Author Topic: Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula  (Read 64399 times)


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Re: Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula
« Reply #200 on: November 29, 2018, 04:16:32 AM »
Well expressed!  I went looking for evidence that he is MB or jihad supporting but he was not going to openly put that it a tweet.


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Re: Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula
« Reply #202 on: December 09, 2018, 02:09:17 PM »
" Tablet is very much a Dem/Progressive publication, but here it forthrightly defends President Trump "

of course ,  who if they are really  being honest thinks we should ditch our whole Mid East policy for this one freakin guy?
(only the trump deranged . they go to bed unable to sleep they can't focus during the day with 24 hr hate of Trump and thus us)

oBama did business with China  though they murder and torture and imprison all those who go against the Party.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2018, 01:22:26 PM by ccp »


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Re: Saudi Arabia, More on Khashoggi
« Reply #203 on: December 13, 2018, 01:11:23 PM »

I don't know the author or the accuracy.

"Khashoggi represented everything that is repressive and repugnant about journalism in the Arab world. Why is he so honored?"

"Khashoggi became rich working for a Saudi royal family that was, and remains, among the world’s worst persecutors of journalists. He edited government-controlled Saudi newspapers, which are without exception regime propaganda outlets, and headed TV news channels that were owned by Saudi princes.

Then he outdid himself by working as a media adviser to a senior Saudi prince in London and Washington. He embraced with unbridled enthusiasm his role of justifying Saudi regime atrocities in the Western media. He even denied on the BBC that anyone was ever tortured in Saudi Arabia."
We've heard about the brutality of his murder.  I don't know if we've heard the motive.  He knew something...

We heard over and over he was a "journalist".  I somehow don't think that was all of it.

I'm not justifying torture or gruesome murder in the least, just want to get at the whole story someday.


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WSJ: The Senate on the Saudis
« Reply #204 on: December 16, 2018, 02:28:12 AM »
The Senate on the Saudis
A phony gesture on War Powers but a useful statement on Khashoggi.
By The Editorial Board
Dec. 13, 2018 7:21 p.m. ET
Senator Bernie Sanders speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending U.S. military support for the war in Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Dec. 13.
Senator Bernie Sanders speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending U.S. military support for the war in Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Dec. 13. Photo: joshua roberts/Reuters

Donald Trump scrambles political categories, and the latest evidence is Thursday’s Senate vote to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The President who is so often criticized for wanting to retreat from the world and not standing by allies was rebuked for refusing to abandon an ally in a proxy war with Iran.

The Senate voted 56-41 for a bill sponsored by Vermont Socialist Bernie Sanders and Utah Republican Mike Lee to invoke the 1973 War Powers Resolution and yank U.S. troops home within 30 days. Never mind that the Pentagon says U.S. forces assisting the Saudis aren’t in harm’s way and thus the War Powers Resolution doesn’t apply. We’d go further and say this is also an unconstitutional intrusion on a President’s power as Commander in Chief.

But all 49 Democrats voted for it, as did seven Republicans. They had the political luxury of knowing the bill is going nowhere in the House this year. There’s nothing more senatorial than voting for something you know won’t pass and calling it an “historic victory,” as Mr. Sanders did.

The more useful effort was a resolution sponsored by Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker that condemned the Saudi murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and held Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible. The resolution passed unanimously, and while it won’t change U.S. policy, it is a warning to the White House and Saudis that America has values as well as interests to defend. The President’s political freedom narrows when Democrats control the House next year. Mr. Trump could lose control over foreign policy, and the U.S.-Saudi alliance, if he doesn’t somehow recognize the bipartisan disgust at the Khashoggi murder.


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Saudi Khashoggi, Qatari agent at the Wash Post
« Reply #205 on: December 25, 2018, 05:59:52 AM »

His columns and paychecks came right out of enemy propoganda.


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Re: Saudi Khashoggi, Qatari agent at the Wash Post
« Reply #206 on: December 26, 2018, 04:02:47 PM »

His columns and paychecks came right out of enemy propoganda.

December 26, 2018
Washington Post More or Less Confirms That Jamal Khashoggi Was a Paid Qatari Intelligence/Propaganda Asset
I can see how American "journalists" would regard this as the normal state of affairs and not really that different from a plain ol' "journalist."

Many journalists in the US are paid by Fusion GPS to plant Fusion stories, which in turn were funded by interested parties including foreign governments.

Quotes from the Washington Post below, with commentary added by streiff from RedState.

Perhaps most problematic for Khashoggi were his connections to an organization funded by Saudi Arabia’s regional nemesis, Qatar. Text messages between Khashoggi and an executive at Qatar Foundation International show that the executive, Maggie Mitchell Salem, at times shaped the columns he submitted to The Washington Post, proposing topics, drafting material and prodding him to take a harder line against the Saudi government. Khashoggi also appears to have relied on a researcher and translator affiliated with the organization, which promotes Arabic-language education in the United States.

Khashoggi was never a staff employee of the Post, and he was paid about $500 per piece for the 20 columns he wrote over the course of the year. He lived in an apartment near Tysons Corner in Fairfax County that he had purchased while working at the Saudi Embassy a decade earlier. [Note: how did he live in the DC Metro area for about $10K/year?]

Khashoggi also appears to have accepted significant help with his columns. Salem, the executive at the Qatar foundation, reviewed his work in advance and in some instances appears to have proposed language, according to a voluminous collection of messages obtained by The Post. [Journalists accepting "significant help" from government operatives in writing stories is a fact of how journalism is conducted in the Middle East, the Post eliding over this speaks volumes.]

In early August, Salem prodded Khashoggi to write about Saudi Arabia's alliances "from DC to Jerusalem to rising right wing parties across Europe...bringing an end to the liberal world order that challenges their abuses at home."

Khashoggi expressed misgivings about such a strident tone, then asked, "So do you have time to write it?"

So in other words, Khashoggi was largely just a frontman for anti-Saudi propaganda written by an operative of the Saudi's chief Arab rival, Qatar.

"I'll try," she replied, although she went on to urge him to "try a draft" himself incorporating sentences that she had sent him by text. A column reflecting their discussion appeared in The Post on Aug. 7. Khashoggi appears to have used some of Salem's suggestions, though it largely tracks ideas that he expressed in their exchange over the encrypted app WhatsApp.

Other texts in the 200-page trove indicate that Salem’s organization paid a researcher who did work for Khashoggi. The foundation is an offshoot of a larger Qatar-based organization. Khashoggi also relied on a translator who worked at times for the Qatari embassy and the foundation.


On Oct. 3, one day after Khashoggi's death, while his fate remained uncertain, his researcher contacted The Post to say that he had a draft of a column that Khashoggi had begun writing before his disappearance. It was published two weeks later. [The likelihood that Khashoggi's last column was ghostwritten to take advantage of his disappearance by making him appear to be an Arabian Thomas Jefferson approaches certainty.]

streiff quotes Dave Reaboi of the Strategic Studies Group noting that it doesn't make sense for the Washington Post to reveal that the man they've been painting as a patriotic martyr for two months was in fact a shabby operative working for a government hostile to his native country except if the Washington Post knew that there were rumors about these texts and possible payments to Khashoggi and they sought to get ahead of a story they knew could no longer be suppressed.


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WSJ: Where is Crown Prince Mohammed?
« Reply #207 on: February 12, 2019, 08:03:06 AM »

Where Is Crown Prince Mohammed?
Out of public view, he attempts to control Saudi society with a combination of dread and circuses.
By Karen Elliott House
Feb. 11, 2019 6:44 p.m. ET
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

This is the winter of Mohammed bin Salman’s discontent. The young crown prince is beset on all sides by problems that would depress or deter most leaders, but there is no sign that his optimism or energy are flagging. Whether sheer determination will be enough to secure his success, however, seems more in doubt than ever.

Many of the crown prince’s challenges come from overseas. His international reputation is stained by the killing of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The U.S. Congress is increasingly determined to block arms sales to Riyadh for its stalemated war in Yemen. Then there’s the Saudis’ festering feud with Turkey, and their cold war with Iran. Finally, a global economic slowdown could erode oil demand, lower prices and diminish the revenue the kingdom badly needs to fund its biggest budget ever.

But the crown prince’s international challenges pale in comparison with those at home. His Vision 2030 plan to transform the kingdom foresees a vibrant private sector to wean the country off its dependence on oil revenues and its citizens off dependence on government. This vision—the product of more than $1 billion in consulting fees—already is proving overly ambitious in scope and time.

Over the past two years, consumer spending has collapsed and more than a million migrant residents have returned to neighboring South Asian countries as a result of the crown prince’s reforms. The Saudi private sector, long dependent on government contracts, was knocked to its knees by the government’s decision to halt contract payments to assess corruption. Riyadh’s moves to slash energy subsidies and raise non-oil revenues—by imposing levies on foreign workers as well as assessing a value-added tax on most sales—have also hit the economy hard.

In the capital, the heady optimism of previous years is giving way to a realization that change won’t be quick or painless. “We are trying to correct 50 years of bad policies in three to five years,” says one businessman. “It can’t be done.” An economist says of the crown prince: “The consultants sold him a development plan that can’t be done on the timetable given. It took South Korea 30 years to develop, why should Saudi think we can do it in 15?”

The crown prince has two responses to the dimming prospects of his reform program. On one hand, he seeks to distract Saudis with circuses. He has imported rock stars for concerts, has started construction near Riyadh of a new entertainment city three times the size of Disney World, and is developing a tourist industry that could open Saudi Arabia for the first time to millions of foreign visitors. These initiatives risk offending the most conservative Saudis while frustrating middle-class families for whom the new entertainment is unaffordable. Tickets to see Mariah Carey perform last month went for $80 to $500. The average office manager earns $4,000 a month but ordinary workers earn half that.

Yet while the crown prince gives with one hand, he takes with the other. Saudi Arabia has never been an open society, but the current government is clamping down on almost every form of actual and potential opposition. The space for public discussion—much less criticism—has over the past two years narrowed to nonexistent, even on social media. A liberal Saudi who used to tweet regularly says he has quit for fear that anything could lead to arrest. A conservative Saudi notes that “such exaggerated security control makes people ready to explode.”

But neither dread nor circuses are solving the problem. One father tells me he abhors that bargain. His teenage son has been in prison for two years because teachers reported to authorities a remark deemed treasonous. “When I visit him, I see Saudi mothers dressed in tight jeans and bare faces visiting their sons in prison,” he says. “I wonder, do they believe the freedom to dress like that is a fair trade for their sons having no freedom to speak?”

To be sure, not all Saudis feel alienated. Young women, especially, enjoy a measure of personal freedom that seemed unimaginable a year ago. More are moving into significant jobs. Crown Prince Mohammed is personally popular with progressive young Saudis who want the kingdom to enter the 21st century. Many have his smiling face as the screen saver on their iPhones.

