An Unfaithful Servant of Imperialism: The Real Reason Trump Is Facing Impeachment

By Roger D. Harris

Source

The United States has spent EIGHT TRILLION DOLLARS fighting and policing in the Middle East. Thousands of our Great Soldiers have died or been badly wounded. Millions of people have died on the other side. GOING INTO THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE.”

— Tweet, Donald J. Trump, October 9, 2019.

Granted Trump may arguably be more corrupt than Biden. But that’s splitting hairs over which crook is more crooked. Bullying vassal states and “doing well by doing good” are indicators of finesse in Washington. Inside the beltway, corruption is not a liability for holding high political office, but a requirement. The key to membership in the power elite club is carrying water for the imperial state, and most club members must go through an elaborate vetting process to prove that they are reliable. Some such as Trump slip through.

The sine qua non for membership in this exclusive club is to prove you’ll take a hit for the empire. When the results of the 2000 US presidential election were inconclusive, Al Gore took a fall rather than risk instability at the top: “(for) the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.” There are higher callings than merely winning the presidency for good servants of the empire.

But would Trump have been so compliant? Maybe not. So, impeachment is in order to either chasten him to faithful obedience or get rid of him.

The Not Thoroughly Vetted President

The presidential primaries are an audition process to see who can best serve the ruling class while conning the public. If the presidential “debates” demonstrate anything, it is that all the contestants are aspiring reality TV stars. Trump was different only in that he had previous experience.

Whenever one of the contestants shows vacillation on empire, they get slapped on the side of the head. Gabbard got summarily dismissed from the debates for her failure of faith in wars of imperial aggression as the highest expression of humanitarianism. Sanders had to grovel, calling the democratically elected president of Venezuela a “vicious tyrant.”

And to qualify for the debates, a contestant must first prove that they are a “serious candidate.” In a “democracy” where bribing politicians is considered “free speech” and where corporations are afforded the constitutional rights of “persons,” the single overriding measure of seriousness is raising bundles of money from the rich. Of course, the rich did not become rich without expecting a return on their investments. Warren’s surge, as it was dutifully reported in the press, came when some of the big money began to shift from Biden to her.

Trump, on the other hand, had his own billionaire’s booty to back him, plus a little help from his wealthy cohorts. As billionaire Ross Perot proved in 1992, if you are filthy rich, you can independently run for president. And, in his case, throw the election from Bush the Elder to Bill Clinton.

To win a presidential election, however, you need more than deep pockets…you need a little help from your friends in getting a major party backing. Why a major party ballot line is so useful has constitutional antecedents.

The revolution of 1776, the last revolution that the US elites liked that was not rigged by the CIA, gave us the Articles of Confederation as the ruling document for the new sovereign. By 1787 the US elites of the time, Hamilton and supporting cast, were chafing under what they characterized as the “excesses of democracy.” A new constitution was drafted and approved with “checks and balances.” What needed to be checked and balanced? Democracy, the direct rule of the people, was what was checked in the new document, while slavery was reaffirmed under the highest law of the land.

The new constitution gave us the Electoral College, whereby presidents are selected by “electors” rather than trusting the direct vote of the people and states can vote as a block. This allowed Trump to triumph even when his opponent received some 3 million more votes. Oddly, his Democratic Party opponents have since focused on alleged Russian interference through Facebook ads rather than the need to make the US Constitution an instrument for the expression of the popular will.

But we are getting ahead of the story because Trump still had to become the frontrunner in a crowded Republican field before he could even take on the other party of capital. Here he had help from friends in unexpected quarters. The Republican establishment hated him, but Clinton and the so-called liberal media became Trump boosters. The corporate media gave the flamboyant Trump a bully platform because it was good for ratings.

Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, as revealed in their leaked emails published by Wikileaks, pulled for Trump because they thought him an easier opponent than, say, the mainstream Republican heir-apparent Jeb Bush. There was precious little difference between the positions of Jeb and Hillary, though the popular images projected by the two major parties superficially diverged. The core of both parties greatly overlaps, while the right fringe of the Republicans and the left fringe of the Democrats provide the contrasting colors but not the contending policy directions.

