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Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: Naive, Arrogant Saudi Prince Is Playing with Fire

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At the end of last year the BND, the German intelligence agency, published a remarkable one-and-a-half-page memo saying that Saudi Arabia had adopted “an impulsive policy of intervention”. It portrayed Saudi defence minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the powerful 29-year-old favourite son of the ageing King Salman, who is suffering from dementia – as a political gambler who is destabilising the Arab world through proxy wars in Yemen and Syria.

Spy agencies do not normally hand out such politically explosive documents to the press criticising the leadership of a close and powerful ally such as Saudi Arabia. It is a measure of the concern in the BND that the memo should have been so openly and widely distributed. The agency was swiftly slapped down by the German foreign ministry after official Saudi protests, but the BND’s warning was a sign of growing fears that Saudi Arabia has become an unpredictable wild card. One former minister from the Middle East, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “In the past the Saudis generally tried to keep their options open and were cautions, even when they were trying to get rid of some government they did not like.”

The BND report made surprisingly little impact outside Germany at the time. This may have been because its publication on 2 December came three weeks after the Paris massacre on 13 November, when governments and media across the world were still absorbed by the threat posed by Islamic State (IS) and how it could best be combatted. In Britain there was the debate on the RAF joining the air war against IS in Syria, and soon after in the US there were the killings by a pro-IS couple in San Bernardino, California.

It was the execution of the Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others – mostly Sunni jihadis or dissenters – on 2 January that, for almost the first time, alerted governments to the extent to which Saudi Arabia had become a threat to the status quo. It appears to be deliberately provoking Iran in a bid to take leadership of the Sunni and Arab worlds while at the same time Prince Mohammed bin Salman is buttressing his domestic power by appealing to Sunni sectarian nationalism. What is not in doubt is that Saudi policy has been transformed since King Salman came to the throne last January after the death of King Abdullah.

The BND lists the areas in which Saudi Arabia is adopting a more aggressive and warlike policy. In Syria, in early 2015, it supported the creation of The Army of Conquest, primarily made up of the al-Qaeda affiliate the al-Nusra Front and the ideologically similar Ahrar al-Sham, which won a series of victories against the Syrian Army in Idlib province. In Yemen, it began an air war directed against the Houthi movement and the Yemeni army, which shows no sign of ending. Among those who gain are al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, which the US has been fruitlessly trying to weaken for years by drone strikes.

None of these foreign adventures initiated by Prince Mohammed have been successful or are likely to be so, but they have won support for him at home. The BND warned that the concentration of so much power in his hands “harbours a latent risk that in seeking to establish himself in the line of succession in his father’s lifetime, he may overreach”.

The overreaching gets worse by the day. At every stage in the confrontation with Iran over the past week Riyadh has raised the stakes. The attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad might not have been expected but the Saudis did not have to break off diplomatic relations. Then there was the air strike that the Iranians allege damaged their embassy in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

None of this was too surprising: Saudi-Iranian relations have been at a particularly low ebb since 400 Iranian pilgrims died in a mass stampede in Mecca last year.

But even in the past few days, there are signs of the Saudi leadership deliberately increasing the political temperature by putting four Iranians on trial, one for espionage and three for terrorism. The four had been in prison in Saudi Arabia since 2013 or 2014 so there was no reason to try them now, other than as an extra pinprick against Iran.

Saudi Arabia has been engaging in something of a counter attack to reassure the world that it is not going to go to war with Iran. Prince Mohammed said in an interview with The Economist: “A war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the beginning of a major catastrophe in the region, and it will reflect very strongly on the rest of the world. For sure, we will not allow any such thing.”

The interview was presumably meant to be reassuring to the outside world, but instead it gives an impression of naivety and arrogance. There is also a sense that Prince Mohammed is an inexperienced gambler who is likely to double his stake when his bets fail. This is the very opposite of past Saudi rulers, who had always preferred, so to speak, to bet on all the horses.

A main reason for Saudi Arabia acting unilaterally is its disappointment that the US reached an agreement with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear programme. Again this looks naive: close alliance with the US is the prime reason why the Saudi monarchy has survived nationalist and socialist challengers since the 1930s. Aside from the Saudis’ money and close alliance with the US, leaders in the Middle East have always doubted that the Saudi state has much operational capacity. This is true of all the big oil producers, whatever their ideological make-up. Experience shows that vast oil wealth encourages autocracy, whether it is in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya or Kuwait, but it also produces states that are weaker than they look, with incapable administrations and dysfunctional armies.