Even businessmen disappointed with the pace of progress still credit the crown prince with his economic reform—notwithstanding the wreckage in the private sector along the way. The young ruler also has the support of the two men who matter most: President Trump and King Salman, who has given no indication of abandoning his ambitious son.

Since the Khashoggi killing, the king has assumed a more active public role, meeting foreign dignitaries without his son at his side. But by all indications the crown prince remains entirely in control of the levers of power. Government ministers still are hauled in regularly to report to him. Some are fired for failing to meet the targets of the Vision 2030, plan, whose 1,300 initiatives are tracked and reported quarterly to him by a new government entity.

The kingdom’s religious conservatives have been silenced if not entirely subdued. And members of the extended Al Saud family have been reduced to playing roles in a supportive chorus or sitting silently in their palaces. A royal relative as prominent as Prince Al Waleed bin Talal, who once strutted on the Saudi stage, now appears publicly as a hapless courtier. No one has failed to grasp the message the crown prince sent by incarcerating his royal relatives in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in November 2017 and freeing most only after taking $106 billion.

If the royal family is quieted, normal Saudi families face a new type of tension. This is a society in which men traditionally have ruled while women and children obeyed. No longer. Male domination is under challenge as more women seek financial independence. When men object, women can and do cite royal decrees affirming their rights to work and drive without a male guardian’s consent. “On the outside we hear change, change,” says a Saudi sociologist. “But inside the walls of every house there is war about who gets to make decisions.”

This is the winter of discontent not only for the crown prince, but also for the society he rules. Still, the chaos in surrounding states seem to resign most Saudis to grudging patience with their prince.

Ms. House, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, is author of “On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines—and Future” (Knopf, 2012).


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America and nuclear power for Saudi Arabia?
« Reply #208 on: March 09, 2019, 07:23:48 AM »
I've not read this with care yet, but what I have read shows not a little bit of superficiality but OTOH there most certainly is something to keep an eye on here.

OTOH, this is just stupid:  "Iran, a mortal enemy of Saudi Arabia, will have no choice but to begin a nuclear weapons program if the Saudis build nuclear reactors. "
« Last Edit: March 09, 2019, 07:30:52 AM by Crafty_Dog »


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Re: America and nuclear power for Saudi Arabia?
« Reply #209 on: March 10, 2019, 09:58:36 AM »
OTOH, this is just stupid:  "Iran, a mortal enemy of Saudi Arabia, will have no choice but to begin a nuclear weapons program if the Saudis build nuclear reactors. "

Yes, just stupid.  Iran doesn't need another motive; they have been pursuing this decades and had the completion of their nuclear path paved by the Obama Iran deal.  The problem now is vice versa.

They call Kushner the half-wit son-in-law, then write this:  "Iran, is closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)."  Who then is the half-wit?  If the IAEA really had control over these things, the threat of Saudi going from power generation to weapons would be nil.

Saudi's most immediate motive is Iran's pursuit and the world non-proliferation agreement was wrecked by the free world tolerating the programs of NK, Pakistan, Iran and others.

The article starts with this point:  "...decision to share sensitive nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia and authorize U.S. companies to build nuclear reactors in that country."

Can't we separate those decisions, build and operate a carbon-free nuclear power plant in Saudi at their expense without sharing all the technology?   Why not lease the land and sell them the energy or charge them the costs?

Prior to Obama paving Iran's path we were speculating that Bush-Cheney would conduct an Ozarik-like strike on Iran's facilities before they left office and they didn't.  Cheney lost influence in the second term and Bush lost or never had the nerve.  Like Clinton on NK, Bush kicked the can down the road, left the world more dangerous.  Now the goal of non-proliferation is in the rear view mirror.  India needed nuclear because of Pak, or is it the other way around?  Japan needs nuclear because of NK and China.  Saudi because of Iran.  Israel because of existential threat from all directions and so on.  Put all those "secrets" back in the bottle?  Good luck.  I doubt Saudi needs US help.  If snubbed by the US they can change their alliances.

Meanwhile there is a power generation issue on earth between nuclear power and fossil fuels.  Which one is really the existential threat?  IF it really is fossil fuels, we better start building the nuclear plants.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2019, 10:49:44 AM by DougMacG »


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Stratfor: Why Saudi Arabia and US will diverge
« Reply #210 on: March 15, 2019, 06:14:08 PM »
Why the U.S. and Saudi Arabia Are Destined to Diverge
By Matthew Bey
Senior Global Analyst, Stratfor
Matthew Bey
Matthew Bey
Senior Global Analyst, Stratfor
U.S. President Donald Trump leads a U.S. delegation at a working lunch with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his aides.
(KEVIN DIETSCH - Pool/Getty Images)
Save As PDF

    The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States has long been a volatile one, but that volatility will become more frequent in the coming decades, outgrowing some of the personal relationships that provide its framework today.
    U.S.-Saudi cooperation has always been based on common interests rather than common needs. While those interests have changed over time, they are now entering a phase in which they will not be as closely aligned.
    The shale revolution and its effect on global energy markets is driving Saudi Arabia ever-closer to Russia and China economically and politically.
    An ascendant China will force the United States to complete its pivot toward Asia, with a resulting reduction in the attention it pays toward the Middle East. More and more often, Riyadh will struggle to get on the same page as Washington in balancing against China.

President Donald Trump's current enthusiasm for Saudi Arabia notwithstanding, the relationship between the United States and perhaps its most important ally in the Middle East is undergoing a significant transformation. U.S. political pressure on Saudi Arabia is rising, led by a growing congressional discomfort over the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen and the circumstances surrounding the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Beneath the surface of the politics of the day, a pair of more significant geopolitical shifts is helping pull the longtime allies apart: the evolution of the global system away from U.S. dominance toward an intensifying, near-peer competition with China, as well as the fundamental reshaping of the global oil and gas markets upon which Saudi Arabia has built its wealth and power. As both countries adjust to these changing dynamics, their shared strategic relationship will evolve away from the foundation of oil, counterterrorism and the mutual desire to contain Iran. It's likely that, as those changes play out, the countries' future priorities will not align as they have in past decades.
The Big Picture

The fundamental relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia is changing dramatically and will continue to undergo significant shifts over the next two decades. Their alliance has always been beset by complications — becoming downright antagonistic at times — but the distance will only grow as their mutual strategic importance declines in the coming years.
See The U.S. and the Balance of Power
See The Saudi Survival Strategy
A Relationship Built on Pragmatism

Despite their obvious differences, Saudi Arabia and the United States have maintained a nearly eight-decade friendship. From the beginning, the U.S.-Saudi relationship has rested on mutual needs, not necessarily shared values. A meeting in the waning weeks of World War II aboard the USS Quincy between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz (better known in the West as Ibn Saud) set the stage for their countries' close ties. The stark contrast between the lands that they governed could not have been more apparent. Roosevelt, arguably the leader of the world's most powerful and industrially advanced country, had just attended the Yalta Conference, where he helped decide the postwar future of the globe. King Abdulaziz, on the other hand, came from one of the least developed countries in the Middle East, its oil industry still in its infancy.

Almost three-quarters of a century later, the countries' differences remain just as stark. The United States, which touts one of the world's most liberal economies, is a democracy that prides itself on religious and cultural tolerance. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, a state that derives legitimacy from a religious foundation, is one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies with little space for political opposition. Although Saudi Arabia has worked to shed its image of intolerance, there's only so much it can do. Unlike U.S. relationships with allies that possess a shared set of values, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, Saudi-U.S. ties are based on pragmatism at their core. Although they share interests in certain areas, significant disagreements on others will remain.

History has borne this out.

At the time of the USS Quincy meeting, Saudi Arabia had been looking to establish a close alliance with an outside patron capable of pushing back against colonial interests in the Middle East. The United Kingdom, which controlled most of the surrounding Middle Eastern territory, certainly eyed the monarchy's newfound oil reserves. The United States, meanwhile, also wanted access to Saudi Arabia's oil but had little desire to forge a colonial empire. This drove the two together, as did mutual opposition to the rise of communism, which threatened the legitimacy of the monarchy. But their relationship over the next three decades was not without its complications. As far as Saudi Arabia was concerned, the United States would not drop its support for Israel and would not budge far enough on the Palestine issue, eventually leading to two oil embargoes.

The fall of the shah of Iran in 1979 pushed their relationship in a different direction. This time, the United States and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia found themselves on the same side of the issue — with the Shiite-led Islamic Republic of Iran on the other. The Americans and the Saudis still were fighting communists, as their cooperation against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan evidenced, although once the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the battle against communism as a unifying priority. Just a few years after the Cold War ended, however, another common foe emerged: Iraq's Saddam Hussein. The Gulf War and subsequent U.S. dual containment policy targeting both Iraq and Iran in the 1990s brought the United States and Saudi Arabia closer together. But other events over the years have also pushed them apart. The Iran-Contra affair complicated the relationship in the 1980s, while the rise of the global jihadist movement emanating from the Wahhabism sect, which is closely identified with Saudi Arabia, added another wrinkle, particularly after 9/11.
This timeline shows key events in the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

For most of their history as allies, Saudi Arabia has needed the United States more than vice versa. From the beginning, King Abdulaziz needed the United States to provide a counterweight to the United Kingdom. Later, the United States provided a powerful buttress girding the monarchy against populist movements, including communism. Today, Saudi Arabia counts on Washington to support its struggle against Iran and help it battle transnational militant groups. At every step, Saudi Arabia has had to appeal to the United States by proving its utility to Washington.
A World that is Shaken, not Stirred

Two significant geopolitical shifts are altering the fundamental way that Saudi Arabia and the United States interact: the dramatic transformation in global energy markets and the rise of China, which is reducing the dominance of the U.S.-led Western order that emerged after the Cold War.

The shale revolution in the United States is driving U.S. crude oil production to record levels — more than 12 million barrels per day (bpd) — far eclipsing the 5 million bpd it produced just a decade ago. Rystad Energy projects that by 2025, the United States will become a net exporter of crude, with production of about 16 million bpd. And 2018 marked the first time in three decades that the United States imported less than 1 million bpd from Saudi Arabia.

Unsurprisingly, the astronomical rise in U.S. oil production has caused major ripples in global oil markets, contributing to the glut that caused oil prices to plummet below $100 a barrel in 2014. Riyadh's desire to balance the increasing U.S. supplies has prompted it to lead the effort by OPEC and other major producers to trim production — something that has driven Saudi Arabia closer to Russia. The close cooperation that both countries must achieve in order to micromanage oil markets is driving their political cooperation on other levels as well.
These graphs show oil production in the United States and Saudi Arabia.

As the United States' thirst for its oil decreases, Saudi Arabia has pivoted more forcefully to Asia to find alternative markets. Increasing Chinese consumption and falling production make it an attractive substitute. Thus, China, along with the rest of Asia, represents Saudi Arabia's oil market of the future. And as with Russia, the growing economic interdependence is driving political cooperation at the highest level between Riyadh and Beijing.

