Muhammed Bin Nayef Bin Abdulaziz Al Sa’ud Confined To His Palace
Muhammed Bin Nayef Bin Abdulaziz Al Sa’ud Confined To His Palace
In Jidda, according to the New York Times today. So the story about the now deposed 57-year old former Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and former Minister of the Interior, Muhammed bin Nayef (MbN), putting out a video supporting his own removal appears to be phony propaganda. The Saudis instead have been broadcasting a video of the new Crown Prince, 31-year old Muhammed bin Salman (MbS) kissing the hand of (MbN). Presumably he did that back in the day when MbN was the Crown Prince and MbS was his supposed loyal deputy. We have no video of MbN kissing the hand of MbS.
As it is, the story also reports that when MbS’s elevation was announced, MbN returned to his palace to find his guards replaced by ones loyal to his successor. He and his daughters have since been confined to the palace and also forbidden to leave the country, although the latter would seem to be impossible if they cannot leave the palace.
MbN has been replaced as Minister of the Interior by his nephew, Muhammed bin Saud bin Nayef, whose father is governor of the Eastern Province. Reportedly US intelligence officials are “outraged” at this, having worked long and well with MbN, who was reportedly the key figure behind squashing al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, He is viewed by these people as very competent, and his successor has apparently no experience at all in the area. Wonderful. But these people are constrained from speaking openly because of the clear support by President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, of the elevation of MbS, as well as his aggressive warmongering in Yemen, against Qatar, and also against Iran
Of course, we have also seen the spectacle of SecState Rex Tillerson repeatedly making it clear that he at least does not support the diplomatic and economic moves against Qatar. SecDef Mattis has laid lower on the matter, but has also made it clear that the US intends to maintain its major CENTCOM air base in Qatar and is engaging in actions such as selling Qatar fresh fighter jets that go completely against the Saudi-led move that has been pushed by the warmongering and irresponsible new Crown Prince, Muhammed bin Salman, so stupidly supported by our lunatic president.
In any case, the confinement of Muhammed bin Nayef to his palace suggests that not only does he not accept his double demotion, but that King Salman and his pushy but apparently incompetent son are afraid that all this may not go over all that well with other senior members of the royal family, so MbN must be kept out of public attention, although confining him like this might back fire, just as the failed efforts to militarily escalate in Yemen, not to mention to isolate Qatar, appear to be doing.
Oh, King Salman has also now appointed another son, 28-year old Khalid bin Salman, to be ambassador to the US. Let us hope he is not as gonzo off-the-wall as his brother.
Oh, and on the matter of the late Hassa bin Ahmed al-Sudairi, mother of the current king, I have been unable to find when she really died. The source for the Wikipedia entry and pretty much everything else out there readily accessible claim that she died in 1969 is a 2005 article in the Daily Telegraph, with no identified author, on the death of her most powerful son, the late King Fahd. Deep in the article his mother was mentioned, along with the claim she died in 1969. But I know from primary sources that she was alive much later and running the country through her sons, whom she demanded regular meetings with and complete obeisance to her wishes. I checked the authoritative book from 1981 by Robert Lacey, The Kingdom. He reports on how Abdulaziz went for her as a child and first married her when she was 13. She had a son for him, Sa’ad, who died early, after when Abdlulaziz divorced her, so she married his brother, Muhammed. But Abdulazis was in love with her, reportedly beautiful as well as strong-willed, and he later made Muhammed divorce her, although she produced sons for him, and he remarried her, keeping her as a wife until his death. It was during this second marriage that she produced the Sudairi Seven, one of whom, Salman, is now king. Lacey does not report on her having died in his 1981 book.
Interesting historical info about the royal mother’s role in running the Saudi kingdom.
But back to the present.
From what I can see and gather:
1) Saudi Arabia has the near monopolistic power to push oil prices down at will.
2) That power has been used and can still be used to virtually shut down US oil sands production & new construction, as well as shut down marginal oil wells, especially the variety using injections (many using CO2) to force oil up.
3) Trump, via US oil interests, doesn’t want that to happen… jobs lost, and big oil money very unhappy campers if it does.