This is the second area in which Prince Mohammed’s interview suggests nothing but trouble for the Saudi royal family. He suggests austerity and market reforms in the Kingdom, but in the context of Middle East autocracies and particularly oil states this breaches an unspoken social contract with the general population. People may not have political liberty, but they get a share in oil revenues through government jobs and subsidised fuel, food, housing and other benefits. Greater privatisation and supposed reliance on the market, with no accountability or fair legal system, means a licence to plunder by those with political power.

This was one of the reasons for the uprising in 2011 against Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. So-called reforms that erode an unwieldy but effective patronage machine end up by benefiting only the elite.

Oil states are almost impossible to reform and it is usually unwise to try. Such states should also avoid war if they want to stay in business, because people may not rise up against their rulers but they are certainly not prepared to die for them.

(Reprinted from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia

34 Comments to "Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: Naive, Arrogant Saudi Prince Is Playing with Fire"

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  1. As a 31 year old, although I consider myself to be smarter and more politically savvy than most people of any age, I certainly have a pretty hard time imagining being in charge of a national ministry. I have far too much learning and growing to do before I would feel confident in a position like that. Maybe it’s one of those fake-it-til-you-make-it deals.

    For the sake of the world, I hope Prince Mohammed doesn’t bite off more than he can chew.

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  2. We can all hope for the collapse of the Al-Sauds and Saudi Arabia – the root of all Islamic terrorism worldwide. Hopefully, the Iranians will succeed in destroying this country.

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  3. YES, Mr. Cockburn you have every right to piss-off at prince Mohammed bin Salman telling ‘Economist magazine’ that there were no possibility of a war between KSA and Iran because that was not what Israel and Jewish lobby groups expected to hear from their ‘twin brother’.

    It’s no secret anymore that KSA and Israel have inked an alliance against Iran-Syria-Iraq-Hizbullah, known as Axis of Resistance. Both KSA and Israel has common history; the rulers are cousins and both entities were established by Western imperialists to counter political Islamic revival (here). Riyadh recently gave $16 billion in aid to Israel.

    While KSA and Israel love to bark at Iran, both are afraid to attack Iran. Both rather prefer their guardian angel, United States, to fight their proxy wars.

    All the Jewish propagandists who tried to sell Saddam Hussein’s phony nukes, and Qaddafi and Bashar Assad genocide of people – and “Iran already has nukes”, such as, convicted Elliott Abrams, Richard Pearle, Bill Kristol, Max Boot, Charles Krauthammer, David Pryce-Jones, Lee Smith, etc. All these Jewish evildoers have whined in different tunes blaming Obama administration for throwing another US ally under bus after the Zionist entity.

    http://rehmat1.com/2016/01/10/jewish-lobby-backs-saudi-arabia-against-iran/

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  4. Dear Patrick,

    It is truly refreshing to read a well-documented and analytical summary of the Saudi-Iran conflict. While I am well-versed with the debate, I was very happy that you still maintained to provide insights that I and many western readers are completely unaware of. Just to expand your analysis of the region, I would like to add that your observations with regards to Prince Mohammed can in fact be applicable to every high ranking official from the Oil states (GCC). Take for example Saudi’ earnest follower – the Qatari government, who have long maintained a low profile and doing what they do best, “to bet on all the horses”. But for the first time in over a decade the government payrolls have taken a hit amid lower oil prices as they are noticing this erode the country’s finances. I also believe that due to the recent shift in power, these young royals who were born and bred in the arms of wealth are struggling to maintain political and financial stability. Additionally, I believe that due to their oil wealth, these states can only function under the rule of a monarch and hence as you point out in your analysis should not try to or succumb to any reformation.

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  5. As a 31 year old, although I consider myself to be smarter and more politically savvy than most people of any age, I certainly have a pretty hard time imagining being in charge of a national ministry. I have far too much learning and growing to do before I would feel confident in a position like that. Maybe it’s one of those fake-it-til-you-make-it deals.

    For the sake of the world, I hope Prince Mohammed doesn’t bite off more than he can chew.

    It’s particularly hard in low-trust, high-stakes states like SA. In Arab countries, everyone is out to $#@! everyone else over, and everyone knows this, even when it isn’t the case. So you can’t just lean on your council of trusted advisers to get you through the day. Then there’s all that sweet, sweet crude…

    We can all hope for the collapse of the Al-Sauds and Saudi Arabia – the root of all Islamic terrorism worldwide. Hopefully, the Iranians will succeed in destroying this country.