To be clear, even though U.S. dependence on oil from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East has fallen, that does not mean that it is losing significant interest in maintaining stable energy production in the region. Any crisis in the Middle East that would reverberate through the global economy would bring the United States – which is deeply tied to the global financial system – down with it. Beyond 2030, however, even this could shift as alternative energy sources, electric vehicles and battery technology continue to alter the structure of energy geopolitics.
Toward a Multipolar World

After the Cold War ended, the United States was left standing as the global system's dominant power. But with China's emergence, that is evolving into a more multipolar structure, and the United States has, naturally, refocused its attention on countering its rising rival. This includes not only economic competition – as the trade war represents – but also shifting its security posture away from places like the Middle East to free resources to manage the burgeoning great power competition.

In fact, it is this shift in focus, especially the U.S. overtures to Iran under President Barack Obama, that concerns the Saudis the most. For Obama, striking the nuclear deal with Iran meant reducing the risk that yet another Middle Eastern conflict would draw in the United States. But for Saudi Arabia, the deal meant losing its close U.S. support in its campaign against its regional nemesis. With a new administration in the White House came a shift in U.S. attitude back toward more hostile relations with the Islamic republic. Over the next two decades, however, the prospect of at least a partial normalization with Iran will present a tantalizing option for U.S. presidents as national priorities continue to change.

The new normal of relations with the United States will present a difficult adjustment for most regional powers like Saudi Arabia. Absent an emerging need, Riyadh may find itself filling a lesser role in the grand U.S. strategy than it has for nearly a century. Saudi Arabia's increasing economic interconnectivity with China and Russia may also mean that soon, for the first time since that initial meeting between FDR and King Abdulaziz, the kingdom may find itself dropping down the list of U.S. strategic partners.

Unlike U.S. relationships with allies that possess a similar set of values, Saudi-U.S. ties at their core are based on pragmatism.

A Relationship that Bends but not Breaks

Even if Saudi importance in the eyes of the United States declines, their relationship would not necessarily reach a breaking point, but it would certainly become more volatile. Status as a less important partner would mean that the amount of political capital a U.S. president would be willing to invest in Saudi Arabia will decline, both domestically and internationally.

But perhaps the biggest consequence for Saudi Arabia over the next two decades will be the likely inevitability that Tehran and Washington will one day reach some form of understanding. A strategic reversal on Iran would make sense for the United States on several levels as the global picture changes. For one, Iran would be more inclined to cooperate with the United States and India in South and Central Asia, particularly as Pakistan and China's cooperation on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor deepens. In the short term, progress on the U.S.-Iran relationship is likely to be minimal, but significant generational shifts in both countries will bring to power additional political leaders whose views are not as colored by the immediate events surrounding the Islamic Revolution and subsequent U.S.-Iran hostage crisis. U.S. detente with Iran would allow Tehran to consolidate the regional gains it has made in places like Iraq, meaning that the competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia for regional hegemony would likely increase.

The potential decline of the U.S. role as a security guarantor will continue to force Riyadh to diversify its relationship with the other power poles in the global system. This is already happening in the area of weapons sales. Saudi Arabia is trying to build an indigenous defense industry, and while the United States is reluctant to include the technology transfer rights that would accelerate that process in its arms deals with the kingdom, China and Russia are more than willing to do so. That said, there are significant limitations to how far and how quickly Saudi Arabia can diversify away from U.S. weapons suppliers. Nevertheless, a Saudi turn toward U.S. rivals will certainly alienate Washington, as happened with a drone factory that China built in Saudi Arabia to serve the local market.

Another key area to monitor will be how Saudi Arabia moves forward with its nuclear energy ambitions. It has been negotiating with the United States, China, Russia and others over the construction of nuclear power plants in the country. But the kingdom has demanded that much of the fuel enrichment and reprocessing cycle remain under its control, an idea that has not sat well with Washington over concerns that it could allow Riyadh to develop nuclear weapons. But if the United States is unwilling to budge on its position, Saudi leaders will certainly consider a deal with China or Russia, which may not adhere to the same standards.

The kingdom's human rights record is also likely to increase the distance between Saudi Arabia and the West. The outcry against the Saudi war in Yemen and Khashoggi has been growing in the U.S. Congress. But no real change in Saudi behavior can be expected as long as oil prices remain low and the kingdom continues to struggle to implement long-term economic reform under Saudi Vision 2030. That means that as the U.S. need for a close relationship with Saudi Arabia declines, Washington's responses to such issues are likely to become increasingly harsh.

While the Saudi-U.S. relationship is not destined to crash, it will grow increasingly rocky over the next two decades as the imperatives that brought them together continue to change. The countries will continue to cooperate on key issues, especially if resurgent transnational terrorist groups like Islamic State or al Qaeda target the West, again derailing the U.S. pivot to Asia. But in the end, the Saudi-U.S. relationship will always be defined by mutual interests, not mutual values. That means that as the global system evolves to a place in which neither needs as much from the other, their friendship is unlikely to be as steadfast.


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WSJ: Saudi Arabia is changing fast
« Reply #213 on: November 06, 2019, 12:31:48 AM »
Saudi Arabia Is Changing Fast
Social liberalization has outpaced economic reform, but there doesn’t seem to be any turning back.
By Karen Elliott House
Nov. 4, 2019 6:12 pm ET

A woman runs in ‘The Happiest 5K on the Planet,’ in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 2. PHOTO: AMR NABIL/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

For Saudis these days, life is a roller coaster. Even as Iranian missiles threaten their national security and livelihood, previously unimaginable social freedoms accelerate. All this leaves some Saudis squealing with delight; others are frozen with fright.

During a three-week visit, the public delight is visible everywhere from the capital city to remote rural provinces like Jizan in the south and Tabuk in the north. Teenage Saudi girls scream hysterically at a performance here by the Korean boy band BTS. Young Saudi women with bared faces run a 5K through city streets clad only in short-sleeved T-shirts and tight leggings. Groups of young men and women relax together in Starbucks. Hotels are no longer permitted to ask Saudi couples for proof of marriage at check-in. All this change and more in a society where until very recently women, uniformly clad in floor-length abayas, couldn’t exercise, drive or appear in public with men other than close relatives.

This most puritanical of Islamic societies is increasingly mirroring Western mores as the government seeks to attract foreign tourists and investors whose money is needed to diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy.

The regime no longer worries about the erosion of the kingdom’s distinctive culture. Its view is that in a world of ubiquitous social media all cultures are destined to blend and it is no longer feasible, let alone desirable, for Saudi Arabia to shut itself off from inexorable global trends.

Exactly how this is affecting the average Saudi is difficult to assess. Open debate and discussion aren’t allowed, leaving public opinion in a fog. Some Saudis undoubtedly are frightened by the arrests of even mild dissenters, the violent death of critic Jamal Khashoggi last year, and the public stripping in 2017 of prominent princes’ wealth and right to travel. Such fears are expressed only in deep privacy. The country is operating under what might be called the Thumper Rule, after the little rabbit in “Bambi” whose father teaches him, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

“We are all riding in the back seat of a speeding car,” says one nervous Saudi. “We can’t see where we are going. We just pray the driver knows so we avoid crashing.” This is as close to overt criticism as Saudis dare get these days. Another Saudi sums things up this way: “We used to debate and never decide. Now we”—or rather, the king and crown prince—“decide but never debate.”

There is no doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 34, effective ruler of the kingdom, has decided to press ahead full speed with economic and social change (the former much tougher than the latter). Nothing will deter him. The crown prince, those close to him say, is absolutely convinced his reforms are essential and urgent. So in his view, debate is pointless. There is no possibility of reversing course—and no apparent concern about a conservative backlash. The once-powerful religious authorities have been reduced to mouthpieces for the regime and are widely ignored by the public. Even immediate foreign threats are more distraction than deterrent to Crown Prince Mohammed’s domestic agenda.

Thus change continues at a dizzying pace. The government is spending billions on bringing entertainment—wrestling, tennis, car racing, expensive restaurants, musical performers—to the kingdom to jump-start tourism. Joining a Saudi family for dinner, I am driven by golf cart through a park to the restaurant by a young Saudi woman with a bare face, cropped hair and no abaya. Such dress or employment for a Saudi woman was unthinkable even a few months ago. “I feel out of place in my own country,” says one Saudi woman in shock at seeing a Lebanese singer entering a Riyadh hotel in a sleeveless midthigh dress. Such “indecency,” unlike dissent, runs no risk these days.

Economic reform, unlike social change, will require massive investment as the nation transforms from an oil-dependent kingdom into a diversified economy. One big step to finance investment is the decision, announced days ago, to sell the public shares in Aramco, the kingdom’s oil company. The main threat to the reform agenda comes not from within Saudi Arabia but from outside. Shortly before dawn on Sept. 14, Iranian missiles and drones struck Saudi oil fields, knocking out 50% of the country’s production. Aramco restored most production within a few weeks, but the strike underscored the vulnerability of the Saudi economy.

“I wept the night of the attack,” admits Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the new Saudi oil minister and a half-brother of Crown Prince Mohammed. “The next morning I wept tears of gratitude when our Aramco engineers assured us they could repair things quickly.”

Remarkably, hardly anyone I meet here speaks of the attack on the oil fields. If pressed, almost all Saudis insist the kingdom did the right thing by not retaliating. “We have too much to lose” is the typical comment. The truth is Saudi Arabia is in no position to go to war with Iran even if it were so inclined. The Saudi military is too weak, its U.S. ally too reluctant. And war would spell the end of ambitious domestic reforms.

To rule out retaliation, Saudi government officials insist the attack wasn’t really aimed at Saudi Arabia; they say the kingdom is simply a proxy for Iranian anger at the U.S. “This was not an attack on Saudi Arabia,” says the oil minister, “but an attack on every household in the world.” He insists the Iranians lash out at Saudi Arabia because they are feeling the pain of U.S. economic sanctions but can’t strike the U.S. directly.

Crown Prince Mohammed has privately called the Iran strike “super stupid,” insisting that Tehran, not Riyadh, is the loser. The evidence: Iran is more isolated than ever as Germany, Britain and France all blamed it for the attack—even though Europe hasn’t imposed sanctions on Tehran. Also, Saudi officials say the Houthis, whom Iran blamed for the attack, are now more willing to find a solution to the war in Yemen, which is draining Saudi Arabia’s finances as well as its international reputation. The Saudis are putting the best spin possible on the vulnerability revealed by Iran’s attack, but those at the top seem to believe it.

Meantime, the Saudi government is putting maximum pressure on the U.S. to provide additional military support to the regime. Failure to stand visibly with Saudi Arabia, say officials here, could encourage Iran to strike again and lead to higher oil prices for the U.S. and world-wide. Or the Saudis could opt to price oil in a currency other than the dollar, with severe ramifications for the U.S. and the global economy.