4) So from political economy perspective Trump puts his US oil tycoons’ interests above others and plays ball with Saudi’s wishes — with rhetoric at least — and then provides arms sales to give his other benefactors (US defense owners) some proceeds.
That leaves Qatar apparently “on its own” vis-à-vis the US president.
Now it occurs to me that the US wouldn’t care an iota if Qatar were invaded or overtaken by the Saudi royal families as long as there was agreement that in so doing the Saudi’s would maintain the U.S.’s full military operational latitude for the Qatari base and all it’s personnel, including dependents.
If that would reduce Iran’s influence or capacity to influence factors in the ME then it would be to Trump’s advantage and also be near and dear to his heart, and his far right brethren, considering his statements about the Iran deal made by the 5 powers with US’s Kerry and Obama leading.
It isn’t to Trump’s (and far right’s) US domestic political advantage to stand up for Qatar or publically chastise the Saudi’s for their (and the other kingdoms) drastic demands on Qatar to lift the sanctions.
This also plays into Trump’s desire (inferred and implied by his rhetoric) get Iran to do something that will violate the US agreement so that he can say “see.. I told you so.” and then place more sanctions on Iran… sort of egging them on to renew their efforts to build a nuclear arsenal
This would give him a political excuse to make an aggressive military move against Iran, or let Israel do it with US military at the ready to defend against any retaliation by Iran.. potentially starting a nice new ME war…. so the US would “rally round the flag” and Trump’s US popularity would rise.. It works every time… any old excuse will do.. lie, or not is immaterial.
Saying this differently, is that anything the Saudi’s can do to stir up trouble that might get Iran to do something Trump can use to “technically” say Iran didn’t follow the agreement is to Trump’s political advantage. If the Saudi’s issues with Qatar serve those ends, or might serve those ends probabilistically, the Trump gets an advantage in US politics.
Of course then Russian sides with Iran and that puts the US and Russia at logger heads again, which stimulates even yet greater nationalism in the US and “its off to war we go…la di la di la” .
I have the distinct gut feeling that Trump is just itching for an excuse to pull a trigger to show he’s the tough guy “winner”.
Because of my gut feel, I see the actions being taken by Trump in supporting the Saudi’s as a win-win for Trump… he keeps the Saudi’s happy so they don’t pull the plug on oil prices (which keep’s Trumps domestic agenda and oil and defense industry happy as clams), while also perhaps enabling a provocation (any will do — recall the Iraq WMD’s lie) that propels Trump, who “never backs down” into a war .. with Iran and perhaps Russia. That’s a win-win for Trump.
That Trump’s a pathetic petty con man with low self esteem who needs some good mental health care is immaterial for now. Until congress see’s it that way too… he remains the petty con man with the absolute power of the US military at his beck and call.
There are conflicting interests regarding oil for Trump. His oil company pals would just a soon see oil prices high, but then if oil prices get too high then that hurts oil consumers and the overall economy, which would hurt him. So there are these conflicting forces. I am not sure he quite puts all this together, given how personalistically he views things, and on that front the MbS faction of the royal family has just played him like an accordion, much to the annoyance of other people in the administration like Tillerson and Mattis, who really have no use for this anti-Qarat push, which is just a nuisance as far as they are concerned.
That said, I agree, Longtooth, that we would do nothing to defend the Qataris if the Saudis did invade, although the Turks might, assuming the Saudis were to leave US in charge of running the al Ubeid military base.
The matter of Iran is really messy. The US and Iran are de facto allied on the ground against ISIS/Daesh. But the latter does seem to be about to fall in terms of controlling any actual territory, which would open the door to messing with Iran, which various groups in the US seem to want to do, with Trump very much in with that bunch, and even Tillerson and Mattis in with them also, at least to some degree. And this has already been showing up with the banging into the Russians and Iranians in Syria in the final stages of the take down of ISIS/Daesh. But I think it would be very dangerous for the US to really go into Iran.
Invade Qatar…… MbS is inept enough to try, as are the neocons at pentagon and foggy bottom, but the BoD at ARAMCO runs the show unless the mini coup was broader.
