Since ARAMCO is going public, this figure is being audited.

The only thing that can ruin the Saudis would be a disastrous war with Iran and the most inept leadership in the history of mankind.

Posted by: Christian Chuba | Nov 21 2017 12:22 utc | 60

@32 You're the only one here who seems to get it. This used to be my favorite blog when it recognized that Trump was needed to stop the neocons. But now b has become weirdly anti Trump as if someone paid him off. Listen everyone, it's essential that MBS repatriate the money that was funding the US Democrats and RINOS and media for the past 30 years. If MBS cannot do it, the US military does. Otherwise the CIA will.

Posted by: B Logical | Nov 21 2017 13:15 utc | 61

I also like the analysis of dh, @32, and nonsense factory, @37,

The gist seems to be that MBS was going after anyone who either opposed his 'reforms' (including some Wahhabist clerics) or who called for more sweeping political changes, that would weaken the House of Saud's control over the country (media figures, etc.).

Posted by: nonsense factory | Nov 21, 2017 1:02:28 AM | 45


I think MBS has accepted that Russia is a powerful new power broker and has agreed to try and stem Wahhabist terrorism.

I also think Trump is not opposed to this and that it fits with his battle against the deep state.

Posted by: financial matters | Nov 21 2017 14:47 utc | 62

One might remember Ralph Peter's (NATO) map. It indicates the break up of Saudi into three states with Yemen and Jordan getting chunks. So maybe MBS is doing someone's dirty work for them, intentionally or unintentionally.

Posted by: Blue | Nov 21 2017 15:01 utc | 63

The sclerotic institutionalised KSA structure, with its patronage (well described by b) also rests on a specific type of control.

The hiearchy of top-prince > no. 1. under-prince / corp. chief, etc. for individs. is replicated in society for groups. Men control women, women as mothers and teachers control children. This control rests on putative religious pillars (whahabism.) At the very bottom is imported slave labor, which is controlled by everyone else. Ah, the curse of black gold.

Normally, such structures are ruled by committee (of elders, of local potentates, of top bosses, of interest groups, of elected citizens, etc.) to ensure that different interests do not loose out and that the structure remains stable (typically, of a minority class / religion / region / etc.) and change is viewed with fear -- rightly. However, KSA, on a ‘societal level’ has counted on vicious repression at home, export, outsourcing ‘terrorists’, etc. and dependency. (KSA male nationals on the lower rungs 100% dependent on a specific patron(s) for their livelihood.) Not good.

Break-up is often dramatic, as there are no clear *change-course* alternatives and only a bust-up will do. Revolution (from below, won’t happen in KSA or not for now), or from within the power structure (MBS), or by takeover from outside (KSA only by the USA, which is why I previously posted that I would not be surprised if KSA broke into pieces.…)

The problem is that such arrangements are a gestalt, and one can’t fiddle about at the edges. To give but one minor ex. if women are allowed to drive, it drives (sic) a very serious wedge into control, but also: potentially deprives Saudi men of one of the lowish level jobs that afford having one wife and a child or two. (Chauffeur; male family member posted to drive and therefore fed, etc.)

MBS’ 2030 plan is the usual tiresome BS. See: “A vibrant society” (Trump used the same words.)

Only read one PDF National Transformation. Imho v. close to hallucinatin’ gibberish, but conforms to US corporate style. Anyone who knows the buzz words / dumb conventional steps of implementation can cobble it up - digitalisation (trans from the Arabic), private sector, local ‘content’ (means goods), job opportunities, step 1, step 2, oversight, etc. etc. -- Note the plan only projects 450 K jobs (one hopes extra!) in the non-gov sector by 2020! (Pop KSA 32 million.)

MBS -afai can see- seems completely oblivious to what might happen with the huge chunks of KSA population that are now financially decapitated, the gushing huge pipeline of black gold out and all the little tributaries of money flowing here and there and there and even there in the ultimate trickle-down system diverted and blocked…or diminished…

The vultures are gathering around KSA.

see > muslim dude clueless joe virgile others..

also, NO war on Iran. Won’t happen.