Crown Prince Mohammed is said to have been livid about the slow U.S. reaction but mollified by the Trump administration’s recent decision to dispatch 2,000 additional American troops to Saudi Arabia along with two Patriot missile batteries and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or Thaad. The American buildup looks intended to deter future Iranian aggression, but whether the Trump administration would engage or duck is anyone’s guess given the lack of a formal U.S.-Saudi mutual-security treaty. The Saudis are understandably nervous after President Obama failed to enforce his “red line” in Syria and President Trump made no response to Iran’s downing of an American drone in June or its attack on Aramco six weeks ago.

Ms. House, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, is author of “On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines—and Future.”


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George Friedman on UAE
« Reply #214 on: November 20, 2019, 01:22:48 PM »
    George Friedman's Thoughts: On My Visit to the United Arab Emirates
By: George Friedman

I spent last week in the United Arab Emirates, in the city of Dubai. Dubai sits on the edge of the Persian Gulf, which is called the Arabian Gulf by Arab states. This was not my first trip there, but I have never left the city, which means I have only seen the most modern part of the Arab world. I have only had glimpses of how this city interacts with the much larger part of the country that resembles what we think of when we speak of the Arabian Peninsula. Each time I come here I mention this to my hosts, and each time they want to immediately arrange a tour. There is never enough time, and I always promise them and myself to leave the city. I never have.

The meetings I attended this time were convened by the prime minister’s office, which asked me to speak on the shape of the world next year. I spoke to men in flowing white robes and to women in their covering. There is no doubt that power is held by the men, yet there were women who were ministers, and all spoke fluent English. My initial exposure to the idea of an Arab was the movie “Lawrence of Arabia,” made half a century ago about a time a century ago, celebrating an Englishman who thought he had moved beyond what he was born as to become nearly Arab himself. Lawrence was never an Arab; he was an Englishman trying to become one. Still, through the rich landscape of the movie, it was possible to be both utterly enchanted and thoroughly misled by the movie.
A Space Program on the Gulf
At the very least, even the Arab world moves on. In the midst of the pure white robes, a white I have rarely seen in America, I was introduced to a man who was the head of the United Arab Emirates’ space program. The idea that the UAE has a space program is startling, until you look at the city of Dubai. Wedged between the Gulf and the desert is a city of skyscrapers, all of an aggressively modern architecture. Many years ago, when I passed through the UAE on my way elsewhere, there were some buildings and streets, but in a generation, what has emerged is magnificent for its mere presence, and daunting for its almost inhuman size. I can think of no Arab city that approaches it in size, nor in its indifference to Arab style.
What is most striking is that it is a city that was thrown up with the speed of a Texas city, with little sentiment and no apology. Dubai challenges you to accommodate yourself to it, much as Houston does. Arabs are an enormously polite people. In “Lawrence of Arabia,” the prince comments that mercy is a passion for Lawrence (the Englishman) while for an Arab it is simply good manners; the king asks, which is the more powerful force? The idea of mercy as a matter of custom and propriety is the most striking concept in the movie. While Arabs violate the principle of mercy, as all humans violate their customs, they are as appalled by cruelty as an Englishman is appalled by bad table manners. The manners of those I met were flawless. But they also understand how to wage war, making them very much like the rest of the world.

Therefore, why shouldn’t they have a space program? The Emiratis have one of the most advanced air forces in the world. I also had a nice talk with their minister of artificial intelligence. Few countries have such an air force or such a minister. Why be shocked that they are looking to space, as well? What was interesting about their space program was the reason it began: falcons.

Falconry is a passion of the Arab elite. No matter how well trained, the falcon may choose to go where he will. And finding him is difficult, to say the least. The Emirati space program was started in order to track falcons. Tagging falcons with GPS trackers is one solution. But the Emiratis were more ambitious, wanting to know if the falcon was flying or at rest, and if flying, then at what angle. To do this, they needed to collect data from multiple satellites. The ancient sport of kings merged with the space age, and the man who made it possible spoke to me about his ambitions to put an Emirati satellite in orbit around Mars. He was quite serious, and is already talking to a private U.S. space company. He was not shy of outsourcing the mission and, as is often the case these days, project management is a bigger hurdle than engineering in going to Mars.

Speaking with a man who was dressed in the flowing robes still common in the Emirates, discussing the subtleties of falcons and planning a space mission in a place that had been regarded as hopelessly backward when I was young, reminded me of my age, and of how geopolitics and tradition intertwine, and take on a life of their own.

The Importance of the Strait of Hormuz

The United Arab Emirates rests on a bulge that juts out into the Gulf at the southern edge of the Strait of Hormuz. The northern landmass is Iran. The Persians and Arabs have had a very ancient feud over this waterway, but in the 1970s the Strait of Hormuz became a global issue. In 1971, I was taking a class in operations research required for my military modeling ambitions. My professor, well known for his trips to Washington, informed me that my concerns about the Soviets grabbing the city of Hamburg or China dominating Vietnam were all beside the point, not to mention simplistic. The only really significant point on the global stage, according to him, was the Strait of Hormuz and the countries on either side of it. I thought he was buying the cheap Kool-Aid again.
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In 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, launching the Yom Kippur War. In solidarity with them, other Arab states declared an oil embargo. The price of oil soared, and the consumers of Arabian and Iranian oil were plunged into recession. This created a huge and complex problem for the United States. The countries that had imposed the embargo were also critical U.S. allies against the Soviets – including Iran, which would be a U.S. ally for another six years. Pressuring Arab states on oil prices could give the Soviet Union an opening. Doing nothing might do wonders for oil companies, but would end political careers. The lines waiting for gas at those stations that had any seemed to signal the end of civilization.

The key to this was the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf. The fear was that the oil flowing from Iran (which did not join the boycott but enjoyed the higher prices) and the Arab countries on the Gulf’s western coast (which included the UAE and which were also managing to sell oil at high prices) would have their supply lines cut off at the Strait of Hormuz. If the strait were closed, the effect on the United States’ enclosure of the Soviet Union would be shattered, along with its economy. The only force that could conceivably want to do this and had the ability was the Soviets. So, my professor’s dismissal of Europe turned out to be true. I never asked how he nailed that.
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It was at that time that the U.S. became fascinated by both sides of the Strait of Hormuz. After the fall of Iran’s shah, and an early Iranian flirtation with the Soviet Union (or one we thought we saw), holding open the Strait of Hormuz became a central concern for the United States. During the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, sinking tankers in the Gulf became a pastime. The U.S. was so concerned that it sent in naval convoys to escort tankers out of the Persian Gulf, and frankly stated that if either side attacked the convoys, it would mean war. Not long after, the U.S. did go to war with Iraq, and to this day is still toying with the idea concerning Iran.

The U.S. and Its Strategic Allies

And throughout this time, to this moment, the UAE and the city of Dubai remained key strategic assets to the United States. If Iran could take Dubai, it could block the Strait of Hormuz with little challenge. Today, the U.S. operates a major air base in Dubai, cooperates with the UAE’s air force and collaborates respectfully with the UAE on many fronts. The respect in this collaboration is important: The U.S. has trouble working respectfully with allies (a problem going far back in time), and while Arab states may fear Americans and Europeans, they have difficulty respecting them all the same. Oddly, the collaboration works. (Likely in part because the elevators work well in towering Emirati buildings, and for Americans, respect starts there.)
I have noted on several occasions that, throughout history, being a strategic necessity to the most powerful country in the region, be it Rome or Britain, carried with it some risk but also great rewards. After World War II, Germany, Japan and South Korea all were strategic assets to the U.S. All became enormously wealthy, not simply because they had favorable access to American markets and guaranteed access to natural resources, but also because of their own assets, particularly their human assets. This was not because of any virtue of the United States, but simply because the United States needed them to be strong because they were strategic.

The evolution of Dubai into a world-class city had something to do with this. But the need for the strategic alliance was mutual. The UAE needed the Strait of Hormuz open to sell the massive amounts of oil it had. And the U.S. needed Dubai to be robust. As with all such alliances, the interest was mutual. But Dubai did something unexpected.

Germany drew on its own assets, intellectual and cultural. Dubai, on the other hand, went against its inherent culture. It retained the falconer aristocracy, the desert wanderer seeking to be free to make his own way with his tribe. But Dubai went in a different direction. It understood that it was at the chokepoint of the world economy. It understood that it would be standing watch so long as the petroleum economy existed. And it understood that it had vast wealth to draw on. It proceeded to add to its oil economy and to use its strategic position to dramatically enhance its economy, beyond exporting oil.

Instead of the Emiratis sending their money to the Swiss, the Swiss came to Dubai asking for the money. In leaving the Dubai airport, there is a sign advertising a well-known private Swiss banking service. But Dubai has spent its wealth on real estate development to facilitate its rise as the Switzerland of the Middle East, not only in financial matters, but beyond Switzerland – in taking its ambitions in space.

It struck me on this visit how similar Dubai is to Israel. Both are in a way invented countries. Both are now financial and technical centers. Both have close ties with the United States and the rest of the advanced industrial world. Both retain and struggle with older traditions. Orthodox Jews and devout Muslims both circumscribe what is possible to women. In Dubai, I met a minister dressed in traditional garb. She was not more than 30, and perhaps younger. It reminded me of the first time I ran into an off-duty Israeli officer in a miniskirt. The struggle to retain and overcome their traditional lives ought to bind them together.

At this point, I should say that unfortunately they are torn apart by religion. But, in fact, that’s not true. They are aligned in many ways, from hostility toward Iran to business interests, and they make no bones about it. At one end of the Arabian Peninsula is the UAE. At the other end is Israel. In between there is wreckage and insecurity. I have watched both UAE and Israeli air force demonstrations. In a world where mass armies are less important than the sophistication of precision-guided munitions and acquisition of targeting intelligence, large forces simply represent ample targets. Agile forces with advanced munitions and intelligence will defeat them.

This points to an interesting geopolitical possibility. If Israel is the major economic and military power on the western end of the Arabian Peninsula, and the UAE is the economic and military power in the east, then collaboration between the two of them could define the region. That is shooting from the hip, of course, ignoring Turkey and Iran, or the U.S. and Russia. But after this visit it is less preposterous an idea than in the past. When you meet a man who is using space-based assets to track falcons, do not dismiss its significance.

The Arabian Peninsula was shaped by desert and a hunger for water which combined to create a sparse population clustered in small groups, distrustful of the intentions of others. To this day, the UAE contains rival emirs, who collaborate with one another but do not fully trust each other. But the eastern shore of the Arabian Peninsula is rich with oil, and the waters of the Gulf allow the peninsula’s states to sell that oil to the world. But to be rich and weak is the most dangerous thing in the world. So the Arab states of the peninsula have sought the ability to defend themselves from the world, mostly through dangerous alliances, and a few by creating their own power. But to be powerful in the modern world, you must become part of it, and this is what the UAE has done. It has created its own space program. Even if the program was started to find the falcons.
I repeat the saying of Malraux: Men leave their nations in very national ways.   


