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

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.

From the Haaretz article, Is Saudi Arabia Pushing Israel Into War With Hezbollah and Iran?

Saad Hariri, who resigned Saturday as Prime Minister of Lebanon, always faced a no-win situation trying to serve in that role. His departure heralds the latest ratcheting up of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran playing out across the region, with significant implications for Israel.

Hariri is a good man, but not a natural political leader. His role as the leader of Lebanon’s Sunni bloc was thrust upon him by the assassination of his father, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in 2005. 

But there was another force that thrust him into that role: his Saudi patrons. Saudi Arabia had long backed the Sunnis in Lebanon’s multi-sectarian political system and during the civil war. But they also provided a base and financial backing for the Hariri business empire. Hariri could not move right or left without Saudi support, nor could he rebuff their orders that he return to Lebanon as prime minister.

With sustained support from Saudi Arabia and the United States, Saad Hariri withstood these pressures for a time. But Saudi support wavered in 2010, when Prince Abdulaziz, the son of then-King Abdallah, pursued a rapprochement with Assad. When Hariri refused to play along, Hezbollah withdrew its ministers from his government, bringing it down in humiliating fashion while Hariri met with President Barack Obama in Washington in January 2011.

Knowing that history, I was frankly surprised when he returned to the premiership late last year, following a protracted government stalemate, so bad that even the Lebanese trash was not being collected. The logjam was only broken when Michel Aoun, a Christian ally of Hezbollah, ascended to the presidency. 

Why would Hariri return under an even tougher set of circumstances than those that prevailed during his first term? Once again, because the Saudis made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

But this was a new breed of Saudi rulers. King Abdallah had no love for Iran, whom he described as the head of the snake spreading poison throughout the Middle East. But he picked his spots for confronting his rivals, and cut his losses in Lebanon in 2011. His successor, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, and his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), seem determined to contest Iran from Yemen to Syria to Lebanon. Getting their man, Hariri, back to Beirut at least gave them a player on the field.

The bigger question is whether his resignation is a sign that the Saudis withdrew their support for him once again. At first blush, that would not seem consistent with King Salman and MBS’s overall desire to confront Iran’s proxies on every front.

But it is plausible that the Saudis are trying to create the context for a different means of contesting Iran in Lebanon: an Israeli-Hezbollah war. 

With Assad clearly having survived the challenge posed by Saudi-backed rebels, the Saudi leadership may hope to move its confrontation with Iran from Syria to Lebanon. By pulling Hariri out of his office, they may hope to ensure that Hezbollah gets stuck with the blame and responsibility for Lebanon’s challenges, from caring for Syrian refugees to mopping up Al Qaida and ISIS affiliates. 

Interestingly enough, an article published at Al Jazeera comes to a similar conclusion:

The resignation of Hariri, or sacking by his Saudi sponsors, should sound the alarm bells for any government that doesn’t want to see another war erupt in the region.

A lot of chatter involved Israel. It’s no secret that Israel has been conducting military exercises on its northern front for several months now. While Hezbollah has been busy helping prop up the Assad regime in Damascus, Tel Aviv has been developing its missile defence systems. Sooner or later, it will want to test those in real-life scenarios, as the logic would have it. 

Forcing Hariri to quit the government would help Israel frame any aggression against Lebanon as an attack on Iranian proxies. With Gaza politically neutralised for now, following Hamas’ handover of power to the Palestinian Authority, Israel could very well see this as an optimal time to attack. Such an attack would also provide a perfect opportunity for the West to test the new Saudi leadership’s “moderate” credentials: Would it cheer Israel on?

And then there’s this from The Jerusalem Post:

Saudi Arabia said on Monday that Lebanon had declared war against it because of attacks against the Kingdom by the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah.

Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan told Al-Arabiya TV that Saad al-Hariri, who announced his resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister on Saturday, had been told that acts of “aggression” by Hezbollah “were considered acts of a declaration of war against Saudi Arabia by Lebanon and by the Lebanese Party of the Devil.”

Then there’s this from Saudi-owned, Dubai-based Al Arabiya:

Saudi minister of Gulf affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, said on Monday that Lebanon had declared war against Saudi Arabia because of what he described as aggression against the Kingdom by the Iran-backed group Hezbollah.

“We will treat the government of Lebanon as a government declaring war on Saudi Arabia due to the aggression of Hezbollah,” he said in response to the recent decisions taken by the Lebanese government.

Al Arabiya reported that Saudi King Salman had informed the outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri of the details of Hezbollah’s aggression against Saudi Arabia, adding that the Lebanese government should be aware of the dangers imposed by these militias.