The 2016 electoral contest was a spectacle of insurgencies. Initially, there was Sanders. That he was somehow considered an “outsider” is a symptom of just how terminally ingrown the US polity has become. How could someone who served years in the US Senate and caucused with the Democrats be an outsider? Sanders ran on two premises: supporting the Democratic Party and raising suppressed issues such as income inequality. He succeeded in the first and failed in the second.

Meanwhile, after 40 years of neoliberalism, CEO compensation has grown 940%  as compared to 12% for typical employees in the US.

Trump in his way also pandered to the genuinely deteriorating condition of US workers. Both the Trump and the Sanders anti-establishment insurgencies, however, were contained within the two-party system and thus were structurally destined not to come to fruition. The establishment won’t come down by joining them.

Unfaithful Servant of Imperialism

Defying even the Las Vegas bookies’ predictions, Trump became the 45th President of the US. He had kvetched about the plight of US workers and made some noise about ending unending wars, but was he for real? After all, Obama had promised to get out of Gitmo and NAFTA, but ended up doing neither. Obama, the former critic of Bush’s Iraq war, continued Bush’s wars and started a handful of his own.

Upon occupying the Oval Office, Trump not unexpectedly threw the working class under the bus with his tax cut for the rich and similar actions, which must have won him some brownie points from the owning class. But to date he has failed to start a new war. The last US president with a similar failing was the one-term Jimmy Carter. And now Trump is showing insufficient enthusiasm for continuing the war in Syria and possibly even a closet aversion to starting World War III with nuclear-armed Russia. These may be impeachable offenses in the estimation of parts of the ruling class.

David R. Sanger, writing in the October 7 New York Times, represents “liberal” establishment views in support of US imperialism: “Mr. Trump’s sudden abandonment of the Kurds was another example of the independent, parallel foreign policy he has run from the White House, which has largely abandoned the elaborate systems created since President Harry Truman’s day to think ahead about the potential costs and benefits of presidential decisions.”

There you have it. Trump is accused of having an “independent” foreign policy, emanating out of his office of all places, even though he is the elected President of the US and the one charged with executing foreign policy.

Who is Trump “independent” from? It’s not the US citizenry according to the Times. As the article points out: “Mr. Trump sensed that many Americans share his view – and polls show he is right… Mr. Trump has correctly read the American people who, after Iraq and Afghanistan, also have a deep distaste for forever wars.”

So, who might Trump have betrayed? According to the article, it’s “circumventing the American generals and diplomats who sing the praises of maintaining the traditional American forward presence around the world.” This is who his alleged crime of independence is against. They fear Trump could “abandon” the post-war imperial consensus.

Donald Trump military spending

Note that the Times, as reflective of current ruling class ideology, no longer bothers to justify the dictates of the world’s sole hegemon as a crusade against the current evil, be it communism or terrorism. Simply, the imperial state must be supported. Hence, Trump’s view that “acting as the world’s policeman was too expensive” or his tweet, “time for us to get out,” have become grounds for impeachment.

The article favorably cites Republican majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell, who called on Trump “to exercise American leadership” by capitulating to the dictates of the imperial state, while contrasting it to that glory day “not even three months after his inauguration, [when] he ordered the first military strike of his presidency.”

The Times article continues: “That system is badly broken today. Mr. Trump is so suspicious of the professional staff – many drawn from the State Department and the C.I.A. – and so dismissive of the ‘deep state’ foreign policy establishment, that he usually announces decisions first, and forces the staff to deal with them later.”

“That system,” cited above, is the post-WWII permanent state. Trump is chastised in the Times for being “so dismissive of the ‘deep state’ foreign policy establishment.” Trump instead, according to the article, has the temerity to make his own decisions and then he expects the agencies of government to follow his instructions. For some, having the elected representative formulate policy and the unelected state apparatus follow it would be democratic. But not so for the cheerleaders of US imperialism.