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GPF: Saudi Arabia Security Dilemma
« Reply #215 on: December 05, 2019, 10:42:59 AM »
    Saudi Arabia’s Security Dilemma
By: Hilal Khashan

The devastating attack less than two months ago on two major oil facilities near Saudi Aramco’s headquarters in Eastern Province revealed the extent of Saudi Arabia’s vulnerability to foreign threats, as well as its inability to defend itself.

Though the Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack, Saudi and U.S. officials blamed it on Iran. Much to the chagrin of the Saudi royals, U.S. President Donald Trump ruled out military retaliation, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan merely offered to help de-escalate the situation. Disillusioned with the unwillingness of its closest allies to respond more aggressively, Saudi officials resigned themselves to their inability to take charge of the situation. King Salman, who accused the Iran-supported Houthis of launching about 600 drones and ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia in recent years, implored the international community to stop Iran’s aggression. The Saudis now find themselves in an unenviable position: After decades of relying on local and foreign partners to provide for their political and territorial security, they must now use their own resources to ward off the burgeoning threats they face in the Middle East.

Origins of the Dilemma

Saudi Arabia’s inadequacies when it comes to self-defense are a result of centuries of poor defense planning and lack of foresight. The rise in 1744 of the first Saudi state that aspired to expand beyond Arabia resulted from Muhammad bin Saud’s alliance with Muhammad bin Abdulwahab, the founder of the religiously austere Wahhabi movement. Wary Ottoman officials instructed closely allied Egypt to put an end to territorial and ideological threats emanating from Arabia. In 1818, Ibrahim Pasha’s army conquered the Saudi state and destroyed its capital, Diriyah. The second Saudi state, founded in 1824 by Turki bin Abdullah, made modest territorial claims but became incapacitated by internal feuds. In 1891, the pro-Ottoman Rashidi family took down the new Saudi state in the Battle of Mulayda. The Ottomans arranged for deposed ruler Abdulrahman al-Saud to settle in Kuwait in the hope that they could bring him under their wing, a move that the British did not oppose since they believed he could be useful in their plans for Arabia. His energetic son Abdulaziz, aka Ibn Saud, seized Riyadh in 1902 and set the stage for the emergence of the third Saudi state in 1932 with the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which he ruled until his death in 1953.

In order to avoid facing the same fate as the first two Saudi states, Ibn Saud understood that he needed the backing of a foreign power superior to the Ottoman Empire. He also understood that, if he was to achieve his territorial objectives, he would need a robust military force to replace the corrupt and untrustworthy tribal fighters. In 1912, he formed a Wahhabi indoctrinated military force called al-Ikhwan. It proved instrumental in enabling him to spread his control over four-fifths of the Arabian Peninsula from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea, and from British-held Iraq and Trans-Jordan in the north to Jizan and Najran in the south.

Thanks to British military and financial support, al-Ikhwan seized the Eastern Province and expanded Ibn Saud’s emirate beyond Najd. Sensing the impending demise of the Ottoman Empire and content with the battlefield impact of British aid, Ibn Saud signed in 1915 the Treaty of Darin with the United Kingdom. In addition to providing additional material resources to satisfy Ibn Saud’s ambitions, the treaty made his burgeoning state a British protectorate.

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The defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War and its loss of Arab lands in West Asia created opportunities and challenges both for the British and Ibn Saud. Britain consolidated its grip on the tiny Arab sheikhdoms on the Persian Gulf, in addition to seizing Iraq and Palestine. But al-Ikhwan’s recurring raids on Iraqi Shiite religious sites in Najaf and Karaba created significant security issues for the British, who were also under pressure from Sharif Hussein, the king of Hejaz, to deliver on their promise to create an Arab kingdom in West Asia. The British struck a deal with Ibn Saud in the Uqair Protocol of 1922 to prevent al-Ikhwan from going into Iraq and Trans-Jordan, with the tacit understanding that they would not oppose his plans to conquer Hejaz.

Unlike Sharif Hussein, who entertained more ambitious territorial claims beyond the Arabian Peninsula, Ibn Saud had no desire to spread his kingdom outside Arabia and accepted British conditions to stay out of Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the Trucial States, Oman and Yemen. Just before his kingdom was complete, Ibn Saud proposed in 1930 signing a treaty of friendship with Iran. Reza Shah, who did not want to develop a special relationship between the two countries, humiliated him by rejecting the proposal.

Ibn Saud did not like the British, even though they facilitated the establishment of his kingdom. He viewed their commitment to the Saudis as vague and fluid and resented their refusal to invest in Saudi Arabia’s promising oil industry. The Saudi king preferred to work with the Americans, who seemed to him to be generous, approachable and willing to take a calculated risk. In 1933, he signed a deal with Standard Oil of California, which ultimately struck oil in 1938. The momentous discovery paved the way in 1945 for a meeting between U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and Ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy. Subsequent developments in the Middle East showed that the two leaders had different expectations out of their historic meeting. Roosevelt’s focus was on Saudi Arabia’s spectacular hydrocarbon finds and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, particularly after the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed. Ibn Saud, meanwhile, hoped that the United States would unconditionally defend Saudi Arabia against foreign threats in exchange for partnership on oil projects.

The unwillingness of the United States to side with Saudi Arabia in its 1952-55 dispute with British-backed tribes in Oman and the Trucial States (now UAE) over the Buraimi Oasis and its recognition in 1962 of the republican order in Yemen outraged the Saudi royals. They became particularly disillusioned with Washington after President John F. Kennedy did not take action against Egyptian air force raids on the Saudi cities of Najran and Jizan, save for some symbolic U.S. Air Force flights over Riyadh and Jeddah. Already threatened by the surge of Arab nationalism and the rise of leftist political parties, Saudi Arabia decided to adopt an aggressive regional policy to insulate the fragile kingdom from the implications of these emerging ideologies.

Failure of Regional Balancing Policy

In the 1950s, the Saudi royals feared that Aramco could serve as a hotbed of leftist and pan-Arab political affiliations. Though they valued its massive contribution to the country’s economy, they realized that Aramco functioned both as an oil company and a cultural center. The presence of thousands of politicized Arab workers, mainly Palestinians, Syrians, Sudanese and Bahrainis, proved decisive in mobilizing fellow Saudi workers in political parties and in labor movements. The liberalizing threat from within clashed with the patrimonial and ultraconservative nature of Saudi politics.

Saudi kings from the beginning of Saud bin Abdulaziz’s rule in 1953 until the death of King Abdullah in 2015 adopted a preemptive policy of intervening in inter-Arab affairs to defeat leftist and nationalist ideologies and to prevent Egypt and Iraq from dominating the Arab world, which would have compromised the kingdom’s stability. Thus, Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt, opposed the Baghdad Pact – a military alliance established in 1955 between several Middle Eastern states and the United Kingdom – because it would have enabled Iraq to emerge as the most influential Arab country. Iraq pulled out from the pact, renamed the Central Treaty Organization, after its 1958 republican coup.

The Saudis shifted their concern to Egypt after it merged during the same year with Syria to form the United Arab Republic. The Saudis even attempted to assassinate President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who rose to become the uncontested champion of Arab nationalism. But a year after the 1961 dissolution of the UAR, a republican coup took place in Yemen, and its leaders appealed to Nasser to send troops to consolidate their hold on the country. The stationing of the Egyptian army in Yemen, next to Saudi Arabia’s southern borders, and the defection of several Saudi air force pilots to Egypt, including the air force commander, sparked shock and fear within the Saudi royal family.

The 1967 Six-Day War in which Israel won a spectacular victory against the combined Arab armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan led to the withdrawal of the Egyptian military from Yemen by the end of the year. For a decade afterward, the Saudi ruling elite rested assured about the absence of foreign threats to the kingdom’s stability. Yet, they acted swiftly to clamp down on internal dissent movements that threatened to bring down the third Saudi state. Examples of this dissent in the 1960s included the rise of the Free Princes Movement, led by Talal bin Abdulaziz, who demanded the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a constitutional monarchy, and a coup attempt in 1969. The 1970s saw the assassination of King Faisal in 1975, the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979 by ultra-conservative Salafists and a Shiite mutiny in the Eastern Province.

The rise of the Islamic republic in Iran in 1979 and its aggressive goal of exporting its revolution to the Arab world placed Iraq and Saudi Arabia at the center of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s foreign policy. Instead of creating a unified Arab military coalition to deter Iran, the Saudis injudiciously pushed Iraq to wage a seamless war against it. One year into the quagmire, the Saudis took the lead in establishing the Gulf Cooperation Council, which the small Arab states in the Gulf joined reluctantly, despite their fears of Saudi dominance. The exclusion of Iraq from the GCC indicated that the Saudis feared the Baathist regime in Baghdad as much as Iran’s Islamic republic. The GCC failed to create a viable military force capable of deterring foreign threats, and despite allocating astronomical funds to armament, the Saudi armed forces remained a paper tiger at best.

The Saudi royals have over the years displayed inadequate analytical depth and foresight. They turned Iraq against Iran in the 1980-88 war, did not use their leverage to prevent the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and then planned with the United States to go to war to reinstate the independence of Kuwait. Immediately after the end of the 1991 Gulf War, Egypt and Syria committed themselves in the Damascus Declaration to preserve the territorial integrity of GCC member states, but Saudi Arabia dismissed the declaration’s offer of protection, unwilling to host Arab troops on its soil on a long-term basis.

When the Syrian uprising of 2011 turned into a civil war, Saudi Arabia hoped it would lead to the fall of the pro-Iran regime in Damascus. In 2013, it participated in the U.S.-led Military Operations Center, which armed Syrian opposition groups operating in southwest Syria. The primary motives of other participants in the MOC – including the U.S., Jordan and the UAE – centered on defeating radical Islamic rebels, not Bashar Assad’s regime. The MOC, therefore, played a decisive role in the collapse of the Saudi-backed Southern Front.

Impromptu decisions based on a lack of nuanced understanding of the determinants of foreign policy have often trapped Saudi decision-makers. In fact, their decision to go to war in Yemen has been more disastrous than even their operations in Syria. Yemen has humbled many foreign powers in the past, and Saudi Arabia is no exception. Saudi Arabia has not been able to raise a fighting army since modern British weapons made it possible for Ibn Saud to defeat the camel-riding al-Ikhwan desert warriors in the 1929 Battle of Sibilla. Its military weakness, xenophobic suspicion of its neighbors and crude diplomatic behavior not only blocked its claim to regional power status but threaten its very survival in the long run.   