Saudis could not deal with a Turkish mechanized brigade, and Iran is positioned to allow lines of communication, while who knows what happens to Qatari gas installations. Logistics of invading Qatar is not simple, Turkish F-16’s could stop it. And Qatar is not Bahrain.
Iraq is a Shiite country, the disloyalty shown when Daesh walked into Sunni cities is evident. A big part of organizing Iraqi retaking those cities was Iranian. This complicates an already huge problem investing Iran poses.
Syria: my reading and observation.
US tools to break up Syria: Kurds are not that effective (spending effort grabbing Tabqa instead of Raqqa), nor are any “rebel” factions. HTS (al Qaeda in Syria: Idlib with Turkish support) seems to be capable.
Russian side: Syria units getting better training and equipment, Iranian units pretty good.
Aggression against Iran poses space, time, and materiel challenges even if US neocons discount Iran shuttering Hormuz. North Vietnam size bombing would be too far small and the distances covered would be over hostile territory not the S China Sea.
Vietnam bombing was the greatest disappointment never acknowledged.
All that aside the US is likely to beard the Ayatollah!
There was no mention of Israel in the article or comments,which is surprising given the recent notice of the oil potential in the Golan Heights. Expect that you will hear more about that subject as the Saudi-Qatari-Iranian interactions heat up. Also expect that Tillerson should prevail over the younger set like Kushner and the Saudi princelet.
Last week Israeli jets took out Syrian tank and artillery which were engaged with al Qaeda in Syria al Qaeda was trying to grab a town in the Daraa region, which borders Golan.
Israel takes in al Qaeda casualties support them and in general is dabbling to holding the Golan forever.
To Israel like the US there is no international law if it deters their interests.
Israel practices “forward defense” like their sponsor the US and never had a war St Augustine would approve like the US in 1945.
US and Israel both side with the Wahhabi royals when it comes to Sunni terrorism.
In terms of energy, the more important play regarding Israel is natural gas development in the Med, which looks to bave serious potential, and they are working on that. Yeah, they want to hold Golan, but that is secodary for energy. Little reported is that there has for some time been a Daesh-related group hanging out next to the Golan that has a de facto truce with Israel. Nobody talks about this, although it is not that big of a deal.
I think one of the things that may be motivating this aggressiveness by this younger group of Saudi royals led by Muhammed bin Salman (MbS), is that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has in fact lots some of its power on the world markets. Yes, it is by far the world’s largest exporter, and with some slack in production capacity it can push prices down and punish everybody. But a funny thing happened in the last few years. The did that, pushed the price down from over $100/barrel, hoping to drive out the US frackers, as well as make Putin behave who would not play de facto member of OPEC and reduce production to help stabililze prices back where they would like them to be back up above $100. The frackers did not go away, and while the Russians have sort of played ball a bit, they have been cheating, and now prices are stuck below %60 and even below $50 right now. They can push prices down, but now they cannot get them back up there again.
This is a problem in that they now do not quite have the internal leeway they used to, and are running budget deficits. Part of MbS’s Vision 2030, all about privatizing ARAMCO, sort of (suspect main buyers are members of royal family), as well as getting off oil and other vague reforms, including as yet unseen “social” ones, was to reduce reliance of KSA population on oil monies. So, subsidies for gasoline and electricity were cut. But, whooops! that not so popular, and a side thing that happened when MbS got elevated recently is that those cuts were elminated and the various subsidies were put back on. Don’t want economic unhappiness messing up MbS’s seizure of power.
And it is also the extended royal family that is used to the goodies, and that group has gotten much larger and demanding over the last few decades. They are the ruling class of the nation, and they must be kept happy, all of which puts limits on pushing the price of oil down too far
In the US, I do think Trump really knows quite what he is doing, with a lot of it sort of gut reaction. So he is not sure whether he wants higher or lower oil prices. One thing pushing for higher is that this can sort of spill over onto coal a bit, and he loves coal. He is aware that the core states that put him over are OH, PA, MI, WI, IA. Of those, Ohio and Pennsylvania are core states of the coal-steel complex, which would explain why he is seriously looking at steel industry protectionism, although that would hurt the auto industry in Michigan. The one source of increasing demand for coal has come from rising indutrial output, especially from steel. Help Youngstown and help the coal miners, whose numbers may be lower than in all the renewable energy sector, but they are very well located, and they like him.