    Jesus H Christ, will you people pull head from ass, please? No, “regime change” in the ME will not “help.” When has it ever? If Saud falls, first thing we’ll have to deal with is the natural inclination of the American gov’t to invade intervene and occupy SA. Which is a natural impulse, btw. Second thing we’ll have to deal with is what always replaces the corrupt old regimes, which is the new radical Islamist jihadist regime if we’re lucky, civil war if we’re not. Then there’s the refugees, the disruption to the oil supply.

    FFS, be careful what you wish for. It’s not likely, but there’s the outside possibility that someone’s listening.

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  6. Here are some comments that Razib “OMG I’m a conflicted snotty South Asian, so I can’t take criticism, but I also can’t admit that I can’t take criticism” Khan thinks shouldn’t make it through:

    This was comment #2:

    A second extreme position is that Islamic terrorism is a natural necessary consequence of the character of the Koran. The problem with this viewpoint is that though most of those who participate in Islamic terrorism may identify as Muslims, on closer inspection they often lack even the patina of fluency in their own religion. This may be especially true of those who grew up in secular Diaspora environments, but the vast majority of the world’s Muslims have little to no familiarity with the details of the Koran or the Hadith (the latter of which is in any case more relevant for day to day practice). There’s a reason that they make recourse to the ulema as a de facto clerical caste.

    There is scripture, and then there is belief. The two don’t necessarily coincide. I doubt the Crusaders of old, or the Jihadists of old, were all scholars of their respective religions. But it seems plausible, if not likely, that the dominant beliefs associated with either religion had a lot to do with their military motivations.

    It is neat to presume these individuals are using Islamic ideology in an instrumental sense, as Saddam himself clearly did. But the Islamic meta-narrative is powerful, and has historical precedent. It is plausible that though the trigger for the precipitation of an Islamic movement in Iraq was the defenestration of the officer core of a notionally secular national regime, the ultimate crystallization and end state of the movement may be toward a sincere and genuine Islamic nationalism.

    Or we could cut right to the chase and consider that there is no necessary contradiction between using Islamic ideology in an instrumental sense, and a genuine Islamic nationalism.

    (they intended to draw Americans into Afghanistan and defeat us as the earlier Mujahideens had done against the Soviets)?

    The Mujaheddin victory over the Soviets exists more in the minds of Muslims and Americans than it did in reality. The Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan and handed over control to the communist Afghan regime, which remained in place for another 3 years, IIRC. It was only then, when the Soviet Union fell and aid to the Afghan communists dried up that they were finally overthrown.

    This was comment #3:

    For all we know, the typical IS recruit is poor and illiterate. For every example of an engineer or what have you, you’re probably talking about someone in a position that required technical expertise. Holding an AK and dying in a ditch not being one of those. Running IS (PhD and doctorate) doesn’t say anything about the averages.

    This was comment #1:

    You should work toward concision. E.g.,

    “Humans are social creatures, and much of our cognition operates through a social sieve. Our beliefs and preferences are strongly shaped by a tendency to conform to our “in-group.”

    Does almost nothing that

    “Humans are social creatures; our beliefs and preferences are strongly shaped by a tendency to conform to our “in-group.”

    doesn’t, except use more words.

    E.g.,

    Group solidarity around a compelling meta-narrative is the important “big picture” element of Islamic terrorism which is critical toward understanding its motivations, and which can be missed by descriptive ethnographies or econometric analyses.

    works no better than

    Group solidarity around a meta-narrative is the important element of Islamic terrorism which is critical toward understanding its motivations.

    (Anything can be missed, no need to go into details)

    Everything between this:

    One might make the analogy here to what has occurred in Pakistan.

    And this:

    Pakistan was swallowed by a broader evolving meta-narrative.

    Could be boiled down to a sentence or two, maybe 1/3 of the space you used.

    E.g.,

    After its conquest of Mosul there were many who asserted that the material structural parameters of the domains which the Islamic State ruled would make its period of rule ephemeral by necessity. In short, the Islamic State was poor and under-resourced. There was no way it could sustain itself more than six months.

    Works just as well as this:

    After its conquest of Mosul there were many who asserted that the Islamic State was poor and under-resourced. There was no way it could sustain itself more than six months.