The Dark Knight Rises

Trump’s habitual corruption and bullying have now been outed by a whistleblower. Unlike Ellsberg, Manning, and Snowden, who sought to correct US imperial policy, this whistleblower comes from the very gatekeeper of imperialism, the CIA. According to his lawyers, there is not a lone whistleblower but a whole cabal of well-placed spooks in the secret US security apparatus. The deep state (I would prefer the term “permanent” state) is more than a conspiracy theory.

The impeachment imbroglio is bigger than Trump. That the outing of Trump was done by a current employee of a US agency shrouded in secrecy, who is unaccountable and unknown, should be a subject of enormous concern for all small-d democrats and not just anti-imperialists. The CIA has the means and mission to overthrow regimes, and now ours may be one of them, however undesirable the current president may be.

We, the people, should take no solace that Trump, in his careening about, may stumble in the direction of anti-imperialism. Trump is just as much an imperialist as the rest. Only he is not as reliably consistent and that is what has gotten leading segments of the ruling class into a hissy fit. The ruling class is not always unified on policy. Here we are, witness, to an intra-class struggle. But we needn’t take sides, because the ruling class is always unified in serving their class interests, which are not ours.

A policy conflict, some have speculated, is raging within the ruling class between Trump’s “isolationist” and a more “globalist” imperialism. Rest assured the ruling class has institutions to adjudicate these disputes such as the Council on Foreign Relations. For the neocons and the “liberal” right-to-protect “humanitarian imperialists,” Trump’s lurches in the direction of non-intervention and rapprochement are only venial sins. The mortal sin would be if the erratic Trump fails to listen to what the Times delicately calls the “professionals.”

A corollary fear is if the “populist” (note how the ruling class thinks of this is a pejorative) Trump listens to the people’s desire for peace. Unlike the first fear, the latter is unwarranted. That is, unwarranted unless and until the people rebuild an independent peace movement to check the rising tide of US militarism.

Houthi Attack on Saudi Oil Fields – A False Flag?

Astute News

On Saturday morning, September 14, 2019, a few drones – were they drones or long-range missiles? – hit the Saudis most important two oil fields, set them ablaze, apparently knocking out half of the Saudi crude production – but measured in terms of world production it is a mere 5%. Could be made up in no time by other Gulf oil producers – or indeed, as the Saudis said, by the end of September 2019 their production is back to ‘normal’ – to pre-attack levels.

The financial reaction was immediate. Saudi stocks fell, the oil prices rose, then settled and later fell again. It was an immediate reaction of major banks’ algorithmic speculation with about 10,000 operational hits a second. A trial for larger things to come?

The Yemeni Shiites, the Houthis, immediately claimed credit for the attack, saying they sent some ten “suicide drones” to the major Saudi oilfields…

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The Bilderbergers in Switzerland — Astute News

The 67th Bilderberg Meeting is taking place in Montreux, Switzerland from 30 May – 2 June 2019, where the about 130 invitees – so far confirmed – from 23 countries, are staying at one of Switzerland’s most luxurious venues, the Montreux Palace hotel. About a quarter of the attendees are women. The Bilderberg meetings started at the […]

via The Bilderbergers in Switzerland — Astute News

US Foreign Policy is Nothing Short of Low-Intensity Warfare Against the Whole Planet by Finian Cunningham — Dandelion Salad

by Finian Cunningham Writer, Dandelion Salad East Africa Crossposted from Sputnik, May 16, 2019 May 20, 2019 To say the US conducts “foreign policy” is patently a misnomer. US policy is nothing short of low-intensity warfare against the whole planet. Its “foreign policy” is nothing more than a continuous program of psychological operations.

via US Foreign Policy is Nothing Short of Low-Intensity Warfare Against the Whole Planet by Finian Cunningham — Dandelion Salad

Hardball the Only Effective Strategy Against the US

By Stephen Lendman
Source

Both extremist right wings of the US war party don’t negotiate. They demand, why diplomatic outreach to Washington doesn’t work.

The only effective strategy is giving its ruling authorities a taste of their own medicine. Iran, Venezuela, and China understand, not Russia.

The US considers Moscow its existential enemy. In response, Kremlin officials call Washington its “partner,” its top officials “colleagues,” ignoring reality. 