Posted by: Noirette | Nov 21 2017 16:08 utc | 64

"The western model of a "liberal democracy" does not adapt well to the historic social models that are prevalent in the Middle East."

orientalism aside, the western model is a violent capitalist empire and seems quite healthy in the KSA.

Posted by: anon | Nov 21 2017 17:14 utc | 65

@42 lozion.. hey - i am a david lynch fan!

@ 55 terry / charles.. maybe b doesn't want the hasbara stuff here? try a different tack and see what happens!

Posted by: james | Nov 21 2017 17:23 utc | 66

worth a look to add to this discussion:

. . . a plan is being commissioned to ruin the United States of America right before our eyes. Reportedly, the dollar, which is a worldwide currency (but not industry or agriculture), constitutes the foundation of American power. It is this world currency that enables the USA to rob the whole world, making its peoples to pay for the overly ambitious desires of Washington. Some time ago, the USD was secured with the gold equivalent, which was later abolished, and now the dollar is, in fact, left without safeguards. The United States forced an agreement upon Saudi Arabia which provided for the USA’s military aid to the Kingdom and the ‘protection’ of its oil fields, though it isn’t clear against whom. In exchange, the Saudis committed themselves to executing all their oil sales in USD and to investing their profits in US debt securities. By 1975, all oil-producing OPEC members were forced, under pressure from Washington, to follow suit. Consequently, the world plunged into the quagmire of petrodollars

. . .

There is one more equally complicated issue [i.e. additional to current MbS machinations; Hariri “retirement”) related to oil, that is, at what currency oil should be sold to China, which is still one of the biggest trading platforms for the Saudi. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia continues to demand insistently only USD currency in exchange for oil from Chinese importers. Beijing is somewhat annoyed with such stubbornness from Riyadh, for the Chinese have a wide range of oil suppliers to choose from. The Chinese authorities have been trying to bring it home to Riyadh that its dollar fanaticism can cost it quite a lot. However, the change-over from USD to CHY would deliver a blow to the United States, a key ally of the Kingdom, but Riyadh will definitely surrender sooner or later. What will happen then with the United States?

Thereupon, the refusal of several major oil producers from USD payments would deliver an irreparable blow to the United States and contribute greatly to the decline of the American empire and its hegemonistic ambitions.

Posted by: Sid2 | Nov 21 2017 17:35 utc | 67

Excellent description of the traditional "patronage" system b. Thanks

Do not underestimated the power of the "clerics". Previous Kings paid very careful attention to placating them. Including letting them have their own police force (Mattawa), and always listening carefuly to their viewpoint. So the location of Ibn Nayaf in Medina or Mecca is not a hazard, as he could be very well protected IF the Clerics think that he will protect them in turn.

(At one time if a non-muslim entered either holy site - all that was asked of the person that killed them - was ten riyals "for cleaning up". There are three lines of Guard posts with armed guards around Medina, but you have to pass the first one to get to the "Diplomatic" road that goes round the outskirts. I have passed the first - but the taxi driver - very tired, headed for the second by accident. We were stopped but the driver was terrified at that point, as he would have been eliminated as well).

And yes- MbS thinks he is the reincarnation of the Kings of yesterday.

Re; Princes not working; As I was once told, "Muslims do not do manual work, that is for the foreigners".

Posted by: stonebird | Nov 21 2017 17:41 utc | 68

A kind of Stalinist purge, is what it looks like. What MBS may have failed to account for is the larger and poorer Saudi population

What MbS failed to account for was actually part of the Stalinist purge process. Stalin murdered competing powerful figures and many lower-ranking people who were thought of as loyal to them and their ideas and so who might be a threat. In the process of purging lower echelons Stalin create advancement opportunities for many, who became loyalists both out of gratitude and fear. From what I've learned here -- good thread! -- there is nothing like an established, relatively stable bureaucracy that members of clans and factions can be recruited into. That makes for instability since you're left with the more fluid struggles of a patronage system that can be, as b is emphasizing, whimsically run.

Posted by: dadooronron | Nov 21 2017 17:47 utc | 69

The third generation drives the operation into the wall ( see Bush, G.W.) ; and so the King's grandchildren will push camels again as prophesized. Aloha snackbar.
Also, the deep state contacts got quarantined, as in Turkey. Let the Rich eat the Rich. WHO knows what poor people are eating. Thanks b and every-one (ogres and trolls alike). Best health you've got.

