The arrest of Prince Waleed bin Talal bin Abdelaziz Al Sa’ud and several other princes in Saudi Arabia is a clear sign that the new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdelaziz Al Sa’ud (MBS) intends openly to govern Sa’udi Arabia as the absolutist monarch that he is. Up until now the key ruling princes of the Al Sa’ud family have used a combination of patronage and force to maintain power, in other words a mailed fist in a velvet glove. The glove is off.
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There are two key issues that lie at the heart of the recent attempt by the Saudis and the Emiratis to exert power over the State of Qatar. The principal one is at its heart about money and is nothing less than a shakedown. The secondary issue is about power and is tied up with the Qatari succession and the Saudis view of the independence of that state.
I am informed that the dispute started when the Emiratis complained to the Qataris about the level of the charges that the Qataris were levying for the transmission of natural gas from fields in Abu Dhabi to the LNG plant in Qatar. The Qataris refused to reduce the charges. Continue reading →
The recent change in the line of succession in Saudi Arabia took a number of observers by surprise but I understand that it had been carefully planned for some time. I have always assumed that when it came time to transfer power to one of the grandsons of Abdelaziz that it would go down one of the Suderi lines but could never predict which one. In a sense it was a win at the roulette table for Salman bin Abdelaziz. In front of him in the succession were both of his full brothers Sultan and Nayef. The former may have ascended to the throne, the latter would certainly have become King except for his untimely death. That might have left him as the kingmaker and arbiter of the succession and not Salman. Continue reading →
It was interesting to watch President Trump’s speech to the assembled notables of the Arab and Islamic world today. Besides the obvious climb down from his anti-Muslim rhetoric during the campaign, the most striking aspect of the speech was the clear realignment of US policy in the region in favor of our long standing Sunni allies. The Obama administration had moved the US away from its traditional allies, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt in his overtures to Iran which culminated in the deal over Iran’s nuclear program. The question still remains as to why he did this. Did he believe that an overture to Iran was his Nixon moment and that his legacy would be that of a peacemaker towards one of America’s most hostile enemies? If that is the case then he was merely deluded. Continue reading →
Given the ongoing jihad that the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Jamaat Al Islami, Jamiat Ahli Al Hadith and other Islamic organizations have declared against the west it is interesting to note that nothing much has changed in respect of the beliefs, ideologies and actions of these contemporary holy warriors compared to their various antecedents.
The roots of this ideology goes back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad but the contemporary jihadi movement is most heavily influenced by the Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328) who rejected the idea that the so called greater Jihad referred to the interior moral struggle of believers. Continue reading →
One of the possible consequences of the US nuclear deal with Iran will be for Saudi Arabia to start to develop its own nuclear capability. The deal with Iran, if adhered to does not stop Iran from eventually developing nuclear weapons merely pauses that development. During this period it gives the Saudis time, if they choose to begin a program of their own.
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The current visit of President Barack Obama to Saudi Arabia and the GCC has highlighted a number of elements of confusion in US policy towards the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has been a longstanding strategic ally of the United States in the region, albeit with reservations when it has pursued its singular interests. However, so has our ally Israel, which has consistently put its own interests first when they have clashed with US policy interests. They have consistently defied all US attempts to halt the expansion of the settlements in the West Bank. Their lack of co-operation with fair-minded efforts by various administrations to create some workable structure to diminish, if not resolve the dispute with the Palestinians in pursuit of their own objectives is hardly the action of a friend. In fact, they have gone so far as to have actually launched a sanctioned military attack on a US Naval vessel which resulted in the deaths of 34 US servicemen and the wounding of 171. Continue reading →
One thing that can always be relied on in the politics of the Middle East is that nothing is fixed and that the politics, alliances and downright collusions are as shifting as the sands of the Rub Al Khali.
This week the Bahraini foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa came out with a statement that Iran was the biggest threat to peace and stability in the region. This is not surprising coming from a mouthpiece of the Sunni minority government in Bahrain but it is instructive of the hardening of the sectarian divide in the region. He went on to declare, in lockstep with the Emiratis and the Sa’udis that they now considered the Iranian proxy Hizbollah to be a terrorist organization. Continue reading →