MbS has made the U.S. complicit in war crimes and committed murder. The new administration should stand up to him.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives at Kansai airport in Izumisano city, Osaka prefecture, on June 27, 2019 ahead of the G20 Osaka Summit. (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the G-20, representing states with the world’s largest economies, gathered virtually over the weekend for a meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia. Time is running out for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to capitalize on his friendship with President Donald Trump. The incoming administration is unlikely to cater to his deadly whims.
Trump made his first presidential trip abroad to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The president came away from that meeting in thrall to the young MbS, who turned a repressive collective dictatorship into a murderous personal tyranny.
If the Trump administration had merely maintained civil relations with yet another authoritarian regime, there would have been little controversy. However, the president and secretary of state turned complicity with brutality into an art form. Rarely has a president so ostentatiously welcomed such a dictator to the White House, assiduously protected such a dictator from accountability, and effectively armed such a dictator to commit further villainy.
The KSA was always a dubious partner for America. An absolute monarchy in which fear of Islamist radicalism caused the princely libertines in private to enforce Islamic purity in public, Riyadh won the affection of U.S. officials with its vast oil reserves. Western governments averted their gaze from royal repression and welcomed spendthrift princes and princesses seeking a luxurious and sybaritic retreat.
However, after King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud took over in January 2015, he broke with tradition and put one of his sons, the current crown prince, in charge. Then MbS staged a uniquely Saudi machtübernahme, akin to the Nazi seizure of power. Since then, even senior royals have routinely disappeared from view—kidnappings, detentions, torture, shakedowns, and killings have stamped the regime’s authority on the country.
If what Saudi Arabia, with American assistance, is doing to Yemen isn’t terrorism, what is? From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:
The Trump administration is reportedly close to moving the Houthi rebels in Yemen onto its official list of designated terrorist organizations with the goal of choking them off from money and resources. The head of the UN’s World Food Program along with many other experts caution that this designation will prolong the horrific war which has claimed over a quarter million lives and create an impenetrable barrier of red tape stopping humanitarian aid from getting to the Yemeni people.
The United Nations conservatively estimates that some 233,000 Yemenis have been killed in the war between the Houthis and the US-backed Saudi-led coalition, mostly from what it calls “indirect causes”. Those indirect causes would be disease and starvation resulting from what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls “the worst famine the world has seen for decades”.
When people hear the word “famine” they usually think of mass hunger caused by droughts or other naturally occurring phenomena, but in reality the starvation deaths we are seeing in Yemen (a huge percentage of which are children under the age of five) are caused by something that is no more natural than the starvation deaths you’d see in a medieval siege. They are the result of the Saudi coalition’s use of blockades and its deliberate targeting of farms, fishing boats, marketplaces, food storage sites, and cholera treatment centers with airstrikes aimed at making the Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen so weak and miserable that they break.
In other words, the US and its allies have been helping Saudi Arabia deliberately kill children and other civilians on mass scale in order to achieve a political goal. Which would of course be a perfect example of any standard definition of terrorism.
Joe Biden and his team have no problem cozying up to terrorists, as long as the terrorists are aligned with US regime change objectives. From Daniel Lazare at strategic-culture.org:
As Joe Biden unveils his hawkish cabinet picks, it’s hard not to get the sense that we’re all hurtling back in time to those glorious days of regime change when the United States believed it had a sacred right to topple any government that got in its way. It also seems like we’re returning to the days that when jihadi terrorism aimed at America and its allies was horrible, terrible, a crime against humanity, and so on, while terrorism aimed at people the US didn’t like was, well, distasteful and unpleasant but not something to bring up in polite company.
While no one wants to blow up innocent civilians, in other words, what really counts is which civilians and in whose behalf.
With that in mind, it’s worth revisiting a talk that then-Vice President Biden gave at Harvard’s Kennedy School in October 2014. If you enjoy listening to an empty-headed politician spouting endless clichés, you can access all ninety minutes of it here. But if you’re not a glutton for punishment, you can jump to the 53:35 mark and zero in on Sleepy Joe’s specific thoughts regarding America’s Mideast partners and their inordinate fondness for ISIS and Al Qaeda.