    ****

    Here are some posts that Razib “doesn’t suffer criticism gladly” Khan did think were important and relevant enough to let through:

    Daniel H says:
    January 1, 2016 at 9:58 pm GMT

    BTW, this is a very good essay.
    Reply Agree•Disagree•Tweet This Commenter

    Massimo says:
    January 2, 2016 at 6:12 pm GMT

    This is a particularly well thought out and well researched post. Nice!
    Reply Agree•Disagree•Tweet This Commenter

    Roger Sweeny says:
    January 7, 2016 at 5:57 pm GMT

    I was gone for a week and when I got back I found two references to you at Marginal Revolution (one was for this; the other I forget). Nice to see you getting more exposure
    Reply Agree•Disagree•Tweet This Commenter

    Hey Razib, I luv u! Will you friend me on Facebook?

    Seriously though, would it help if I put “this was a very well thought out piece,” or “OMG you’re so brilliant!” as preface?

    Razib Khan
    says:

    January 10, 2016 at 6:19 am GMT

    new commenters: i moderate comments. so please don’t bother leaving long insulting diatribes. you can just email me ;-)

    Hi Razib. I know that having your work critiqued in public is “insulting” in south Asian culture, but here in Western Civilization we call it “free speech,” “open discourse,” “culture of critique,” and “a blog.” Facing it, or even ignoring it, rather than being a petty tyrant about it, is the mark of a man. This isn’t complicated. People who censor criticism of themselves, while allowing comments that are nothing more than praise, are practicing a self-serving bias. People who also lie and imply that they haven’t also deleted several posts that contained zero criticism, only commentary on the subject at hand, well, they’re liars.

    P.S., did you receive many such “insulting diatribes” about your work going through school? If not, it would explain a lot.

    ***

    South Asian lack of character: is it all in the genes, JayMan?

    Credit where it’s due, though, he did leave me a note to save me the trouble in future. That was nice of him.

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  7. Why Arabs Lose Wars

    I recently read that piece (linked by some helpful soul here in the Unz.com commentariat), and was reminded of it by Razib’s behavior. He may not be Arab, but we see the same sort of behavior from south Asians and other Muslim groups. It really offers a great deal of insight into SWANA character (which is probably genetic in origin), I highly recommend it.

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  8. Dear Charles,

    I have no love for the Saudis, neither did I have any love for Saddam or Qaddafi. But if the House of Saud collapses, what in the last decade and a half of Middle Eastern history would give you confidence that something better would come out of it? Thus far we have seen monsters replaced by many more tiny monsters. And it has a relatively modern air force, do we really want that in the hands of random extremist factions?

    Salafi/Wahhabi-Jihadism definitely has its roots in Saudi (also in Egypt) and unfortunately the cancer has spread. I really, really do pray something can be done to excise it without (more) massive bloodshed and suffering. Much of the Muslim world has been on war-footing for way too long without a break. This is radicalizing a lot of young men with nothing to do and thus the appeal of Jihadism has taken the place of the appeal of say the Sufi orders that are wide spread in so many countries that used to give young men focus.

    Iran can maybe help contain the influence of Saudi Arabia in the region, there is no way they are going to get involved in a quagmire in the sands of the Arabian peninsula with little hopes of gaining anything seriously positive out of it.

    I wish I had more of a optimistic view on it or even a hint at a solution. The only thing I think that may be a reasonable change is a transition away from the powerful influence of the Najd region over all of Saudi to the more moderate tribal influences progressively taking over due to civil disfavor of the current Saudi policies (foreign and economic). I really hope that the Mr. Cockburn’s comment that “None of these foreign adventures initiated by Prince Mohammed have been successful or are likely to be so, but they have won support for him at home” is not true.

    Hoping for a better tomorrow with you.

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  9. Ok here’s my take on it. The fall of the Sauds is a matter of time. It is only a question of when. I don’t think most Westerners have a clue as to what is happening on the ground there. I happened to meet recently someone who worked previously in intelligence (this happens a lot in the oil business) and is now retired. He still has extensive contacts. His view was that Saudi Arabia is the country that looks very vulnerable to collapse: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/oilprices/12081550/Saudi-showdown-with-Iran-nears-danger-point-for-world-oil-markets.html

    I have a theory about what is happening here with Iran. Although Sunnis are about 80-85 per cent of Muslims worldwide, if you look at where the oil is located in the Middle East, it is much more even – Iran is 90 per cent plus Shia, eastern Iraq (which sits on about 60 per cent or more of the reserves is Shia), Bahrain is majority Shia and in Saudi Arabia, the population sitting on the oil reserves (in the East along the coast that included Dhahran) is majority Shia – although the country as a whole is majority Sunni by about 85 per cent.

