Discussion in 'Hot off the Wire' started by Angroid, Nov 5, 2017.
I haven't seen a single A-rab who wasn't a lazy ass mud.
Which is why I tend to agree with James Howard Kuntsler. And his The End of Happy Motoring mantra. Yeah, he's a far too left-leaning and was an Obama asslicker, etc. But he calls it pretty much how I see it regards to oil. i.e. It ain't gonna last forever. The Oil Monopolists know that but they're determined to wring every last zogbuck out of it before being forced to switch to something else.
After jailing dozens of members of the royal family, and extorting numerous prominent businessmen, 32-year-old Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman has widened his so-called 'corruption' probe further still.
The Wall Street Journal reports that at least two dozen military officers, including multiple commanders, recently have been rounded up in connection to the Saudi government’s sweeping corruption investigation, according to two senior advisers to the Saudi government.
Additionally, several prominent businessmen also were taken in by Saudi authorities in recent days.
A number of businessmen including Loai Nasser, Mansour al-Balawi, Zuhair Fayez and Abdulrahman Fakieh also were rounded up in recent days, the people said.
Attempts to reach the businessmen or their associates were unsuccessful.
It isn’t clear if those people are all accused of wrongdoing, or whether some of them have been called in as witnesses. But their detainment signals an intensifying high-stakes campaign spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
There appear to be three scenarios behind MbS' decision to go after the military:
1) They are corrupt and the entire process is all above board and he is doing the right thing by cleaning house;
2) They are wealthy and thus capable of being extorted (a cost of being free) to add to the nation's coffers; or
3) There is a looming military coup and by cutting off the head, he hopes to quell the uprising.
If we had to guess we would weight the scenarios as ALL true with the (3) becoming more likely, not less.
So far over 200 people have been held without charges since the arrests began on November 4th and almost 2000 bank accounts are now frozen, which could be why, as The Daily Mail reports, Saudi prince and billionaire Al-Waleed bin Talal has reportedly put two luxury hotels in Lebanon up for sale after being detained in his country during a corruption sweep.
The Saudi disinformation ministry previously stated the government would seize any asset or property related to the alleged corruption, meaning the Savoy hotel could well become the state property of the kingdom.
'The accounts and balances of those detained will be revealed and frozen,' a spokesman for Saudi Arabia's information ministry said.
'Any asset or property related to these cases of corruption will be registered as state property.'
As we noted previously, it appears clear that MbS has decided to enforce a 70% wealth tax...the Financial Times reports today that the Saudi government has offered the new occupants of the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton a way out.... and it’s going to cost them: In some cases, as much as 70% of their net worth.
Saudi authorities are negotiating settlements with princes and businessmen held over allegations of corruption, offering deals for the detainees to pay for their freedom, people briefed on the discussions say.
In some cases the government is seeking to appropriate as much as 70 per cent of suspects’ wealth, two of the people said, in a bid to channel hundreds of billions of dollars into depleted state coffers.
The arrangements, which have already seen some assets and funds handed over to the state, provide an insight into the strategy behind Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s dramatic corruption purge.
The country’s attorney-general has said he is investigating allegations of corruption amounting to at least $100 billion - though the total value of assets seized could be as high as $800 billion. Though the Financial Times puts the high-end figure at a relatively modest $300 billion; to make up for the delta, more arrests are still expected.
Regular Saudis, who’ve seen their benefits cut and some of their jobs taken away, support MbS’s decision. “Why should the poor take all the pain of austerity,” said one Saudi academic. “The rich need to pay their way too.”
In Saudi Arabia, they are about to do just that.
* * *
While MbS also continues to get the support of US officials, not everyone is convinced that the anti-corruption probe will succeed...
As Counterpunch.org's Patrick Cockburn warns in fact, it is doomed to fail...
About eight or nine years ago, I had an Afghan friend who previously worked for a large US aid agency funding projects in the Afghan provinces. He had been hired to monitor their progress once work had got underway, but he did not hold the job very long for reasons that he explained to me.
The problem for the Americans at the local agency headquarters in Kabul was that the risk of ambush by the Taliban was deemed too high for them personally to visit the projects that they were funding. Instead, they followed the construction from one step removed, by insisting that the Afghan company involved should transmit back to Kabul, at set intervals, detailed pictures of its activities, to show that they were fulfilling their contract to the letter.
Almost as an afterthought, the aid agency thought it might be useful to send along an Afghan in their employ to check that all was well. His first mission was to go to Kandahar province, where some plant – I seem to remember it was a vegetable packing facility – was believed to be rising somewhere in the dangerous hinterland. He went there, but, despite earnest inquiries, was unable to locate the project.