Meant to say Trump really does not know what he is doing, but going by gut, so pay off coal and steel complex.
Turks might be sufficient, but I suspect Saudis and pals may well be held back more now. I think they thought with Trump and the Israelis on their side, everybody would just roll over and go along with their demands, with maybe the Qataris just caving. But now we have the UN SecGen denouncing them. They have shown themselves to be incompetent bunglers, not even able to put together a sensible set of demands in any sort of decent time, and now have support of few outside of their lilttle immediate group.
What may also be making them sit up is just how angry SecState Tillerson is. Mattis probably figures the base will hold no matter what, but Tillerson also represents the major US oil company interests, and I have no doubt they do not like this or a prospect of war in Iran.
It is little remembered, and many still do not even realize it, but the US oil companies were not all that keen on the war in Iraq, despite Cheney’s plotting. And indeed they were right, although they did OK with the higher oil prices for awhile. But aside from Cheney’s Halliburtons, which mostly made money on military contracts, the US oil companies have not gotten the good deals in Iraq and have basically not gained from that war. In general, they do not like political instability or war in areas where they operate, and the Persian Gulf is an awfully important playground for them. I am sure, that with the possible exception of one or two smaller companies, the serious oil majors like Exxon Mobil have no use for this MbS nonsense and would like to see it put back into its box.
Early in the Qatar ‘dispute’ a European writer called it a kerfuffle!
Barkley, you believe:
“But a funny thing happened in the last few years. The did that, pushed the price down from over $100/barrel, hoping to drive out the US frackers, as well as make Putin behave who would not play de facto member of OPEC and reduce production to help stabililze prices back where they would like them to be back up above $100. The frackers did not go away, ….and now prices are stuck below %60 and even below $50 right now. They can push prices down, but now they cannot get them back up there again.”
Pushing down prices stopped the US & Canadian competition from fracking and oil sands, as well as shut down marginal “recovery” wells in the US… including many in Dakota’s. It stopped them in their tracks… and they didn’t recover again until the Saudi’s took the breaks off.
In my opinion the Saudi’s started cutting prices sooner as fracking prices started pushing prices below $100ish because by then it was clear that global crude oil demand was going to remain significantly depressed. If you’re in a cut-throat competition and you hold the monopoly card you use it force the competition out of business or at least to reduce their profits to zero or less.
The Saudi’s lost revenues by cutting, but their competition lost money… in the capitalist system if you aren’r profiting and don’t hold a monopoly card you stop putting more bad money after bad money. The Saudi’s don’t have to deal with raw capitalism in oil production so they can drop prices and reduce revenues but they’re not losing capital…
So all they have to do is with withstand the reduction in their koffers to keep supporting their population’s demands (and keep police costs low)…
After they had shown quite clearly who’s in control by stop fracking and oil sands and marginal oil wells in their tracks they backed off to replenish their koffers… price rose back to where it would have been anyway ($50 – $60.. above $40 by enough to put fracking back in business.
But the price can’t rise above that while global demand still remains depressed and US fracking and oil sands is partially producing again at far lower levels of profits than the investors and banks originally envisioned. Things are now about in equilibrium at $50 – $60 give or take… but if fracking continues to increase outputs prices will fall closer to $50 an possibly start pushing lower,.
If that occurs then the Saudi’s will simply drop prices again (e.g. flood market) to push fracking production volumes back toward zero again, forcing the wells to stop pumping (unprofitable) and the Saudi’s gain the volume that fracking was taking at a lower price same total revenue
They can keep doing this for a long. long time to maintain oil price controls and volumes they ship to supply revenues for their own koffers. … along with their defacto control of the other oil producing ME nations.
Keep in mind global oil demand is price driven…. and at marginal or low / no profits for US frackers and marginal wells at low prices, the Saudi’s and their buddies can take the higher oil volumes at lower prices while the capitalist controlled US oil can’t afford to keep putting more money into more losses.
So IMO, Trump just opted to keep the US oil capital owners happy by giving the Saudi’s what they wanted… Had he not, the Saudi’s could pull the plug again and leave Trump high and dry with the oil capitalists, job losses, and oil profits tax revenue losses.