The US has been hostile toward Russia for over 100 years, with interregnum periods during WW II to defeat Nazi Germany and at the end of the Reagan era alone. 

Bilateral relations today are more dismal and dangerous than any other time in modern memory, risking confrontation and possible nuclear war, polar opposite what partnerships are made of.

Despite everything the US has thrown at Iran and Venezuela, their governments refuse to bend to its will, to their credit.

The same goes for China. Since Trump’s March 2017 executive order calling for tariffs on Chinese imports, his meeting with Xi Jinping a week later at his Mar-a-Lago, FL estate, his August 2017 probe into alleged Beijing intellectual property theft, initial tariffs imposed in January 2018, others to follow, and 11 rounds of trade talks with no agreement, China refuses to bend to unacceptable Trump regime demands.

They’re all about wanting Beijing’s aim to become an economic, industrial, and high-tech powerhouse undermined, about wanting its sovereign rights subordinated to US interests, about wanting the country marginalized, weakened, contained and isolated.

It’s how Washington treats all other countries, wanting them colonized and controlled, its allies and adversaries alike.

That’s what the scourge of imperialism is all about, why global war with nuclear weapons is possible, maybe inevitable. 

Humanity’s fate hangs in the balance because of Washington’s rage to dominate other countries by whatever it takes to achieve its objectives, preemptive wars its favored strategy, along with other hostile actions, flagrant international and constitutional law violations.

On Monday, China’s People’s Daily, its official broadsheet, said Beijing “will never bow to any extreme pressure,” adding:

After the Trump regime increased tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10 – 25%, threatening 25% duties on all its exports to the US, Beijing “declared its decision to take necessary countermeasures,” adding:

“China…will never yield to the extreme pressure from the US, or compromise on matters of principle.”

“The US wielded the tariff stick once again because of its misjudgments on China’s strength, capability and willpower,” — calling its actions a “reckless leap in the dark,” a futile effort to bully its leadership.

China’s Global Times made similar comments, on Sunday saying “maximum (US) pressure policy is useless,” adding:

“We have prepared ourselves for various scenarios. Arrogant of its strength, Washington provoked the trade war, believing tariffs are enough to crush China…and force (its authorities) to accept an unequal deal…”

The Trump regime’s gamble is wrongheaded. China won’t yield to unacceptable demands. Has self-styled master deal maker in his own mind DJT met his match?

The jury remains out, but failure after 11 rounds of trade talks, pushing Beijing to accept what some of the country’s analysts call unconditional surrender to US demands hasn’t worked.

Nor is it likely to ahead, no matter how many more rounds of talks are held and if Trump orders further toughness on Beijing.

Its ruling authorities have lots of cards to play, including an unlikely but possible dumping of a substantial portion of its $1.1 trillion in US Treasuries, roiling credit markets if it chooses this option in retaliation for Trump regime actions it won’t tolerate.

Greatly depreciating the yuan against the US dollar to offset increased tariffs is another possible option, keeping its products competitive in the US market.

Beijing can also impose 25% duties on all US imports, an option it may choose, especially if and when 25% tariffs on all Chinese exports to the US take effect.

Clearly a tough response is coming. It should be clear to Trump regime hardliners that Beijing won’t roll over to their demands.

Its authorities haven’t so far and won’t likely ahead. A statement by China’s Commerce Ministry urged the US to “meet us halfway and work with us to resolve existing issues through cooperation and consultation.”

Its Foreign Ministry stressed that Beijing won’t “surrender to foreign pressure.” Former Commerce Ministry vice minister Wei Jianguo said China has the “willingness to…fight a prolonged war,” adding it’s able to “deliver a deadly punch at the end.”

Capitulation to unacceptable US demands isn’t an option — not so far, not ahead. 