Back in Kandahar city, he asked around about the mystery of the missing vegetable plant, but found that his questions were answered evasively by those he contacted.
Finally, he met somebody who, under a pledge of secrecy about the source of the information, explained to him what was happening.
Businessmen in Kandahar receiving funds from the aid agency and knowing its reliance on photographs to monitor works in progress, had found it safer and more profitable to fake the whole process.
They engaged a small local company with experience of making TV advertisements and documentaries to rig up what was, in effect, a film studio – in which workers played by extras would be shown busily engaged in whatever activity the agency was paying for. In the case of the vegetable-packing facility, this must have been simple enough to fake by buying cabbages and cauliflowers in the market to be placed in boxes inside some shed by labourers hired by the day.
My friend returned to Kabul and hinted to his employers that this particular project in Kandahar was not doing as well as they imagined. He thought that it would be unhealthy for himself to go into detail, but he did not, at this stage, resign from his well-paying job. This only happened a few months later, when he was sent to Jalalabad to check on a chicken farm supposedly nearing completion outside the city.
Once again, he could not find the project in question and, when he met those in charge, put it to them that it did not exist. They admitted that this was indeed so, but – according to his report – they added menacingly that he should keep in mind that “it was a long road back to Kabul from Kandahar”. In other words, they would kill him if he exposed their scam: a threat that convinced him his long-term chances of survival were low unless he rapidly resigned and found new employment.
I was thinking of the story of the Kandahar packing plant and the Jalalabad chicken farm, when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched his anti-corruption drive in Saudi Arabia last weekend.
There may be a big difference in the amount of money to be made out of looting the Saudi state compared to US aid agencies in Afghanistan, but the psychology and processes at work have similarities.
In both cases, those making a lot of money out of corruption will put more effort into going on doing just that, than those who say they are determined to stop them. If a few wealthy individuals are scapegoated, then others will jostle to take their place.
It is important to take on board, when considering the case of Saudi Arabia, that many oil- or resource-rich states – be they monarchies or republics – have launched their own anti-corruption drives down the years. All have failed, and for roughly the same reasons.
Iraq, so different from Saudi Arabia in terms of history, religion and politics, is likewise entirely dependent on oil revenues. Its next biggest export used to be dates, though today even these are often imported from China. Corruption is chronic, particularly in giant infrastructure projects. Four years ago, I was in Baghdad early in the year, when there was heavier than usual rainfall, which led to a large part of the eastern side of the city disappearing under a foot of grey water mixed with sewage. This was despite $7bn (£5.3bn) supposedly spent on new sewers and drainage systems, but which, in the event, turned out not to function – or even to exist.
The problem in resource-rich states is that corruption is not marginal to political power, but central to acquiring it and keeping it. Corruption at the top is a form of patronage manipulated by those in charge, to create and reward a network of self-interested loyalists. It is the ruling family and its friends and allies who cherrypick what is profitable: this is as true of Saudi Arabia as it was true of Libya under Gaddafi, Iraq under Saddam Hussein and his successors, or Iraqi Kurdistan that was supposedly different from the rest of the country.
Corruption is a nebulous concept when it comes to states with arbitrary rulers, who can decide – unrestrained by law or democratic process – what is legal and what is illegal. What typifies the politics of oil states is that everybody is trying to plug into the oil revenues in order to get their share of the cake.
This is true at the top, but the same is the case of the rest of the population, or at least a large and favoured section of it.
The Iraqi government pays $4bn a month to about seven million state employees and pensioners. These may or may not do productive work, but it would be politically risky to fire them because they are the base support of the regime in power.
Anti-corruption drives don’t work, because if they are at all serious, they soon begin to cut into the very roots of political power by touching the “untouchables”. At this point principled anti-corruption campaigners will find themselves in serious trouble and may have to flee the country, while the less-principled ones will become a feared weapon to be used against anybody whom the government wants to target.
A further consequence of the traditional anti-corruption drive is that it can paralyse government activities in general. This is because all officials, corrupt and incorrupt alike, know that they are vulnerable to investigation.
“The safest course for them is to take no decision and sign no document which might be used or misused against them,” a frustrated American businessman told me in Baghdad some years ago. He added that it was only those so politically powerful that they did not have to fear legal sanctions who would take decisions – and such people were often the most corrupt of all.