    Saudi Arabia started the “war” (without a name) with Iran by first hitting Assad in Syria (in addition to arming Sunni Arab militias in Iraq against Iran’s proxies in Iraq). Iran has now reciprocated by arming the Houthis in Yemen (who are Shia) who have some 500,000 fighters. There is no way that the Saudi joker army of Bedouins is ever going to win against the Houthtis who are being increasingly funded and trained by Iran to start resembling a Yemeni Hezbollah (and anyone who knows anything about the Middle East know that Hezbollah is the best Arab militia there is by a mile – ISIS faced them in some battles in Syria and got licked).

    Saudi Arabia has three problems today (or perhaps four or five): (1) the oil price is too low and their reserves are being depleted FAST; (2) the population has been kept sedated by bribes from the Sauds in an era of high oil prices even though they believe the Sauds are debauched; (3) the Sauds funded Wahhabists for decades many of whom now (like Bin Laden before him) want the Sauds ousted; (4) their leadership looks very vulnerable; (5) Yemen is costing Saudis “allegedly” around US$ 200 million per day. This might sound like a crazy figure but the Saudis are fighting this war with mercenaries because their own infantry is a joke (see above).

    The war in Yemen will be Saudi Arabia’s “Vietnam” except that Vietnam couldn’t bring America down for a variety of reasons obvious to most of us here. With Saudi, those considerations do not apply. Actually none of them apply. Iran’s “gameplan” where will be to topple the Sauds and grab the oil (which is in the East anyway and occupied by Shias) – the Al Qaeda and ISIS fanatics can, in the meantime, slaughter each other and the Iranians will not care. Also, the Sunni Arabs won’t be able to dislodge Iran once it gets the oil because the Iranians have always been superior fighters to the Arabs since at least the 10th century.

    The wildcard of course is America: will America intervene if the Sauds are toppled? I think Americans no longer have stomach for serious interventions. We shall see.

    • Agree: Bill Jones
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  10. Also, if America threatens to intervene in Saudi Arabia amidst a collapse of the regime and Russia sides with Iran openly, is America going to risk a war with Russia? And why would it suit Russia? As the world’s largest crude oil producer, Russia will benefit handsomely as Saudi production gets cut off from the markets and eventually Iran takes control. Russia and Iran have a mutuality of interests here. Saudis have long supported Chechens and other Jihadis in Russia and on its periphery including through their agent Erdogan in Turkey. In one fell swoop, they cut off the head of the snake and increase the value of their exports five fold.

    But Putin isn’t reckless. He won’t openly intervene until the time is “right”. That time will come when Iran’s proxies inflict enough damage to bring the Saudi regime to the brink of an abyss. In the West, people are usually clueless about such things. How many saw the collapse of the Shah’s regime coming before it happened? The Sauds have some of the same problems the Shah had – your average devout Sunni Arab in Saudi Arabia detests them for their debauchery (which is hardly a secret). So basically, all the Sauds have are hired friends. As well all know, those are the first to scram at the sign of trouble.

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  11. Razib is a narcissistic asshole, but I know exactly why he banned you. The fact that you’re so mad about it is one of the funnier things I’ve seen this week, so thanks for that, you amusing idiot.

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  12. Good analysis.

    Fracturing of SA and/or bankruptcy of SA will be a good thing.
    If it fractures into several little medieval princedoms, it won’t have the capacity to fund worldwide terror. The little princes will be in-fighting for years.
    Weapons flowing into terrorist hands in Syria is mostly funded by SA.
    West supplies the weapons, Turkey transports it to Syria, but SA provides the cash.
    SA has been funding and spreading terror for decades.
    SA also funds spreading of Islam into Europe.

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  13. Sounds very plausible…the less petro-dollar funding for salafi-wahabi-jihadism the better. However, I don’t think Iran will necessarily make a grab for that region if SA falls apart. I agree the Persians have been better fighters for centuries but they have also not been generally overtly aggressive beyond their borders for a while. If they make a grab for land, their old (serious) Sunni rivals – the Turks – may commit to a land grab too.

    Again, I couldn’t care if Saud falls, but these days nation states don’t seem to fall apart very cleanly. There is a lot of fallout and mayhem and unpredictable consequences.