The Real Reason the Knives are Out for MBS

By Whitney Webb
Source

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA — Amid a chorus of condemnation directed against his leadership following the slaying of controversial journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – popularly known by the moniker MBS – condemned Khashoggi’s murder in no uncertain terms on Wednesday, calling the deed a “heinous crime that cannot be justified” and promising “justice” for those who killed him. MBS’ statement came after dozens of media reports, the majority of which had cited anonymous sources from within the Turkish and U.S. governments, revealed the grisly details of the journalist’s final moments and the subsequent attempt by his killers to cover their tracks.

Yet, while MBS may expect the international calls for his ouster to lessen following his recent admission and apparent behind the scenes deal-making, he is likely mistaken. Indeed, much of the outrage directed at MBS for his alleged role in Khashoggi’s death has little to do with the murder itself, which is being used as a pretext to justify replacing MBS with a more “reliable” tyrant to serve as Saudi crown prince.

This is because the real reason the knives have come out for MBS is not a single extrajudicial killing – a practice the Saudis have long used with impunity – but instead the fact that, in the six weeks prior to Khashoggi’s sordid fate, MBS not only managed to anger the entire U.S. military-industrial complex, he also enraged the world’s most powerful financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs and CitiGroup.

In a recent report on the Khashoggi affair, MintPress detailed how MBS had endangered the $110 billion weapons deal with the United States that Trump has often touted as proof that he is creating jobs and is a proven “deal maker.” However, far from a signed contract, the “deal” was instead a collection of letters of interest and letters of intent. Over a year since the deal was first announced, it has since become clear that MBS no longer intends to purchase all $110 billion, as shown by his decision to let the deadline pass on the purchase of the $15 billion Lockheed Martin THAAD missile system. The Saudis let that deadline come and go on September 30, just two days before Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never came out.

However, it turns out that — a few weeks before the Lockheed deadline had come and gone — MBS had endangered another lucrative deal, one that was valued in the trillions and seems to have been a major factor in his rapid ascent to the powerful position of crown prince.

Who really crowned the prince?

Back in 2015, there were already concerns in international intelligence that an imminent power struggle in the Saudi royal family was brewing. Notably, concern within some intelligence communities regarding the likely rise of MBS was so high that Germany’s intelligence agency BND publicly released a memo slamming MBS as a destabilizing influence who was responsible for the new Saudi “impulsive policy of intervention.” It went on to warn that MBS, then head of the Saudi Defense Ministry and an economic council aimed at overhauling the country’s oil-dependent economy, was seeking to dramatically concentrate power in his hands. Doing so, the memo warned, “harbours a latent risk that in seeking to establish himself in the line of succession in his father’s lifetime, he may overreach.” The memo was right of course, but it largely fell on deaf ears.

Then, last June, MBS made his move and deposed his predecessor Mohammed bin Nayef after hours of interrogation, threats and alleged torture, becoming the new crown prince in the process. Bin Nayef – who has remained under house arrest for over two years — had been a close partner of the U.S. — particularly the CIA, which bestowed upon bin Nayef one of its most prestigious medals. As Federico Pieraccini recently noted at Strategic Culture, bin Nayef had long been the CIA’s “go-to man” in Saudi Arabia and had helped the CIA use the guise of “counterterrorism” to fund al Qaeda and other radical Wahhabi groups to wreak havoc on countries in the region, particularly Syria, that had become the targets of American empire.

Normally, the ouster of a Washington-allied Crown Prince close to the CIA would have dramatically shaken the Washington establishment. However, there was little public complaint from the American political elite over MBS’ dramatic rise to power. Instead, the U.S. clearly supported MBS’ new power, as demonstrated by the fact that President Donald Trump called MBS to “congratulate him on his recent elevation” the day he became Crown Prince, and the two subsequently pledged “close cooperation” in security and economics. Some analysts have since speculated that the U.S. government had actually helped facilitate MBS’ palace coup given that, just a few months prior, MBS – not bin Nayef — had met with Trump in Washington.

Others have suggested that powerful Western financial interests were behind MBS’ rise, given that the king’s son had announced his willingness to sell Saudi state assets to the highest bidder in a January 2016 interview with the Rothschild-owned Economista little more than six months before he became crown prince. The interview certainly made it clear to the international elite that MBS was willing to support neoliberal reforms that had been rejected by Saudi royals in the past. Indeed, wrapped within his economic reform program known as “Vision 2030,” MBS offered the Western elite something they had long coveted but had never been able to obtain. He agreed to privatize Saudi-state-held assets, including the biggest cash-cow of them all – Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Aramco.