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Re: Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula
« Reply #218 on: May 29, 2020, 08:20:32 PM »
May 29, 2020   View On Website
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Saudi’s City of the Future Is a Mirage
By: Hilal Khashan

In October 2017, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the New Future project, his vision of what would drive Saudi economic development in the post-oil era. The project, thereafter dubbed Neom, is a novel idea as far as the Saudis go; it’s a far cry from Prince Mohammed al-Faisal’s idea in 1977 to tow a 100 million-ton iceberg to the desert to solve a water shortage problem. But whereas the oil boom dashed al-Faisal’s iceberg dreams, the oil bust has convinced Salman that the future of Saudi prosperity lies in other industries, even a futuristic city that is believed to cost $500 billion.

The Case for Neom

The idea behind the city is to concentrate development and thus foster the accumulation of wealth and ensure the sustainability of growth. Each city would comprise an integrated metropolis consisting of economic clusters equipped with modern facilities providing services, logistics and residential quarters. The Saudis argue that economic cities such as Neom have a competitive edge because they attract capital for intelligent investments, largely because they require advanced digital and technological systems. The project, which would cover more than 26,000 square kilometers (10,000 square miles) of waterfront property near Jordan and Egypt, will also focus on renewable energy, water desalination, transport, food production and manufacturing, technical and digital science, advanced industrialization, media production, and recreation. As part of the framework for Vision 2030, Neom aims to transform Saudi Arabia into a cultural model worth emulating.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund, which owns the project, is marketing it as an ultramodern technological achievement found nowhere else on Earth. Promotional efforts also note that 70 percent of the world’s population would be able to access the city in less than eight hours, thanks to King Salman’s causeway that will connect Neom to Africa and Europe via Sinai. As a unique investment region, the project is exempt from Saudi laws and regulations, such as taxes, customs, and labor laws, and so is designed to attract more foreign direct investment. The execution of the first phase of the project is slated for 2025, and it will take 30-50 years to complete.

But the case for Neom is born of necessity as much as it is of ambition. Saudi Arabia has compelling reasons to search for new sources of revenue. Oil exports account for 87 percent of total exports, 70 percent of the budget, and 46 percent of gross domestic product. The advent of alternative energy sources such as electric cars is expected to dramatically reduce demand for hydrocarbons by 2025. Oil revenues are expected to drop by 33 percent in 2020 and 25 percent in 2021. The economy, therefore, is vulnerable to vagaries in the market, and always will be so long as it relies overwhelmingly on oil.
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Even now, the budget deficit continues to grow, leading to further borrowing and excessive debt levels. The last annual budget deficit exceeded $100 billion. Saudi Arabia has lost more than one-third of its foreign reserves since 2014. The most dramatic decrease occurred in March this year, with a $24 billion loss. The public sector is bloated, and the cost of maintaining it is high. The country’s expensive military expenditures are meaningless since it is unable to defend itself against foreign threats.

Economic diversification is a necessity because it reduces the financial consequences of fluctuating demand for hydrocarbons and unstable oil prices. Economic cities are Riyadh’s way of empowering the private sector and the long-sought-after solution to the dilemma of development.
(click to enlarge)

Indeed, Neom intends to achieve what 10 previous plans tried and failed to: economic development. Riyadh’s first five-year development plan, which meant to transform the kingdom into a welfare state, started in 1970. The second and third development plans focused on building the infrastructure of economic development. From the fourth through the ninth development plans (1985-2014), Saudi Arabia emphasized domesticating the workforce and focusing on human resource development. Government efforts encountered resistance because of public preference to seek employment in the public sector and aversion to manual or skilled labor and any position that assumed responsibility for making decisions.

The 10th development plan (2015-2019) set the stage for initiating the Neom project. It outlined the intention of transforming the kingdom into an international logistic center and launching grand economic initiatives without compromising Islam’s foundational values and tenets. In keeping with growing public demand and international pressure for political change, the plan paid lip service to the importance of citizenship and national belonging, strengthening the principles of justice and equality, and protection of human rights in accordance with Sharia law.

The 10th plan built on the principles of previous plans – that is, the exploration and development of economic diversification opportunities, investment in less water-intensive crops, development of a fisheries sector, and increasing human resource efficiency – though it differs in that it calls for the spread of information throughout the population, the activation of the role of economic cities, and the return of migrant capital to invest in productive sectors. It is also, notably, built on ideas introduced in the seventh and eighth development plans, which recognized that cities could create the economic development Riyadh needs. This is embodied in the creation of King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah, in 2005 at an estimated cost of $100 billion. The blueprint of the project included the construction of a container harbor and an industrial valley and the expectation that it would create 1 million jobs. Other planned economic cities in the Northern Borders province and Jizan region concentrate on agriculture, food canning, vocational training, and storage. The government proposed that the economic cities in Mecca and Medina serve pilgrims in undertaking religious rites and providing high-end shopping. But these cities have either stumbled or atrophied, making Neom all the more consequential.

Science Fiction

Neom is a high-tech project that intends to provide advanced IT solutions. But its success is questionable in a country that scores low on the key indicators of a knowledge-based economy: skilled labor, incentives and motivation. Jamal Khashoggi, for example, was critical of Salman’s megaprojects, calling on him to launch smaller projects for the poor in Riyadh and Jeddah instead of complicated endeavors that don’t benefit local workers. He was killed inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

Saudi Arabia is also very censorial, curbing what its subjects are allowed to access via the internet and making sure that connections are always slow. The free and uninterrupted flow of information is crucial in developing independent and critical thinking that Saudi formal education views with disfavor. Neom cannot possibly thrive in a politically repressive and culturally closed environment.

Then there is the pesky problem of financing. Saudi Arabia’s finance minister recently announced that the country would implement painful measures to slash public expenses, given the dramatic decline in oil revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic. The minister’s announcement led to a sharp decline of over 7 percent in the Saudi stock market. The unprecedented oil slump prompted Moody’s to downgrade Saudi outlook from stable to negative. It is difficult to imagine that the Saudis can lure foreign investment to take part in Neom under the existing financial, social and political conditions.

And even if they can, Neom is like a mirage in the desert. The project does not differ fundamentally from similar initiatives in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The Port of Jebel Ali (Dubai) and the Hamad Port (Doha) are world-class seaports. The two countries have premier international airlines that Neom cannot dislodge. Contrary to Saudi Arabia’s promotion of Neom as a site that straddles three continents, its location, surrounded by a vast swathe of barren desert, has no unique value. If anything, it would cripple the flagging Jordanian economy and destroy its tourism sector, as well as Egyptian resorts in South Sinai. Neom is just too much for the Middle East and way beyond what it needs.

The risks associated with the implementation of the project are high, and its outcome is unpredictable. The Neom scheme is unsustainable and potentially catastrophic. The introduction of flying taxis and robots capable of performing any task nullifies the claim that Neom would create millions of jobs. Saudi Arabia needs to import all the required technology to transform Neom into a reality, which is too costly to make the project feasible, especially with unclear benefits. The plan does not benefit the local population that the government is coercing to vacate land needed for the project. Recently, the security forces killed a resident from the Huwaitat tribe because he refused to abandon his house and relocate.

In short, Neom is a project inspired by science fiction. It seems to have been influenced by the gated communities that American and British companies built in Saudi Arabia to keep their personnel disconnected from the locals. In November 2017, Salman ordered the arrest of hundreds of prominent Saudi princes and businessmen on the grounds of money laundering, embezzlement of public funds and corruption. He subsequently announced recovering $50 billion to the state’s coffers, ostensibly contributing to development projects like Neom. He expected to get a similar amount before closing the Ritz-Carlton dossier. There is little evidence that Neom is progressing except for the construction of five gigantic royal palaces serviced by a private airport and 10 helipads.   


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Stratfor: China helps Saudi Arabia develop nuclear power
« Reply #219 on: August 05, 2020, 06:12:12 AM »
Saudi Arabia, With China’s Help, Expands Its Nuclear Program
Kingdom harbors hopes for a civilian nuclear power program, but U.S. critics worry about its ambitions for nuclear weapons

Al Ula is a small city in northwest Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is said to be constructing a facility for extracting uranium yellowcake in a remote desert location in the city’s general vicinity.
By Warren P. Strobel, Michael R. Gordon and Felicia Schwartz
Aug. 4, 2020 5:14 pm ET
WASHINGTON—Saudi Arabia has constructed with Chinese help a facility for extracting uranium yellowcake from uranium ore, an advance in the oil-rich kingdom’s drive to master nuclear technology, according to Western officials with knowledge of the site.

The facility, which hasn’t been publicly disclosed, is in a sparsely populated area in Saudi Arabia’s northwest and has raised concern among U.S. and allied officials that the kingdom’s nascent nuclear program is moving ahead and that Riyadh is keeping open the option of developing nuclear weapons.

Even though Riyadh is still far from that point, the facility’s exposure appears certain to draw concern in the U.S. Congress, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers has expressed alarm about Saudi nuclear energy plans and about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s 2018 vow that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

It is also likely to cause consternation in Israel, where officials have warily monitored Saudi Arabia’s nuclear work.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended a Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, China, in 2016.
The Saudi Energy Ministry said in a statement it “categorically denies” having built a uranium ore facility in the area described by some of the Western officials, adding that mineral extraction—including uranium—is a key part of the country’s economic diversification strategy.

The Saudi statement said the kingdom has contracted with the Chinese on uranium exploration in Saudi Arabia in certain areas. A spokesman declined to elaborate on the ministry’s statement.

How worried are you about nuclear proliferation in the Mideast? Join the conversation below.

Saudi Arabia has no known nuclear-weapons program, operating nuclear reactors or capacity to enrich uranium. But it says it wants to acquire nuclear plants that Saudi authorities say will generate power and reduce its reliance on oil, its principal export.

Information about the yellowcake facility has been tightly held within U.S. and allied governments, the officials said, and some details couldn’t be learned—including whether it has begun operations. The site doesn’t violate international agreements the Saudis have signed, experts on nuclear nonproliferation said.

“Yellowcake” is a milled form of uranium ore which occurs naturally in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries such as Jordan. It is produced by chemically processing uranium ore into a fine powder. It takes multiple additional steps and technology to process and enrich uranium sufficiently for it to power a civil nuclear energy plant. At very high enrichment levels, uranium can fuel a nuclear weapon.

The yellowcake facility may represent the kingdom’s “longer-term hedge against a nuclear Iran,” said Ian Stewart, of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. It is “another step in the direction of having an indigenous uranium enrichment program,” he added.

Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency who is at the Stimson Center think tank, agreed the facility’s construction suggested the Saudis were trying to keep their options open. He said the yellowcake facility alone wouldn’t mark a significant advance unless the yellowcake is converted into a compound known as uranium hexafluoride and then enriched.

But Mr. Heinonen said of the Saudis, “Where is the transparency? If you claim your program is peaceful, why not show what you have?”