Posted by: failure of imagination | Nov 21 2017 19:26 utc | 70

Posted by: Christian Chuba | Nov 21, 2017 7:02:31 AM | 60
I signed the petition, they are up to 622 as of now.

Posted by: frances | Nov 21 2017 19:44 utc | 71

Pepe Escobar provides further insight into these events in this first of a two-part report,

Pepe also weighs in on the current state of the BRI,

The writer known as Spengler at atimes seems to be looking at those same events through some sort of inverted prism--the sort that creates numerous blind spots as this sentence from his intro proves: "The ascent of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman–-with the assistance of the United States and the approval of China–-occurs in the context of an effort to restore the regional balance of power, following 15 years of instability due to America’s sponsorship of Shi’ite rule in Iraq." I won't bother deconstructing his essay or providing a link, although it's placed between Pepe's two articles on atimes's main page.

Will ARAMCO actually get listed on NYSE? To do so it will have to finally come clean about the actual status of its assets, and we might finally learn if the late Matt Simmons was correct in his Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. If the discrepancy's too wide between Saudi's annually announced reserves and reality--which is highly likely--ARAMCO won't get listed as such a truth would make a lie out of every Saudi Oil Minister statement and company financial statement for the past 20+ years.

Posted by: karlof1 | Nov 21 2017 20:18 utc | 72

Lebanon's PM Hariri shelves resignation, easing crisis.

Hariri is back in Lebanon, talked with President Aoun and retracted his (forced) resignation made on Saudi TV. He seems to have no fear of any imminent assassination which was the claimed reason for his move to Saudi Arabia. MbS arranged that the whole stunt to incite war on Hizbullah. But no one wanted to send foot soldiers to such a war.

Looks like MbS lost this one - big time. A huge cake hit his face.

Hizbullah won this round without making one threat or firing one bullet.

One wonders how MbS now feels about Kushner who was the one in the White House who presumably allowed this stupid stunt to happen.

Posted by: b | Nov 22 2017 12:18 utc | 73

b @74

I don't think we can assume that its over just because Hariri has returned.

Elija Magnier says:

The return of Hariri is obviously linked to a Saudi agenda where he will ask Hezbollah to pull out of Syria, Yemen and Iraq and put down its weapons.
But might Hariri also demand that Hezbollah be banned from Lebanon? Might that then trigger an assassination attempt (probably false flag)?

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Nov 22 2017 16:38 utc | 74

- These wealthy families: does it include the Bin Laden family ?
- This luxury prison at the Ritz Carlton is meant to extort the detained people to give the details of their bank accounts in e.g. Switzerland.
- No, this action will backfire as "b" stated. And I fear more repression will follow.

Posted by: Willy2 | Nov 22 2017 17:32 utc | 75

- No matter how you slice it or dice it, the common Saudi citizen is "not happy" the way these princes and the royal family are abusing their power. That's why one Osama Bin Laden was so popular in Saudi Arabia. He wanted to overthrow the corrupt system but had to "take care" of the USA first. (i.e. bleeding the US financially to death).

Posted by: Willy2 | Nov 22 2017 17:41 utc | 76

b and jackrabbit. I read somewhere that some of Hariri's family are still enjoying MsB hospitality in Riyadh. When Rafic Hariri flew to France, he was not accompanied by wife and children who were with him in KSA.

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 23 2017 2:02 utc | 77

b @74 I had thought the Lebanon thing was just a sideshow to cover whatever Trump and MBS were up to with Netanyahoo gaining nothing. But it seems also to have been a play aimed at bringing the Sunni Arab states into a coalition with Israel and US in a war against Hezbolla and Iran.
Trumps appointees have the common denominator of a hatred of Iran.
TTG's recent post at SST had me thinking about the contradiction of Trump pulling support for the moderate rebel jihadi's in some areas and working with Russia in this regards, yet stubbornly holding onto Tanf - willing to attack SAA forces if they get too close and same at the Euphrates, also US trying to impede SAA at albu Kamal. Also the US no publicly swapping hats on ISIS fighters to turn them into SDF.
This is not centcom just doing its own thing. Rather it seems a change of US focus by the Trump admin from taking down the Syrian government to directly attacking Iran and Hezbolla. This war is still in its preparatory stages and the recent play with Trump/Kushner, MBS, Israel and Hariri/lebanon is part of the preparations.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Nov 23 2017 2:33 utc | 78

- Perhaps France, Israel and Saudi Arabia are working together (with Hariri) to "push out" Hezbollah.

