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How Dangerous Is Saudi Arabia's Change in Royal Succession?

Posted on Jun 21, 2017
By Juan Cole / Informed Comment
The struggle for power in the Trump White House [...] is hard to top. But Saudi Arabia just topped it.
King Salman fired the crown prince Wednesday and made his son, Mohammed bin Salman, heir apparent.The new crown prince is a foreign policy adventurer and hard liner who said just last month that there can be no compromise with Iran.
The octogenarian King Salman acceded to the throne in January of 2015. He has made several changes in his cabinet since then, but by last year the two most important figures in it were Muhammad bin Naif, 57, his nephew and the now-former crown prince, and Mohammed bin Salman, 32, the King's son.
Muhammad bin Naif had become the minister of the interior, a position his father had also filled at one point, and was known as master of the deep state. He had taken the lead in the war on terror in 2003 to 2006, when al-Qaeda launched a concerted attempt to undermine the kingdom through terrorism. He was known for his iron fist policy and for filling jails with suspects. U.S. CIA director Mike Pompeo recently gave him an award.
Mohammed bin Salman did not have much of a resume before his father made him minister of defense. In spring of 2015 he launched a devastating air war on the Houthi guerrilla group in northwest Yemen believing it was a slam dunk. It is still dragging on with no end in sight. The war has disregarded humanitarian considerations and deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure. At one point after he launched the war, Mohammed bin Salman went off on vacation to the Maldives and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter couldn't get hold of him despite the urgency of the situation.Both men seem to have supported the Yemen War. Muhammad bin Naif had a longer history in the Syrian conflict, but both seem to have backed Salafi jihadis like the Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) and the later formation of an alliance of the Freemen of Syria with the al-Qaeda affiliate, the Syrian Conquest Front (formerly Nusra).
Mohammed bin Salman was identified in addition with a scheme to cut pensions and benefits for government workers and to begin privatizing the state owned petroleum giant. The king undid the pension and benefits cuts just before making his son the crown prince, and gave him the credit for the change.
It isn't clear that the two cousins had any strong ideological differences with one another, but they just did not like one another. Muhammad bin Salman seems to be as ambitious as he is sloppy, and wanted to move his cousin out of the way.
Saudi Arabia had been using an agnatic succession model, where the brother of the king is given preference over the son of the king.
The Third Saudi kingdom was founded by Ibn Saud in 1902. He and his ancestors had an alliance with the ultra-conservative Wahhabi clerics. He initially only had Najd in the interior, but in 1913 he added Shiite Eastern Arabia (where the oil turned out to be), and in 1924 to 1926 added the Sunni Hejaz on the Red Sea littoral. In 1932 a united Saudi Kingdom was announced. Ibn Saudi died in 1953. One of his many wives, Hassa bint Ahmad al-Sudairi, had given him 7 sons, the largest bloc of men eligible for the throne, who tended to support each other vis-a-vis other branches. In the 1930s, Saudi Arabia struck oil and the royal family became fabulously wealthy. Sometimes members of the royal family have caused scandals with how they have spent it.
Salman is a Sudairi, as are Muhammad bin Naif and Mohammed bin Salman; the latter were the first of Ibn Saud's grandsons to have a shot at the throne.
Mohammed bin Salman is also the first Millennial (born in 1985) to have the prospect of succeeding to power. His father is advanced in age.
The new crown prince is known to be both reckless and sloppy. His irrational hatred for Iran could well lead to a military confrontation. His Yemen and Syria policies are in tatters. He has fallen out with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. He is trying to squash the independence of neighboring Qatar. Some European investment firms are afraid he will upset the world's apple carts so much it will hurt all our retirement accounts.

Saudi coup.
Magda Hassan Wrote:Saudi coup.

The whole 'nation' [really family farm/desert] is and always has been anti-democratic, anti-women, anti-modern [except weaponry], and family oligarchy interlaced with oligarchs and oligarchic nations around the World. It was bad. Now, it is worse. They are killing everyone in Yemen, intent on destroying Iran and probably having the US do it for them, kicking Qatar out of the GCC and closing down Al Jazeera for supporting the Arab Spring et al. Trump is being used in the most recent move to the right - as they saw an opportunity with him to pull of things no other US President would allow. The Middle East was in horrible shape a week ago. Now, it is near destruction with 'Washington's blessing'. Even Prince Bandar - as right-wing and CIA connected, anti-shia, pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian [incredibly], anti-poor, idiot son of the current head of the house of Said is now next in line. Nothing good can come of this and the suffering/death of millions or nuclear war could easily follow. Thank you Donald for sword-dancing and orb-touching with the Borg.
The arms deal was actually Obama's which Trump signed off on. The orb thing was really weird ::lilgreenman::

Four Countries Demand Qatar Shut Down Aljazeera

Posted on Jun 23, 2017
By Juan Cole / Informed Comment
In a bid completely to return the Middle East to the old system of strict government media censorship, four countries have demanded that Qatar close down the Aljazeera television channel.
Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates made the demands formally via Kuwait, which is attempting to mediate the dispute between the four countries and Qatar. The list also included a demand that Qatar close its diplomatic mission in Iran and largely cut that country off, as well as a demand that it cut off the Muslim Brotherhood.Aljazeera, from the late 1990s, emerged as a fresh voice on the Arab media scene. Its philosophy was to report all sides of an issue. They routinely interviewed Israeli officials. They brought on U.S. State Department spokesmen.
In 2011 when the youth revolts broke out in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Bahrain, the existence of an independent satellite television station that reported events relatively dispassionately was important. The Ben Ali regime in Tunisia had secret police fire on people and put them in the morgue or the hospital, and then it lied, denying that there were any casualties. Ben Ali's son-in-law controlled much of the media that wasn't directly in government hands.
Even Hillary Clinton, who on the whole did not approve of the youth movement, said she thought that Aljazeera did a good job of reporting these dramatic events.
Aljazeera has less independence now than it did in 2011, but it is still a wide-ranging voice that would be sorely missed if it ceased broadcast. It is accused of abetting the Muslim Brotherhood, but I don't find that it gives the group much air time. As for Iran, you almost never see Iran news on Aljazeera.The revolutions of 2011-2012 in the Middle East unseated Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Moammar Gadaffi of Libya, and (for a while) Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen.
The four hawkish countries that made the demand that Aljazeera be closed are autocracies that enjoyed their previous media monopoly, and who are determined that nothing like 2011 ever happen again.
The joke used to be that Dubai-based al-Arabiya reported on everything but Saudi Arabia, and Aljazeera reported on everything but Qatar, but if you put them together, you could find out almost everything.
That joke would go onto the trash heap of history if Saudi Arabia and Egypt get their way.