    A side note – the attack on Yemen is one of the stupidest moves Saudis can make. Historically, Zaidis (which are the kind of shias the houthis are) are practically Sunni (they have more in common with sunnis in theology and jurisprudence than the twelvers) and this will only result in pushing them towards the twelver shiism of Iran if it does come to their aid.

    But again, that would be taking long-term consequences into account, something the Saudis seem completely inoculated from.

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  14. Saudi Arabia has three problems today (or perhaps four or five): (1) the oil price is too low and their reserves are being depleted FAST;

    Then why did they start dumping oil? That’s what Everyone says dropped the prices from their previous highs.

    The wildcard of course is America: will America intervene if the Sauds are toppled? I think Americans no longer have stomach for serious interventions. We shall see.

    I think you’re wrong about having the stomach. As for the likelihood, I think it’s pretty scary, even with Hussein in charge. At least 50-50.

    Also, if America threatens to intervene in Saudi Arabia amidst a collapse of the regime and Russia sides with Iran openly, is America going to risk a war with Russia?

    That would obviously depend on what you mean by “sides with Iran openly.” Is Iran invading Iraq? Saudi Arabia? In the latter case, yes, USG would invade, even if that “risked war with Russia.” In the former, maybe.

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  15. Saud dumping oil and sending price to rock bottom makes sense if the NATO powers have made loan guarantees so SA can ride it out while forcing hardship on ISIS/Russia/Iran/Jihadists/Frackers/Venezuela.

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  16. That interview was scary. bin Salman apparently already thinks of himself as king. Did you notice how it is “I” will do such-and such, and “My” borders and so forth, until he catches himself and starts using “we” and “our.”

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  17. violated - Occurrences
    says:
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    […] “Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: Naive, Arrogant Saudi Prince Is Playing with Fire”  “The clown prince”  The plan seems to be to put the blame all on the one princeling so the Saudis can pretend to fix the problem with a cabinet shuffle. […]

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  18. Saudis have long memories. In the 1970s when oil prices remained elevated for a long time, a lot of money went into offshore and deepwater oil etc (also in Arctic oil). The consequence of this was that in the 1980s there really was an oil glut (much more than is the case right now) – spare capacity in the 1980s was running at 7 million barrels per day. This assured super low prices for a very long time to come. Saudi Arabia wants to destroy all potential for such viable alternatives to emerge before they emerge. This includes not only Shale and Canadian tar sands but also ultra deepwater projects that require literally billions in investment and have a long gestation period. These prices have resulted in almost all of those being shelved. A classic case is Chevron’s proposed project in the Gulf of Mexico which was intended to be a 5 Billion investment. This has been shelved as well.

    It will take many years of sustained high prices for those to return. The Saudis are caught between two extremes (because they are one trick ponies): low prices haemorrhaging their reserves versus super high prices that encourage a lot of new exploration and development and thus more competition for Saudi crude.

    What Saudi Arabia is going is a gamble. They are taking the view that they can ride out these low prices for a year or so, kill all the major development projects and then slowly watch the price rise to the US$70 level. That’s my guess. Also, the fact that they have a 31 year old running the show makes it quite likely that this hasn’t necessarily been thought through.

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  19. Yes I agree with this. Saudi Arabia’s “version” of Islam has little leeway for local traditions. This has been the basic problem for a long time. This means that those that don’t adhere to the “pure” Wahhabi version deserve death and extermination.

    I am actually amazed at the extent to which Iranians are willing to be “flexible” – their allies range from hardcore “Twelver” Shiites (Iraq) to Zaidis in Yemen to a secular dictator like Assad (Syria). The Saudis seem incapable of doing this and must continually ram their version of Islam everywhere but not want it flourishing at home (as this would threaten rule by the royal family). Not very well thought through.

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  20. I am actually amazed at the extent to which Iranians are willing to be “flexible” – their allies range from hardcore “Twelver” Shiites (Iraq) to Zaidis in Yemen to a secular dictator like Assad (Syria). The Saudis seem incapable of doing this and must continually ram their version of Islam everywhere but not want it flourishing at home (as this would threaten rule by the royal family). Not very well thought through.

    The theory is that the Saudis support Wahhabism abroad precisely because they don’t want it at home. They give their jihadis money on condition they go take their radicalism elsewhere. They foment Wahhabism abroad to serve as magnets for jihadis, including their own.

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  21. {….I am actually amazed at the extent to which Iranians are willing to be “flexible” …}

    No surprise.