Authored by Ghassan Kadi via The Saker blog,
Mohamed Bin Salman’s (MBS) royal Saudi coup is still in the making and its stories of mystery and intrigue are unfolding.
Some recent articles written about this unprecedented Saudi development have focused on whether or not MBS was actually desirous of instigating reform within the kingdom of sand and capable of putting together the infrastructure that made such reform possible and how. Other more cynical articles have cast little doubt on his ability to create any change and classified him as yet another puppet of the legacy that his grandfather King Abdul Aziz, the founder of the Saudi dynasty, has forged with the West. In between the two extremes, many perhaps waited in anticipation to see what was to happen next in the now quick-changing kingdom that did not change at all in essence for nearly a hundred years.
To put recent developments into perspective, we must objectively look at MBS’s achievements and failures since his rise to prominence; with a special emphasis on the developments of the last few weeks.
MBS has failed to turn previous Saudi Government failed policy on Syria to his advantage by distancing his own legacy from it. If anything, the outcome of the Syrian opposition conference that was held in Riyadh was a farcical outcome of Saudi diplomacy. Not only did this conference coincide with the 20th of November 2017 Putin-Assad Sochi victory summit, but it is still “demanding” the removal of Syrian President Assad from power.
The arrogant and seemingly naive Saudis seem to be still under the illusion that they are able to dictate terms of settlement of the “War on Syria” despite the fact that they have put all of their efforts into winning it but have lost decisively.
However, the more painful fact for them is that they lost without a single bargaining chip remaining for them to capitalize on.
Whilst MBS can be “excused” for not being able to find a face-saving way out of Syria, he has failed abysmally in the war that he orchestrated in Yemen, and as this war drags on, the international community is beginning to wake up to the atrocities and genocide that the Saudi-led coalition is inflicting upon Yemen, and no one can be held more accountable for this military failure and crime against humanity than MBS himself.
MBS also failed to contain the loss he “inherited” from the failures of previous Saudi policies in Lebanon and Iraq. If anything, his determination to remain steadfast with these has turned regional Saudi policies into a total joke.
So where did MBS score any success, if any at all?
In my previous related articles and herein, I have mentioned and reiterate that MBS is increasingly gaining popularity within the ranks of young and educated Saudi men and women of all ages and in general amongst the grass-roots of the population. Hence, in this venture, he is scoring two birds with a single stone. In rounding up more popular support, he is confiscating and freezing badly-needed cash under the pretext of corruption.
The estimates of the number of incarcerated Saudi princes and businessmen are not any less subject to a game of guess work than the funds involved in this kerfuffle. Ignoring how many men have been put under detention, the tally of funds confiscated and frozen is estimated at a minimum of USD 150 bn to a maximum of USD 800 bn.
Given that the total official Saudi savings reserve is in the tune of “only” USD 700 bn after decades of high financial times, even the low estimate of USD 150 bn is a huge sum by proportion and by any proportion of course. It is little surprise that MBS is trying to replenish into the coffers of the state such sums, and if he manages to do it, it would be to his credit.
Whilst on the subject of official Saudi savings, after many decades of huge petroleum exports and at elevated prices, the Saudi savings reserve figure should be in the vicinity of a few trillion dollars. But a huge proportion of Saudi petro-dollars has been squandered on royal funds, holidays yachts, prostitutes, drugs, bribes, theft, corruption at all levels, and on this account and this account only, MBS can be acknowledged for bringing corrupt individuals to account.
But whether or not MBS is able to stamp out corruption and/or whether or not he is guilty of the same charge, as his cousins and some others argue, how much command does he have over the affairs of the kingdom, and over the royal family he staged a coup against?
Inside, unconfirmed reports allege that whether or not MBS has any command on traditional local troops that he can rely on, he is not taking any second chances.
To elaborate, the reader ought to be reminded that the Al-Saud legacy built its reign of power (and terror) on Wahhabism and money.
Wahhabism was used as the doctrine, and money was the catalyst for buying loyalty and support.
With MBS’s purge on the royals, no traditional royal supporter with known wealth is left feeling safe. How can they feel safe if they hear reports of news of princes like Al-Walid bin Talal not only being in custody, but also getting tortured and his assets frozen and sieged by the state?
In my previous article, The Second Saudi Dynasty: MBS’s Reset Button, I wondered how can MBS count on any local supporters. Apparently, he is not.
Recent inside information that was later on published in various media, reports that MBS has been using Blackwater to do his dirty work.