An IPO is supposed to leave you flush with cash, not put you deeper in the hole. From Simon Watkins at oilprice.com:
The initial public offering (IPO) of Saudi Aramco that was heralded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) as being a showcase flotation for raising massive new capital for the Kingdom and anchoring a major expansion of its international equities market presence has proven only to put Aramco into a debt spiral and highlighted a myriad of problems in Saudi Arabia to international investors. Now, Aramco is digging itself further into serious debt through bond issuances simply to pay for the huge dividend payments promised by MbS that were absolutely required to persuade anyone to buy into the omni-toxic IPO. At this rate, the debt taken on by Aramco and other Saudi bond offerings to pay for the dividends will be far more than the amount of money raised in the IPO. As a direct result of MbS deciding to go ahead with yet another oil price war at the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic was gathering pace and destroying demand for oil, Aramco’s finances have suffered a massive hit. For the first half of this year, the company saw a 50 percent plunge in net profit and at the beginning of this month, it reported another massive drop in profits of 44.6 percent for the third quarter, falling to SAR44.21 billion (US$11.79 billion) from SAR79.84 billion in the same period last year. On the other side of the balance sheet, though, is the stark fact that because the company’s IPO was so toxic on so many levels that it was shunned by Western investors and had to be off-loaded to buyers who were either bullied or bribed into buying the stock Aramco is left having to pay massive guaranteed dividend payments for the foreseeable future to those shareholders.
This huge guaranteed dividend payment of US$18.75 billion per quarter – US$75 billion for a full year – will have to be paid for through budget cuts over and above the US$15 billion in Aramco’s annual capital spending alluded to by Aramco’s chief executive officer, Amin Nasser, just after the first half profits figures were unveiled. This will take the total down from around US$40 billion to around US$25 billion. Further reports have stated that even this US$25 billion figure is set to be reduced by another US$5 billion, taking the total capital spending in this year from US$25 billion to US$20 billion.
Helping one of the most corrupt governments on the planet wage a war on one of the poorest countries on the planet is a war crime for which US officials must be called to account. From Doug Bandow at theamericanconservative.com:
That includes prominent American officials. Punishing the perpetrators is the only way to restore our credibility.
Workers search through debris at a warehouse, after it was reportedly hit in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition, in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on July, 2, 2020. (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP via Getty Images)
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently announced that it was providing $204 million in aid for the impoverished and war-ravaged country of Yemen. That sounds generous, but it’s the Saudi royals themselves who are responsible for most of the death, destruction, starvation, and disease in Yemen, in which 80 percent of the population, some 24 million, need outside assistance.
Riyadh has spent more than five years conducting a brutal air campaign intended to restore a pliant regime to power. The claim that the Kingdom is generously helping the needy is a bit like a man murdering his parents only to throw himself on the court’s mercy since he is an orphan. If Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wanted to help the Yemeni people, he would simply end the war.
But he won’t, at least in part because the Trump administration is underwriting the Saudi government’s murderous campaign. Why is the president forcing Americans to assist the Saudi royals, who respect no political or religious liberty and kidnap, imprison, and murder their critics? President Donald Trump appears to be almost bewitched by the licentious and corrupt Saudis.
Washington sold Saudi Arabia planes and munitions used to kill thousands of Yemeni civilians. American personnel serviced and refueled the same planes, as well as providing intelligence to assist in targeting Saudi strikes. That makes U.S. officials complicit in war crimes committed day in and day out for more than five years.
There’s a network of organizations and individuals that operate for the most part under the radar who have a massive influence on US policy in the Middle East. From Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies at antiwar.com:
On May 6th, President Trump vetoed a war powers bill specifying that he must ask Congress for authorization to use military force against Iran. Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of deadly sanctions and threats of war against Iran has seen no let-up, even as the U.S., Iran and the whole world desperately need to set aside our conflicts to face down the common danger of the Covid-19 pandemic.
So what is it about Iran that makes it such a target of hostility for Trump and the neocons? There are many repressive regimes in the world, and many of them are close US allies, so this policy is clearly not based on an objective assessment that Iran is more repressive than Egypt, Saudi Arabia or other monarchies in the Persian Gulf.
The Trump administration claims that its “maximum pressure” sanctions and threats of war against Iran are based on the danger that Iran will develop nuclear weapons. But after decades of inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and despite the US’s politicization of the IAEA, the Agency has repeatedly confirmed that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.