    Iranian/Persian civilization is several thousand years old.
    Predates Islam by maybe 2-3 thousand years. Maybe more.
    They have a sedentary, rich culture and civilization.
    They are peaceful.
    Haven’t attacked anyone in centuries.

    Saudis are desert nomads.
    If not for the demand for oil, created by the Western civilization, Saudis would still be riding their camels in the desert, migrating between oasis.

    Persian empires and Shahs have been tolerant of other faiths and peoples they conquered.
    Shah Abbas, who was fighting a desperate war with Muslim Turks, forcibly moved several hundred thousand Christian Armenians from their homeland in Caucasus to Iran, then scorched the lands to deprive Turks of food and farm animals. It was no picnic, of course. Large numbers of Armenians died on the way. But Shah Abbas built new towns and new churches for the forcibly migrated Armenians. He strictly forbade neighboring Iranian Muslims to bother the newly arrived Christians in any way.

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  22. This is a very fine point, but on the nail.

    The official Grand Muftis of Saudi Arabia (though essentially Wahhabi) have been very clear in denouncing terrorism and even ISIS.

    Just google “grand mufti saudi ISIS”…

    They have been in turn denounced by salafi-wahaabi-jihadists for being ‘scholars for dollars’ and sellouts. And there is definitely an undercurrent within some of the Islamic institutions in Saudi that happen to churn out these types. Basically these are dogs who have turned rabid and are under nobody’s control. The best thing to do is toss them meat well, well beyond your borders.

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  23. What a stretch – calling Mohammed bin Headchopper (Salman) naive!!!!

    Next, Cocokburn will call ISIS naive, since there is little difference between the two? No, not really. The Saudis pay handsome money to the Cockburn’s owners, the British regime. This is why they are “naive”.

    Yet, the only naives are the readers who consume Cockburn’s rubbish.

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  24. Who pays you to write such rubbish? You write like a Saudi-paid troll? You even have “a debate” with this other character:

    these are dogs who have turned rabid and are under nobody’s control

    This is pure Saudi propaganda. Poor al Sauds, they can chop-off all these Shiite heads, but they cannot prevent their own Sunni (Wahhabi and Salafi) terrorists from wrecking havoc in the nearby countries!

    It is true that the Saudis practice hands-off manipulation of the terrorist field forces – Mohammed bin Headchopper does not give orders to ISIS. It is also true that almost all of terrorists in Syria, especially Al Nusra, but also ISIS are paid by the Saudis. Finally, be careful about your trolling payment, the Saudi budget has been heading into red after Mohammed bin Headchopper started so many wars and terrorist interventions during a very low oil price.

    unz.com is definitely becoming a high-trolling zone.

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  25. Sorry, you got the wrong guy – no love for the Sauds – if you read my other posts. But I am very cautious about what may happen if they fall. Seeing what I have, for the last 15 years, I am not so optimistic it will be a better option.

    That is not just my opinion, but the opinion of conservative stalwarts like Bill Lind:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/can-we-hurt-the-islamic-state/

    “The decline of the state is happening even faster in the Middle East because many of its states were artificial creations to begin with. That is true of Libya, Syria, and Iraq, among others. Such states can function, as Saddam’s Iraq did. But they are brittle. Once shattered, no one can put them back together again. And America specializes in shattering states, gleefully, in the name of “liberal democracy.” The de facto Arabic translation of that phrase, re-translated into English, is “anarchy.”

    So what should America do in the face of ISIS? The answer: isolate ourselves from the spreading stateless disorder and Fourth Generation war not only in the Middle East but wherever it appears.”

    Believe what you want about me, Bill Lind has far higher credentials in this sphere (and generally not known to be on the Saudi payroll) and has been warning that the worst thing we can do at this point is break down any more countries that have some semblance of a nation-state still together – whether their policies are repulsive to us or not.

    Debate all we want about what or what not to do about stateless refugees in Europe. Best remedy is not to spill the milk in the first place instead of mopping it up. The Sauds have advanced weaponry, surface to air missiles, MANPADS, etc. I definitely do not want that falling into terrorist hands. And guaranteed, these rabid dogs will eventually come back to bite their owner – just a matter of time.

