The U.S. and Saudi Arabia Are About to Make More Disastrous and Idiotic Mistakes – Part 1

by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:

Many of Donald Trump’s core supporters are not particularly keen on Saudi Arabia, and for very good reasons. Candidate Trump exploited this sentiment on the campaign trail, often tweeting in populist terms when it came to the barbaric absolute monarchy. As is too often the case, Donald Trump the President has taken a completely different tack. In fact, his very first foreign visit upon being inaugurated was to Saudi Arabia. This was no accident. It was a very clear and ominous statement of things to come.

Here’s some of what I wrote about the visit back in June in the post, Trump’s Middle East Foreign Policy is a Disaster Waiting to Happen:

The main thing we learned from Trump’s grotesque, orb clutching spectacle of a visit to the 9/11-funding absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, was that our demented President essentially green-lighted the Saudis to do whatever the heck they want in the Middle East. Considering Saudi Arabia is effectively being run by a 30-something princeling with sociopathic tendencies, absolutely nothing good can come of this. While Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East was an unmitigated humanitarian and geopolitical disaster, it appears Trump’s doing his best to one up his predecessor.

While I knew princeling Mohamed bin Salman (MBS) would do some really insane and violent stuff, the events of this past weekend exceeded even my most wildest of negative expectations. Before I get into that, I want to highlight the likely role in all of this of America’s very own 30-somehting princeling with delusions of grandeur, Jared Kushner.

 

In order to understand what just happened, we should all be aware of a recent clandestine trip that occurred just before all the crazy regional events unfolded over the past couple of days. Specifically, Jared Kushner took an unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia.

As Politico reported on October 29:

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner returned home Saturday from an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia — his third trip to the country this year.

Kushner left Washington, D.C., via commercial airline on Wednesday for the trip, which was not announced to the public, a White House official told POLITICO. He traveled separately from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who led a delegation to Riyadh last week to focus on combating terrorist financing. 

Kushner was accompanied in the region by deputy national security adviser Dina Powell and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. Greenblatt continued from Saudi Arabia to Amman, Jordan; Cairo; the West Bank city of Ramallah; and Jerusalem, where he was on Sunday.

The White House official would not say who Kushner met with in Saudi Arabia. But he has cultivated a relationship with the crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, who, like Kushner, is in his 30s.Kushner arrived back in Washington, D.C., on Saturday night in time for a surprise birthday dinner for his wife, Ivanka Trump, at the Trump International Hotel.

The key excerpt from the above passage is the fact that Kushner and MBS appear to be besties, which doesn’t bode well for peace in the region. For more on this princeling courtship, we learn the following from The Washington Post:

MBS is emboldened by strong support from President Trump and his inner circle, who see him as a kindred disrupter of the status quo — at once a wealthy tycoon and a populist insurgent. It was probably no accident that last month, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, made a personal visit to Riyadh. The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy.

How adorable.

Now let’s move on to the big event, the insane events of the past weekend. Let’s start with the Saudi crown prince Mohamed bin Salman’s purge of potential political enemies, which happened a little over a week after Kushner’s unannounced visit. Here’s a brief summary:

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says he’s cracking down on corruption. But the sweeping arrests of cabinet ministers and senior princes Saturday night looked to many astonished Arab observers like a bold but risky consolidation of power.

MBS, as the headstrong 32-year-old ruler is known, struck at some of the kingdom’s most prominent business and political names in a new bid to gain political control and drive change in the oil kingdom. By the count of the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya news channel, the arrests included 11 princes, four ministers and several dozen others.

The list of arrestees includes Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, the son of the previous king and the head of the Saudi national guard, traditionally a locus of tribal power. “The national guard was part of the balance among the royal family. He’s taken that balance out,” the Saudi executive noted. “He’s the goliath who can fight it all.”

MBS appears to be deliberately dismantling the traditional governance system in Saudi Arabia, which involved a slow, sometimes sclerotic process of consensus within the royal family. The young prince has instead seized executive power and wielded it aggressively to push his agenda.

The roster of those arrested includes billionaire tycoons, such as Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, head of Kingdom Holding Co. and one of the most prominent Saudi global investors; Saleh Kamal and Waleed al-Ibrahim, co-founders of Middle East Broadcasting Corp., the region’s first satellite channel; and Adel Fakieh, the minister of economy and planning, who until the putsch was one of MBS’s key lieutenants in developing his reform program.

MBS has now shattered the leadership circle of the previous king, Abdullah, who died in 2015. In addition to Prince Miteb, MBS arrested Prince Turki bin Abdullah, another prominent son and former governor of Riyadh province. Also arrested was Khaled al-Tuwaijri, who as chief of Abdullah’s royal court was a virtual prime minister. In June, MBS toppled the previous crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, clearing the way for him to eventually succeed his 81-year-old father, King Salman.

Unless you’re being paid millions by Saudi lobbyists (like many people in D.C.), the propaganda line claiming that the purge is about battling “corruption” and modernizing the kingdom via reforms is patently obvious nonsense. What’s more, the purge was only one of several dramatic events that unfolded in the region over the weekend.

For example a senior Saudi prince was killed, along with several others, in a helicopter crash on Sunday. The BBC reports:

A senior Saudi prince and seven other officials have been killed in a helicopter crash near the country’s border with Yemen, state media report.

Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, the deputy governor of Asir province, was returning from an inspection tour when his aircraft came down near Abha late on Sunday, the interior ministry said.

It did not give a cause for the crash.

The incident came hours after a major purge of the kingdom’s political and business leadership.

Prince Mansour was the son of Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, a former intelligence chief who was crown prince between January and April 2015, when he was pushed aside by Prince Mohammed’s father, King Salman, now 81.

While all the above is insane enough, there’s more. Before the purge, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia after being taken there. It’s important to know a little history of who he is and how he attained his position.

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