If those reports are true, MBS has hired Blackwater to arrest, with orders to kill whoever resists arrest, Saudi princes and high-ranking businessmen, and to answer to no one but him.
In retrospect, the fatal shooting of Prince Abdul Aziz, son of former King Fahed, was highly unlikely to have been done by a Saudi as this would attract a death sentence in the event of the coup failing.
It has even been reported that Blackwater personnel are driving around in tinted Saudi Police and security agency personnel vehicles in a manner that is totally unbeknown and hidden from the Saudi public.
This cannot be corroborated any more than they can realistically be dismissed.
If true, such reports indicate that MBS’s coup is not over. They indicate that he is not taking any chances, but most practically, they indicate that he trusts no one; no one expect Blackwater.
Most importantly and significantly however, such news, if confirmed, indicates that MBS does not have a true hold on power.
If such is the case, and seeing the ambition he has, there is more reason to believe that MBS is going to have no choice but to go with his cousins all the way to the wire and until he has destroyed them all and confiscated all of their assets.
After all, he needs their money to achieve his dreams and get his kingdom out of its financial mess. He needs to blame his failure on them. He needs to eliminate any possible claim they can make for the throne.
Almost overnight, MBS has changed Saudi Arabia from a kingdom of sand upon which Al Saud reigned with a solid foothold and strong base, to a kingdom of quick-sand upon which princes and power brokers no longer have a leg to stand on.
They either have to pledge total and unconditional loyalty to MBS or fear persecution. On the other hand, if they do pledge that loyalty, and MBS’s coup fails as a result of a counter-coup, then they will risk being seen as enemies of the winners of the counter-coup. It is a damned if you do and a damned if you don’t situation.
Not any less perplexing than the dilemma of the princes is the dilemma of the lower tiers of power in Saudi Arabia; especially senior military officers and their subordinates. With its tribal mentality, Saudi Arabia has had several tiers of armed forces, some of whom are loyal to particular princes rather than to the state itself. Prince Mutaib for example, the son of former King Abdullah, was until the 4th of November, the Minister of the National Guard. The hierarchy within the National Guard are loyal to him personally, and now the big boss is in jail. MBS therefore has a few options; either to coerce those military officers to become loyal to him under the risk of them stabbing him in the back, or, to throw everyone in jail and bring his own people in. But, where would he bring his own people in from and who are they to begin with? After all, and despite all the great power he gave himself, he is Mr Johnny-come–lately and he hasn’t had the advantage of time to slowly build his own army. His practical alternative was based on pragmatism and securing his own safety, and to that effect, he cannot find a more faithful and better trained army than Blackwater. And even though Blackwater does not come cheap, but clearly to MBS the objectives he seeks justify the costs.
Some may argue that Blackwater can also be bought by counter coup leaders and even foreign governments. Whilst this is possible, MBS remains to have no better alternative. However, one would imagine that for a company like Blackwater, to guarantee its business success and continuity, it would have a strict code of conduct that stipulates that it will refrain from entering contractual agreements that can generate conflict of interest between its clients. After all, and irrespective of its criminal and underhanded mercenary modus operandi, who would hire it knowing beforehand that it is in the habit of breaking contracts and replacing them with ones with the adversaries? Whilst it is arguable as to whether or not any client of Blackwater can actually take legal action against it and win is another story because, without any doubt, Blackwater, inhumane and criminal as it is, cannot afford to see its reputation ruined.
To sum it up therefore, whilst MBS’s coup is still in the making and its final outcome remaining unclear, what is evident is that MBS does not have enough local Saudi power base that he can rely on in the upper echelons of power. Whilst his grass root popularity among the general population is on the rise, traditional power brokers can neither be supportive of him, seen to be supportive or seen to be against him. Either way, and even though some of them could potentially become strong and faithful proponents of MBS, at the moment any pledges of allegiance are highly risky for all involved.
In his reliance on Blackwater however, MBS is achieving a more guaranteed short term objective. However, this policy can backfire very violently; because it is allowing certain key Saudi power brokers to sit on the fence for a little longer until they see who is the final winner in all of this for them to eventually back.
(((Thomas Kikey Friedman))) and the Jew York Times produce a fawning Mohammed bin Salman *product (brand) placement puff piece presenting him as the great progressive reformer.
*Product Placement is the technique whereby a brand or product is subtly and deliberately advertised, promoted & pushed in exchange for money in Media, be it during News Casts, a TV show or a Film.
^ Times dey be gettin' harda at da Jew Yawk Times, dey is now reduced to begging A-rab Sandniggers fo' Gibs & shekels