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  26. Ok, maybe you are maybe you are not a Saudi paid troll. Any sensible person would agree that no-one knows what could replace al-Sauds, but equally, nobody knows who could bring down Al Sauds in the first place. They pay USUK very good money for protection and they get it. SA Shiites may have most of the Saudi oil under their feet, but nobody could even imagine them seceding from SA, even with Iran’s help. Therefore, Mohammed bin Headchopper will keep chopping of heads with total impunity. There will be lots of the usual MSM blah, blah and absolutely nothing will change. This is because so many USUK politicians and presstitutes (such as Cockburn) are on the said Saudi payroll.

    Al Sauds will keep doing whatever they want for a long, long time because they have the money to pay for any crime they like.

    The last card they could play, if it ever came to this, is to get the Pakistani nukes which they paid for and nuke Iran.

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  27. I generally agree with what you are saying with slight differences. You say the Saudis will keep doing what they want for a long, long time. I believe the crux of Mr. Cockburn’s argument and that of others is that they definitely have been for a long, long time but the convergence of; 1. Bad governance, 2. Low oil prices and 3. Completely unsustainable foreign policy (including antagonism of Iran) is basically the writing on the wall and is the Rubicon that they have crossed and probably won’t recover from.

    My only thoughts on this matter were that people seemed far too gleeful in their comments about it and it reminded me of the jubilation I saw after Saddam’s fall. And then the stuff hit the fan…big time. That is why I am taking a very cautious approach about whether this fall of Saud (though it may be an overdue comeuppance) may not be a positive development for the world as a whole.

    Second, I used to think the Pakistanis would back the Saudis full hilt in any decision, since they have such historic military ties, but then the war in Yemen happened and they were invited and basically said ‘thanks but we’ll sit this one out’ with massive popular backing. So I think they are also seeing Saudi policy as a liability and taking measures to step back slowly.

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  28. I do understand your points, although I do not fully agree. There is nothing under the sun, except for US and UK economies hitting a brick wall and countries falling apart, that would prevent Mohammed bin Headchopper doing what he wants. Only naive people would believe that the oil price will remain at $40/barrel, when it will probably go back to $70/barrel within the next 3 years. Saudi oil is still one of the cheapest to extract, and although it may not last into the reign of some son of Mohammed bin Headchopper, the Saudi oil will last till his old age. Besides, he is using the accumulated Saudi wealth (reserves) to wage all these anti-Shiite wars.

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  29. You are correct regarding Saudi finances taking a fall – the latest gossip is that Saudi Arabia wants to privatize its national oil company, Aramco. If this goes through, the rollout would be in the Trillions of Dollars. Obviously, the Saudis have observed that commodities are in a depression, while the “dollar pumpers” on Wall Street are not in a depression. Saudi Arabia is in for one helluva of a fall, and they want to cash out if they can and soften the crash, but their timing is horrible. Not only is the market value of oil turning back into dinosaur poop, but the World is “dedollarizing” and they totally pegged to the dollar. Rich people going broke are dangerous.

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  30. The Saudi Monarchy has kept its people quiet by providing all and sundry to them, education food etc etc, but if we look at the current fire sales going on in Saudi Arabia where there are reports of the selling of major refineries and such!

    Why would the Saudis sell off infrastructure they own, unless their decision to lower oil prices has in fact caused them to have serious money problems, watch whether the price of gold starts to drop it would be a good indication that they are in serious trouble and off loading!

    All is not good in Saudi Arabia with rash decisions being made! A new inexperienced King who has ideas of grandeur as to his place in the Arab World!

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  31. Arabs may have lost major wars because Israel receives most modern arms from Zionist-controlled governments in the US, UK, Germany, France, and Russia. But, the Islamic resistance militia, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, are on record of kicking Israel’s Zionist Jewish butts on several occasions.

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HJ13Ak01.html

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  32. Of COURSE saudi arabia is the source of terrorism …. the “house of saud” is JEWISH.

    http://themillenniumreport.com/2015/12/is-the-saudi-royal-family-jewish/

    http://stateofthenation2012.com/?p=28219

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  33. Collapse of the Saud regime is a good thing, something that is long overdue. They have been $%$#king over everyone, including the West for a long time with their propagation of virulent anti non-muslim ideology. In the short term there will be a mess to clean up but in the long term the collapse of the Saud/Wahabhi regime is good for everyone.

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  34. Arabs may have lost major wars because Israel receives most modern arms from Zionist-controlled governments in the US, UK, Germany, France, and Russia. But, the Islamic resistance militia, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, are on record of kicking Israel’s Zionist Jewish butts on several occasions.

    Couldn’t bring yourself to actually read the piece, could you?

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