Confronted with those options, Trump the business “tycoon” he thinks he is, just opted to keep his oil capital owners happy. Why do you think he and his cronies are gutting the EPA?
IMO this is simple capital owners oligopolistic business hiding behind a façade of “democratic” gov’t. It’s right where the far right wants (and has always wanted) things to be.
Trump could have told the Saudi’s to go pound sand (pun intended) and lay off Qatar, but then he’d be putting his oil capital owners at risk of losses, lower profits, job loss in the oil industry again
US consumers (the 95%) would have been happy with the lower oil prices that would result, as would our trading partners with lower energy costs of production, also depriving Russia of oil revenues gained. This might even have stimulated global production demand to rebound, leading to higher demand for labor in the US, driving labor wages up (with more inflation)… both of which are opposed by capital owners however.
But why sacrifice the capital owners that feed the means by which the GOP reps get elected to retain their congressional majority when it’s clear that you can make the capital owners happy instead? And if you’re really good at it, you can even give them more by taking money out of social services (like health care).
I don’t think you get it yet…. In Trump’s admin and the current GOP freedom caucus, Rand & Cruz types, this isn’t about global politics or foreign policy … it’s a business… and capital owners “are” the only business than counts.
just fyi.. the other thing I just don’t get yet:
We seem to always blame Trump for what he does and says that’s counter to generally accepted facts and sound foundations for foreign policies, gutting the EPA, etc.
But Trump was a know entity before he was elected… even before he won the GOP spot on the ticket. The majority of ‘mericans voted to elect him…. at least from the Electoral Votes constitutional system we’ve had forever to elect Presidents.
So why blame Trump when 1/2 the electorate chose him knowing what they were getting when they did so. The actual and unquestionable blame falls on half the electorate for what Trump does or doesn’t do. not on Trump.
So instead of blaming Trump’s decisions on Trump, why won’t we call a spade a spade and blame 1/2 our voting public instead? Too divisive maybe? More divisiveness is not “good for the country”?
We can’t blame half the voting public because why? Because they were dupes who got conned? BS… that’s just an excuse so that we don’t put the blame where it actually is. Or we can blame the capital owners and other special interest groups (white supremacists, xenophobes, capital owners interests, etc.) for being the ones that conned half the voters who were dupes I suppose, but in the end it’s still the voters that voted for Trump who brought him to the office to do as was quite clear during his preliminary campaigning and his presidential campaign.
And for all we really know in fact is that maybe that half of the electorate aren’t dupes at all .. weren’t conned at all… but were in fact fully informed and want what Trump does. and so they are still the ones we need to blame for the consequences.
That calling a spade a spade is divisive is “so what”? … the slavery issue was divisive too.. but it needed to be dealt with sooner or later and one side will always pull the trigger first to get a final resolution. The sooner we realize just how divided our nation’s voters are, the sooner we can begin the process of deciding how to deal with it and thus how it will get resolved. And it won’t be pretty or easy or congenial though people will put up a more or less congenial front for awhile.
So my position is that we stop blaming Trump and put the blame squarely on the backs of half or voting citizens… divisive as it may be it’s no more divisive than it actually is already — just more visible.
Trump got 46% of the popular vote, 2.1% behind Clinton. This followed the weird intervention of James Comey nine days earlier, at which point she had a lead of several more points, with it looking like a solid win in the electoral college.
It has become clear almost immediately that many of those who switched to Trump at the last minute have had buyer’s remorse since, with his favorable ratings these days mostly in the upper 30s, with his disapproval ratings in the lower 50s, and something like at best for him a 40-50% split much of the time since his inauguration.
So, he is not and never has been supported by “a majority of the electorate.” He did win a majority of the electoral college, but that is a problem of the electoral college, not a majority of the electorate. And, I do not think most of his supporters really understand what he is for. They just like him because of various identity issues, although I do not have much respect for most of this.
But, frankly, I would prefer to stick with blaming Trump, while feeling sorry about his minority of supporters, many of whom are suckers whom he will shaft in one way or another, to the extent he has not already done so.