Posted by: Willy2 | Nov 23 2017 7:38 utc | 79

just some lights pressures for the show and avoid enraging the Saudis more
France said yesterday they are ok with Hezbollah as a party but not as a military corps
Back to square one and the 'demilitarization'. They might simply all end up in the Lebanese army and no one can complain.
Question for the ppl here who've lived in Lebanon: do Shiite families have African maids -call them slaves, since they can be heard in Beirut cafes calling the family patriarch 'master'- as much as the Sunni families do?

Posted by: Mina | Nov 23 2017 8:10 utc | 80

@ Peter Au and @ 68 Sid2

Thank you both. Very interesting thoughts and I think this has to be the right direction. At the end of the day it is always about money and the power resulting from it. It is not a question if the petro dollar will be succeeded by the Yuan as strongest currency. I assume that petrol in future will not be married to one sole currency but rather it will be traded by each country in its own currency. Am I wrong? Any experts who can explain how this might work in future?

@ 75 Jackrabbit

Hariri can not ban Hezbollah from Lebanon. This would be like banning half the Lebanese population from Lebanon. Besides even the biggest Hezbollah haters in Lebanon have understood that their country would be gone by now without the national resistance movement which Hezbollah is.

I don't think that Hezbollah is active in Yemen. As far as Syria and Iraq are concerned I'm quite sure that eventually Hezbollah, as it is not an occupation force will leave these countries and gladly return to Lebanon. In Lebanon a complete reform of the armed forces will be necessary (have they not received generous amounts from Saudi Arabia not so long ago? Probably to bribe them and make them defend Saudi positions in Lebanon). Hezbollah will never lay down arms as long as there is this vicious southern neighbour around but in the long run Hezbollah might be integrated into the Lebanese armed forces.

Posted by: Demeter | Nov 23 2017 9:58 utc | 81

Pepe Escobar has done some earlier writing as well on the Saudi Situation. He does seem to have good sources. They are must read

Posted by: Martin | Nov 26 2017 19:55 utc | 82

Let us not forget that MBS has always been a UAE Project to start with. The Program Manager of this project is the hypersexual UAE Ambassador to United States who is a real sleaze bag.

Posted by: Carmen | Nov 26 2017 20:03 utc | 83

@ karlof1 ARAMCO will never get listed. I have my own detailed financial models of ARAMCO valuation basis which we have advised all our directors that we will not be investing in ARAMCO at all. ARAMCO is a no go zone for many of our peers in the Institutional Investors segment. There is a public DCF model though, which I think is quite accurate. This guy perching tree has come up with a valuation of 700 Billion and our valuation is 400 billion. He has used 10% discount rate while we have used 20%, so, he is slightly off by around 8%, but no big deviation. Saudis would surely not be happy that such a public model exists online for everyone to get scared.

Its funny, you talk about the Reservers and "Twilight in the Desert", the same guy who wrote the DCF pasted some links in his part 2 about Wikileaks emails that substantiate the book. The guardian link is here below.

Posted by: financebuff | Nov 26 2017 20:14 utc | 84

@ Carmen Saudi and Emiratis view Western women as having lesser morals who will sleep with anyone. It is not at all surprising that Al Qtaiba the ignorant emirati seems to think that by getting women to sign NDA's prior to sexual exploitation is alright. It is not surprising they treat their women with even more disgust and as sexual objects.

Posted by: Kelly | Nov 26 2017 21:23 utc | 85

Things could not get any better for Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia: Currency Devaluation Next On Reform Agenda

Posted by: Demrat | Nov 27 2017 1:14 utc | 86

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