The Chinese embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment. Iran has denied it is interested in developing nuclear weapons. Iranian officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.

A State Department representative declined to say whether Washington has raised the issue with Riyadh, but said the U.S. has warned all its partners about the danger of engagement with China’s civilian nuclear establishment.

One Western official said the facility is located in a remote desert location in the general vicinity of al Ula, a small city in northwest Saudi Arabia.

Two officials said it was constructed with the help of two Chinese entities. While the identities of these entities couldn’t be learned, the China National Nuclear Corp. signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia in 2017 to help explore its uranium deposits. A second agreement was signed with China Nuclear Engineering Group Corp. That followed a 2012 pact announced between Riyadh and Beijing to cooperate on peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Saudi Arabia only has the most limited safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The country was among the last to sign the old version of a so-called Small Quantities Protocol in the 2000s, which doesn’t oblige it to disclose the yellowcake site to the agency.

The IAEA and Saudi Arabia have talked about replacing that agreement, although Riyadh hasn’t committed to the most advanced type of IAEA oversight accord. Known as the Additional Protocol, it allows widespread inspection of nuclear and nonnuclear facilities and has extensive reporting requirements.

The Vienna headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which enacts safeguards against nuclear weapons proliferation.
As of early 2020, more than 150 countries—including the U.S. and Iran, but not Israel—have signed Additional Protocols, according to the IAEA, which promotes peaceful uses of nuclear energy and enacts safeguards against nuclear weapons proliferation.

The Saudi Energy Ministry’s statement said the kingdom’s “nuclear program fully complies with all relevant international legal frameworks and instruments governing nuclear energy and its peaceful use.”

The Trump administration has discussed selling reactors and nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, a close security ally. But U.S. arms-control negotiator Marshall Billingslea, restating U.S. policy, said at a July 21 congressional hearing that Saudi Arabia must first agree to requirements known as the “Gold Standard” of nuclear oversight.

That means the kingdom would need to forswear the enrichment of uranium, which is several steps beyond producing yellowcake. It also would need to refrain from reprocessing spent fuel, which could enable a nation to develop nuclear weapons, and would need to sign the IAEA Additional Protocol.

“The reason we do nuclear technology development deals with countries is so that they will commit to the Gold Standard and commit to a working relationship with the United States. The Saudis are trying to have it both ways, and we can’t allow them to get away with that,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.), said in an interview.

“My guess is that one of the reasons to go to the Chinese is that it doesn’t come with the same controls that coordination with the United States does,” Mr. Murphy said.

The Saudis haven’t ruled out enriching uranium, even as they have insisted that any nuclear program they pursue will be peaceful.

The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, which oversees such work, states on its website “Saudi Arabia has Uranium resources that can be used to produce nuclear fuel for future National power reactors and for [the] uranium international market.”

Riyadh has expressed a desire to master all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. It is constructing with Argentina’s state-owned nuclear technology company a small research reactor outside of Riyadh.

In recent years, the Saudis have significantly expanded their nuclear workforce, experts say, through academic nuclear engineering programs and growing research centers.

In addition to its agreement with Argentina, the Saudis are collaborating with South Korea in refining the design of a small commercial reactor to be built in Saudi Arabia, and that could also be marketed to other nations in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It also has public cooperation agreements with Jordan on uranium mining and production.

Plans to issue tenders to construct its first two large nuclear power reactors, however, have repeatedly been delayed.

Israel, which doesn’t acknowledge its own nuclear weapons arsenal, has long been concerned about nuclear proliferation in the region.

“Every year or so we learn something new about Saudi’s nuclear appetite. It seems very big and if you combine their fears of Iran, fear of neglect by the U.S., their abundance of resources and the current management in Saudi Arabia, it’s quite dangerous,” said Yoel Guzansky, an expert on Israel’s relations in the region at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

—Laurence Norman, Stephen Kalin and Gordon Lubold contributed to this article.


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GPF: Saudi Arabia on the brink of a breakthrough
« Reply #220 on: December 07, 2020, 05:31:19 AM »
Saudi Arabia on the Brink of a Breakthrough
Its economy in trouble and its regional leadership challenged, Riyadh is in talks that would reshape the Middle East.
By: Caroline D. Rose

In the final weeks of November, Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy machine went into overdrive. Riyadh announced a series of defense and commercial agreements strengthening bilateral ties with Egypt, Iraq and the United States. But while Saudi diplomats were traveling around to increase Saudi Arabia’s influence in the Greater Middle East, recent meetings between Saudi and U.S. officials may well lead to a breakthrough closer to home in the Gulf.

A U.S. delegation visit to Riyadh during the first week of December seeks to hit two birds with one stone: putting an end to the more than three-year crisis between Gulf countries and Qatar, and starting the process of diplomatic normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel. While the United States has had success getting countries like Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to adjust their regional diplomatic policy, the Saudis have been the hardest to budge. The kingdom considers itself the natural, de facto leader of the Gulf and Sunni Arab world, and for some time reckoned it could not afford to lose political credibility by realigning itself with a historical rival (Israel) and a neighbor (Qatar) whose brand of religious ideology and independent foreign policy are considered a threat to Saudi regional influence. But a breakthrough is more likely than ever, as a combination of waning regional influence, financial constraints and shifting fault lines in the Middle East push Saudi Arabia to explore normalization with Israel and Qatar.

Leadership Contest

Saudi Arabia has traditionally been considered the effective ideological and religious leader of the Sunni Arab world. The country’s vast oil wealth, combined with its custodianship over Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, and location at the crossroads of Red Sea and Persian Gulf trade routes, make it a natural Gulf power. Saudi Arabia was at the forefront of the Middle East’s modern political rifts, considering itself the moral and religious guardian of the Arab world in opposing Israeli annexations, upholding the Palestinian cause, taking the reins of the Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council, and later, in the years after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, leading its Sunni allies in countering Iran’s Shiite Crescent strategy.

But Saudi Arabia’s star is dimming. The kingdom’s over-reliance on its oil industry (where prices are stubbornly low due to COVID-19 and oversupply), demographic challenges, and a 2030 Vision reform program on shaky ground have chipped away at its regional credibility and relative strength with its neighbors. Additionally, the al-Saud royal family’s record on human rights and the country’s war in Yemen have alienated traditional partners like the U.S. and the EU. All the while, the UAE – a country less than 4 percent the size of Saudi Arabia – has made a series of ambitious foreign policy moves that have begun to overshadow Saudi Arabia as regional leader. The UAE has taken the lead in the ideological battle on political Islamism: Abu Dhabi has reportedly funded mercenaries and has armed the Libyan National Army against the Turkish- and Qatari-backed Government of National Accord in Libya; has been at the forefront of strengthening Gulf ties through the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum against Turkish expansionism in the Mediterranean; and, notably, was the first among its Gulf neighbors to initiate peace with Israel this year. Gone are the days when Riyadh could depend on its cultural soft power to maintain its Gulf hegemony and regional leadership.

While the Saudis have been on the sidelines, their Gulf peers have seen a flurry of economic and political opportunities from normalizing ties with Israel. In the four months since Israel and the UAE reached their agreement, they have signed a string of memorandums of understanding on banking and finance, commerce and trade infrastructure, and even an oil pipeline deal worth as much as $800 million that would transport Emirati oil to Europe via Israel’s ports of Eilat and Ashkelon. Bahrain, which also normalized ties with Israel, hasn’t been far behind, inking business cooperation deals with Israel’s Chamber of Commerce and aviation agreements. Both countries have proved that normalization can bring economic rewards at a time when most Gulf economies, particularly Saudi Arabia, desperately need diversification.

Riyadh is therefore in discussions with Washington about rapprochement with Israel. At first, Saudi Arabia worried that normalization with Israel would risk its regional legitimacy, but now it’s considering that the reverse may be true. An Israeli-Saudi peace deal could help Saudi Arabia catch up to its Emirati neighbor with a series of investment, commercial and infrastructure agreements that would create new regional trade and financial hubs between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. The U.S. and Israel have also reportedly hinted that joint custodianship over Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque would be on the table – something that would enhance Saudi Arabia’s reputation as the Islamic world’s religious guardian (but could also cause tensions with Jordan, the current sole custodian of Al-Aqsa). And, importantly, Riyadh would look to use normalization to position itself as a mediator for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, which would score it major points among regional partners, the U.S. and the international community. For the kingdom, the political short-term and economic long-term payoffs are worth the risk of changing its traditional stance.

Countering Iran and Turkey

Political credibility and economic opportunity aside, the kingdom has another significant reason for normalization. By realigning with Israel and Qatar, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners would be able to further isolate two of their primary rivals in the region: Iran and Turkey.

For Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran is a common enemy. As Iran has augmented its strategic depth in the region over the years, building a proxy network that extends from the Zagros Mountains to the Red Sea and Mediterranean, Saudi Arabia and Israel have found greater incentive to work together. Over the past two decades, the two countries expanded cooperation and intelligence-sharing behind closed doors, keeping relations ice-cold only on the surface. But as the Gulf begins to open up toward Israel, Saudi Arabia has an opportunity to expand its coalition against Iran beyond traditional Sunni Arab lines and include one of the top military powers in the region in its circle.

The same logic applies to the Gulf Cooperation Council’s broadening campaign against Turkish influence in the region. As Turkey has gotten more deliberate about expanding its influence and control, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf counterparts are recognizing that they share an interest with Israel in opposing Turkish expansionism. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and their Gulf partners (excluding Qatar, of course) have been vocal opponents of Turkey, accusing the ruling Justice and Development Party of supporting political Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood. And for Saudi Arabia in particular, Turkey’s neo-Ottoman approach and brand of Islamic identity politics is seen as a challenge to its leadership over the Sunni Muslim world. Meanwhile, Israel has had hostile relations with Turkey since the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident and has become engaged in an ideological war of words with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the status of Palestine. Israel has resented Turkish attempts to take up the torch of the Palestinian cause over the years; Ankara in September hosted mediation discussions between rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, to encourage unity against Israel, and has been a vocal opponent of Israeli annexations and Israeli peace deals with Arab Gulf states. Israel is also a member of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, an emerging regional coalition that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Gulf partners have begun to align with to amplify opposition to Turkish moves over maritime territory. When strategizing its next step against Turkey, Saudi Arabia is beginning to accept Israel as a natural partner.