Sabhan added that Hezbollah militias are involved in terrorist acts that threatens the Kingdom, stressing that Saudi Arabia will use all political and other means to confront what he called the “Party of Satan.”

“We expect the Lebanese government to act to deter Hezbollah,” he said in an interview with Al Arabiya.

Sabhan also accused Hezbollah of smuggling drugs to Saudi Arabia and training Saudi youths on terrorism.

Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Believe it or not, there’s more. The following title from The New York Times says it all, Saudi Arabia Charges Iran With ‘Act of War,’ Raising Threat of Military Clash. Here are a few excerpts:

LONDON — Saudi Arabia charged Monday that Iran had committed “a blatant act of military aggression” by providing its Yemeni allies with a missile fired at the Saudi capital over the weekend, raising the threat of a direct military clash between the two regional heavyweights.

The accusations represent a new peak in tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran at a time when they are already fighting proxy wars in Yemen and Syria, as well as battles for political power in Iraq and Lebanon.

The Saudi statement said the missile could be considered an “act of war” against the kingdom and triggered its right to self-defense under international law.

So much craziness happened over the weekend, today’s post was mostly about summarizing it all. Tomorrow’s post will detail what I think it all means.

To summarize, it’s crystal clear to me that both Donald Trump and Mohamed bin Salman (MBS) are enthusiastically looking for a confrontation with Iran. MBS already has been driving Saudi foreign policy, with disastrous moves with regard to Yemen and more recently Qatar. Now that he’s further consolidated power, he’ll have the ability to be even more aggressive, which is likely to unleash total chaos in the region. What makes it all far more dangerous is that Donald Trump has given him a blank check.

I’ll go into this more in my next post, but in preparation I suggest you go back and read the following.

Empire Destroying Wars Are Coming to America Under Trump – Part 1

Empire Destroying Wars Are Coming to America Under Trump – Part 2

Empire Destroying Wars Are Coming to America Under Trump – Part 3

If you liked this article and enjoy my work, consider becoming a monthly Patron, or visit our Support Page to show your appreciation for independent content creators.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

Like this post?
Donate bitcoins: 35DBUbbAQHTqbDaAc5mAaN6BqwA2AxuE7G

Follow me on Twitter.

7 thoughts on “The U.S. and Saudi Arabia Are About to Make More Disastrous and Idiotic Mistakes – Part 1”

  1. You need to check out the Brilliant Light Power website. The advisory board includes James Woolsey former head if the CIA during the Clinton administration and Bill Palatucci who was on the Trump presidential transition team. When you see all the high level people associated with this company maybe you will consider the serious implications for this new development.

  2. Putin blocked the entire Syria move because he knew Obama would roll over easily.

    Of all the meetings, the most important was the one between MBS and Netanyahu.

    Israel is already playing both sides against the middle, and Kushner is a glorified errand boy.

    Meanwhile, Vlad is positioning himself perfectly.

    Details on the hundreds of thousands of people killed and maimed while this chess game is being played out.

  3. Different angle…not saying it’s correct, but would appreciate your thoughts:
    Emerging multipolar order led by Russia. More Eurasian cooperation between Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, etc. E.g. One Belt One Road, Russia/Turkey pipelines. Russia/SA meet this summer, weapons deals, oil deals with China, talk of Petroyuan, Vision2030, modernization.
    This is pissing off the Old Guard within SA who have traditionally allied with US neocons. Saudi pipeline of extremists used to fight proxy wars for us. Old Guard SA are on the same side of those who hate Trump within US. Arrests were about preempting a coup against MBS. Trump is okay with this emerging order, thus Russiagate.
    Israel/NeoCons want balkanization of SA and to prevent the emerging order. Best bet is to play SA vs. Iran. MBS will have to have the support of the military in order to stay in power.
    I know this is hopeful and I’m not a Trump guy. I fully agree that he’s not campaign Trump. That said, if he was totally in-line with clinton, bush, Obama, etc I don’t think the establishment would be so against him and it appears they are.

    • There are a ton of potential outcomes, but I think what you mentioned above is extraordinarily unlikely.
      Yes, likely Russia, China and Iran will dominate the region. Saudis may be a part of that too, but not with MBS. MBS is a total fool, who has screwed up every foreign play he’s tried and this will be no different. If Trump bets on the MBS horse (which he’s doing now), U.S. will go down with him.

    • Your read makes great sense to me, ALF, and perfectly accords with how I see these moves adding up and integrating.

Leave a Reply