Why has America been Saudi Arabia’s bitch for so long? From Doug Bandow at antiwar.com:
Many observers have been mystified by the Saudi regime’s hold over President Donald Trump. For years he had criticized the gaggle of corrupt, dissolute royals. He also asked why Americans were paying to defend the wealthy, licentious al-Saud family, as it practiced totalitarianism at home and promoted Islamic fundamentalism abroad, including in America.
Yet Trump made his first trip as president to Saudi Arabia. Some observers wondered if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had salvaged his infamous orb from Mordor’s collapse eons ago and used it to take control of the president’s mind. No other explanation made sense.
Now the New York Times reports that the fault lies with Peter Navarro, the protectionist aide who spends much of his time urging economic and real war with China. He apparently was instrumental in convincing the president to put the profits of munition makers before the lives of Yemenis.
Consider the tragedy that had befallen Yemen, a deeply divided and tragically impoverished nation. During the Arab Spring the Yemeni people ousted the longtime president, leaving a weak and unpopular successor. The former chief executive joined a longtime rebel movement to overthrow the government. All par for the course in a divided land that has never known peace or stability.
The Saudi Arabia government is as bad as or worse than the Iranian regimes we’ve been trying to change since 1979. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
More than anything else in Saudi Arabia, that thing you smell is fear. Everything is coming unglued for the royal family there all at once. If we all weren’t so distracted by the Coronapocalypse these things would all be front page news.
In the past week there have been three major stories concerning Saudi Arabia, none of the bullish.
Finally, the Saudis accepted a UN-brokered ceasefire with the Houthis. This is a two-week provisional ceasefire, but considering how badly their mercs and pet head-chopping animals have been faring this should be considered a mercy gesture by the Houthis.
How behind-the-scenes global power politics works. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
The full story of President Trump’s intervening in the Russia-Saudi price war which sent oil prices plunging to historic lows has been revealed in a new explosive report. Trump’s pressure resulted in the surprise April 12 unprecedented OPEC+ production cut by 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd), which saw the Saudis and Russians begrudgingly agree to cut 2.5 bpd each.
Ourselves and others strongly suggested at the time that no doubt there were strong quid pro quo type ultimatums being delivered behind the scenes — consistent with Trump’s prior eyebrow raising boasts about Riyadh ponying up $1 billion in ‘protection money’ in return for defense against Iran — but new Reuters confirmation is out Thursday morning, and the details are more delicious than could have been expected, complete with the report actually describing of Saudi leaders that they genuinely panicked and fast began “bending the knee” when confronted by Trump’s slash output or else threat.
It began with an April 2nd phone call, Reuters details, wherein Trump pressed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with the following ultimatum: OPEC must immediately begin cutting production or see all American troops withdrawn from the kingdom.
Trump’s Energy Dominance policy has not led to energy dominance for the US and is in part responsible for the impending destruction of the US shale oil industry. From Tom Luongo at strategic-culture.org:
From the very beginning I’ve been a staunch critic of President Trump’s “Energy Dominance” policy. And I was so for a myriad of reasons, but mostly because it was stupid.
Not just stupid, monumentally stupid. Breathtakingly stupid.
And I don’t say this as someone who hates Trump without reservation. In fact, I continue to hope he will wake up one day and stop being the Donald Trump I know and be the Donald Trump he needs to be.
I don’t have Trump Derangement Syndrome of any sort. Neither MAGApede nor Q-Tard, an Orange Man Bad cultist or NPC Soy Boy, I see Trump for what he is – a well-intentioned, if miseducated man with severe personal deficiencies which manifest themselves in occasionally brilliant but mostly disastrous behavior.
Energy Dominance was always a misguided and Quixotic endeavor. Why? Because Trump could never turn financial engineering a shale boom into a sustainable advantage over lower-cost producers like Russia and the OPEC nations.
The policy of blasting open the U.S. oil spigots to produce a production boom built on an endless supply of near-zero cost credit was always going to run into a wall of oversupply and not enough demand.
The dramatic collapse of U.S. oil prices in the futures markets which saw the May contract close on April 20th at $-40.57 per barrel is the Shale Miracle hitting the fan of low demand and leaving the producers and consumers in a state which can only happen thanks to biblical levels of government intervention.
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