Then there is the question of Qatar. Normalization with Qatar offers a different, but more delicate, opportunity for Saudi Arabia. Doha has a relatively positive relationship with Iran and an intimate partnership with Turkey, as well as a Sunni ideological platform that runs counter to Saudi domestic interests. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners have criticized Qatar for alleged support of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and have framed Qatar as an agent of foreign efforts to thwart regional stability through Islamist infiltration. Of course, intra-Gulf tensions infamously came to a head in 2017 when Gulf states severed diplomatic relations with Doha and enacted an air, sea and land blockade, isolating Qatar from its former Gulf allies. The ideological rivalry has by no means abated, particularly as Saudi Arabia and the UAE have countered Qatari influence in new theaters like Libya and have continued to accuse Doha of supporting Islamists. Shortly after the 2017 blockade, Qatar normalized relations with Iran and enhanced bilateral trade in gas and shipping. And since the diplomatic crisis, Qatar has become Turkey’s most reliable regional ally, offering Ankara financial relief through currency swap deals, investing in joint defense projects abroad and boosting trade relations. Unlike Israel, Qatar does not seem like a natural partner in broadening the regional coalition against Iran and Turkey. However, it could serve as a useful agent to isolate Saudi Arabia’s rivals.

As the sun sets on the current U.S. administration and Trump’s Middle East team scrambles to assemble a series of legacy-sealing deals before Jan. 20, 2021, Riyadh sees space for maneuver. By extending an olive branch and lobbying the U.S. to apply pressure on Doha, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners are working to rein in Qatari influence and convince it to end its engagement with Iran and Turkey. While the exact details of what a deal would look like are uncertain, Gulf countries have insisted since 2017 on a 13-point ultimatum that includes demands to close a Turkish military base on Qatari soil, sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, shut down diplomatic posts in Iran and limit Iranian-Qatari ties to trade and commerce that strictly complies with U.S. sanctions. Though Qatar has been reluctant to yield to these demands, the incentives for re-initiating relations with its Gulf neighbors are increasing. Thanks to Qatar’s mammoth-size gas reserves (the third largest in the world), ramped up domestic production, and boosted economic ties with the U.S. and Turkey, the 2017 blockade didn’t entirely devastate the Qatari economy. However, the logistical issues remain as Qatar is cut off from the countries where 60 percent of its imports (namely food and supplies) transit through. While Turkey and Iran have served as alternative supply routes, resolving the crisis with the Gulf Cooperation Council countries would ease these logistical conundrums as well as reintroduce Qatar into the Gulf’s expanding financial and trade hubs. If Doha was pressured to concede to such a deal, Turkey and Iran would be further isolated in the region. Of course, a snap decision on the Gulf crisis will likely not be ironclad, as tensions between Gulf states and Qatar linger beneath the surface, but it would put restrictions around Qatar’s foreign engagement – threatening to deprive Turkey of its sole regional ally, and weakening Iran’s foothold in the Gulf.

As meetings between U.S., Israeli, Qatari and Saudi officials continue into December, an opening between the Gulf’s de facto leader and its traditional rivals becomes more likely. With a precarious long-term economic outlook, waning religious and political credibility, and a fragmented regional campaign against Turkey and Iran, Saudi Arabia is indicating it no longer wishes to wait when it comes to peace with Israel and Qatar.


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GPF: Biden and House of Saud- turbulence ahead
« Reply #221 on: February 26, 2021, 06:43:15 PM »
Biden Brings More Skepticism Into the U.S.-Saudi Relationship
As the drivers bringing them together weaken, the United States and Saudi Arabia will become more conservative in deepening their strategic ties and more critical of one another’s differences. On Feb. 26, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden released a report publicly blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and imposed visa bans on 76 Saudis associated with the act under a new so-called “Khashoggi Policy.” This, along with other recent public statements and arms freezes, indicates Biden preparing to shift U.S.-Saudi ties away from his predecessor’s close personal relationship with the kingdom. The White House appears ready to press Saudi Arabia to engage in more restrained foreign policy, emphasizing U.S. human rights objectives in its Saudi dialogue. That pressure will undoubtedly clash with several of the kingdom’s own deeply set imperatives, creating pushback from Riyadh and turbulence in long-standing U.S.-Saudi ties.


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Re: Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula
« Reply #222 on: April 28, 2021, 08:28:18 AM »
Important regional development: The Saudis have changed their tone when it comes to their open hostility toward Iran, according to an interview with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Here's the relevant passage, in full:

"At the end of the day, Iran is a neighboring country. All what we ask for is to have a good and distinguished relationship with Iran. We do not want the situation with Iran to be difficult. On the contrary, we want it to prosper and grow as we have Saudi interests in Iran, and they have Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia, which is to drive prosperity and growth in the region and the entire world. The problem that we have lies with certain negative behaviors they have, whether in terms of their nuclear program, their support of illegal militias in some countries in the region, or their ballistic missile program. We are working now with our partners in the region and the world to find solutions for these problems. We really hope we would overcome them and build a good and positive relationship with Iran that would benefit all parties."


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MBS ending support of Wahhabism?!?
« Reply #223 on: June 10, 2021, 09:33:16 AM »
This seems like a really BFD!!!

Saudi Crown Prince's Decision May End his Country's Support for Wahhabism
by Hany Ghoraba
IPT News
June 10, 2021

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Saudi Arabia has been a main proponent and Islamism and Wahabbism for decades.

But in an April interview broadcast on Saudi-owned Al Arabiya News, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman indicated that support may be about to end. Saudi Arabia intends to disregard many of the unverified sayings attributed to Islam's prophet Muhammad that were passed from generation to generation without any verifiable source.

"We should engage in continuous interpretation of Quranic texts," bin Salman said, "and the same goes for the Sunnah of the Prophet PBUH, and all fatwas should be based on the time, place, and mindset in which they are issued."

Saudis should not idolize any scholar, even Mohamed Abdel Wahab, the Muslim theologian and founder of Wahhabism, bin Salman said.

The changes are vital if Saudi Arabia is to remain economically vibrant, he said.

"Now, we cannot grow, we cannot attract capital, we cannot have tourism, we cannot progress with such extremist thinking in Saudi Arabia. If you want millions of jobs, if you want unemployment to decline, if you want the economy to grow, if you want your income to improve, you must eradicate these projects for the other interest."

In Islam, the Prophet Muhammad's sayings, known as the hadith, are second in influence only to the Quran. Some hadith are verified and unchallenged. Scholars debate the validity of others. Bin Salman in this interview became the first Saudi official to acknowledge that.

This change could open the door to Saudi Arabia nullifying a majority of the hadiths on which many Islamists base their doctrine.

"When we commit ourselves to following a certain school or scholar, this means we are deifying human beings," bin Salman said.

The comments mark a stunning shift for Saudi Arabia, since Wahhabism has been a main component of its constitution and politics since its 1932 founding. Wahhabis remain a main challenge to the ruling House of al-Saud and have organized attempts to overthrow it, including the 1979 seizure of the grand mosque of Mecca.

Bin Salman's interview has had ripple effects. In Egypt, the grand imam of Al Azhar, the most prominent Sunni institution in the world, said that the hadith enjoyed too much emphasis.

"Calling to sanctify the jurisprudential heritage, and equating it with the Sharia leads to the rigidity of contemporary Islamic jurisprudence," said Ahmed al-Tayyib. For example, fatwas prohibiting interest on loans remain popular among Islamists based on old interpretations. But an Al Azhar fatwa stipulated that regular banking is permissible.

Other modern day-to-day activities fatwas are issued because of the confusion caused by adhering literally to old texts. Fatwas causing misogyny in Islamic societies based on unverified and weak hadiths, such as the false hadith, "A people who make a woman their ruler will never be successful," are being debunked with historical examples.

The Prophet's wife, Aisha, led the Muslim armies in the battle of Al-Gamal, wrote Syrian Islamic thinker Ahmed Al-Romh. Also, Egypt was briefly ruled in 1259 by Sultana Shajra al -Durr following the death of her husband, the last Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt.

Moreover, terrorist groups have used a statement attributed to Muhammad as inspiration. It says Muhammad was "ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's apostle."

But scholars have determined that that hadith isn't valid, wrote Moroccan Islamic thinker Mohamed ibn Al-Azrak. It "contradicts reason and sound logic ... if they call us to fight the world and sever ties with the peoples of the world."

Decades of Saudi-financed Wahhabist proselytizing are felt throughout the world. King Fahd Al Saud, bin Salman's uncle, spent more than $75 billion in efforts to spread Wahhabi Islam during his 1982-2005 reign. That money helped establish 200 Islamic colleges, 210 Islamic centers, 1,500 mosques, and 2,000 schools for Muslim children.

But now some of those investments are seen as liabilities. The kingdom started reversing that policy and gave up control of some mosque and Islamic centers in the West, such as a Brussels mosque in 2018, which it had leased since 1969. The kingdom's aim was to change its reputation as main supporter of ultra-conservative Islam.

Muslim majority countries which had more tolerant and secular traditions, such as Indonesia, witnessed increasing levels of radicalism with the spread of Wahhabism.

Indonesia, with 270 million people, has the largest Muslim population in the world. More women there are wearing the niqab, thanks to Wahhabi interpretations of unverified hadiths, and not a direct instruction in the Quran. "The women who wear a niqab must never say she is wearing it because it is required by (Islamic) Sharia," Al Azhar's al-Tayyib said in 2017. "It is like wearing or taking off a ring."

In 2016, 500,000 Islamist protestors, organized by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in Jakarta, accused the Christian governor of Indonesia's capital of blasphemy against Islam.

"The accusation came after Basuki Tjahaja Purnama referred to a Quranic verse while campaigning. He argued that some Islamists were using the verse to discourage Muslims from voting for a non-Muslim. But he was accused of insulting the Quran and Muslims. Purnama was sentenced to two years in prison sentence in April 2020.

In 2016, bin Salman announced Vision 2030, a blueprint for transforming Saudi Arabia into an industrial powerhouse. He wants expanded investment in tourism to be a key part of that vision. Tourism, mostly to religious sites, contributes $26.8 billion annually to the national GDP.

Meanwhile, the country is loosening its cultural grip. Movie theaters reopened after a 35-year ban imposed by King Fahd. Moreover, bin Salman told CBS in 2018 that women would no longer compelled by law to wear the hijab or niqab. "The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear," said bin Salman.

The Riyadh High Court in 2018 waived the requirement for women to wear full veil and restricted it to wearing a hijab. Following Salman's decision, women were seen in public walking around without any headwear.

Moreover, ancient archaeological sites, such as the Nabatean city ruins of Hegra, which were neglected for decades, were reopened for the public. Driving for women was permitted in 2017 by a royal decree.

That said, Saudi Arabia's human rights record is still criticized by a number of NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch. The country still represses dissidents, human rights activists, and independent clerics. These issues tarnish any reforms that the crown prince is undertaking.

It could be years before these religious and social reforms take root in full Saudi society. But if bin Salman's pledge to back away from Wahhabism takes root, radical Islamists have lost a key component used to spread their ideology.

IPT Senior Fellow Hany Ghoraba is an Egyptian writer, political and counter-terrorism analyst at Al Ahram Weekly, author of Egypt's Arab Spring: The Long and Winding Road to Democracy and a regular contributor to the BBC.

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