MBS – the “reformer” who wasn’t

Though the media has long spun Vision 2030 as MBS’ “ambitious” plan to wean the Saudi economy off its dependency on oil, the plan itself is actually a free-for-all for private interests and involves the neoliberalization of Saudi state-owned assets. Among its pillars are the opening of Saudi financial markets to Wall Street and the privatization of essentially everything in the Gulf Kingdom, including healthcare and, of course, Aramco.

The fact that Vision 2030 was essentially a neoliberal wish-list should not come as a big surprise, however, given that it was based off a 2015 report authored by the McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of the U.S.-based consulting firm McKinsey & Company — the “most prestigious” consulting firm in the world, known for its “neoliberal solutions to real-world problems”.

According to a report published last year in Foreign Policy, “McKinsey has cultivated a generation of young Arab princelings enamored with Western-style economic reforms, and with thoroughly mixed results.” However, this was especially true of Saudi Arabia, where MBS cultivated even closer ties with the firm and has relied on it, not just for the blueprint of Vision 2030 but also for choosing his new cabinet following his rise to the position of Crown Prince as well as a list of prominent Saudi dissidents who were later repressed.

In addition, McKinsey’s influence goes far beyond the firm itself, as its past employees or “alumni” go on to serve powerful positions in the corporate world or in government. Though the extent of McKinsey’s influence in helping MBS rise to become crown prince is unknown, it is certainly a possibility that the firm had used its influence to “grease the wheels” in order to give near-ultimate authority to one of these “young Arab princelings,” who would embrace neoliberal reforms that older generations would not.

SAUDI_2030_edited-1145x682.jpg
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives for a press conference in Riyadh, on April 25, 2016. Photo | SPA

Vision 2030 certainly seemed to win MBS the affection of the international elite across the board — and it seemed that the new Crown Prince enjoyed the limelight, at least for a while. However, it seems reality began to set in for MBS, and he has consequently spent the past several months looking for a way to indefinitely delay the plan’s implementation.

This first became clear earlier this year following speculation in July that the Saudi Aramco Initial Public Offering (IPO) — i.e., the beginning of the partial privatization of the Saudi state oil company through the selling of shares — may not materialize after all. Then, it was announced in late August that the entire IPO would be shelved. Bloomberg called this “the most significant reversal in Prince Mohammed’s plans” and added:

Rather than marking a watershed in one of the most ambitious economic projects in history, it [the shelving of the Aramco IPO] now highlights the unpredictability of the country under a young leader who has centralized political power in his own hands since becoming de facto ruler a little over a year ago.”

As a result, what would have been the biggest IPO in history was called off overnight. The move was surely a disappointment to Trump, who had personally lobbied MBS to list Aramco on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), as doing so would have awarded the NYSE with the largest stock market listing ever. However, it was a much, much bigger disappointment for the behemoth financial institutions that had worked frantically to secure their roles in the deal — Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and CitiGroup, among others — as the shelving of the IPO meant that all their work on the deal would now go without compensation, as banks are typically only paid when such deals are finalized. In other words, MBS’ decision to put the IPO indefinitely on hold meant that the most powerful, politically-connected banks had essentially been forced to work for free.

It seems that MBS sensed the animosity he had caused in some of the world’s most powerful financial institutions, given that, just a few weeks later, he offered Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and CitiGroup a prominent role in Aramco’s new plans to buy a majority stake in the Saudi petrochemical company Saudi Basic Industries Corp (Sabic). As part of that deal, Aramco has considered selling bonds in what could become the largest sale of corporate debt ever. However that Aramco-Sabic deal, valued at $70 billion, is still significantly less than the $100 billion that the Aramco IPO was set to generate.

More importantly, the deal shows that MBS got cold feet in his privatization plans, as having a state-owned company (Aramco) buy a majority stake in a private Saudi company (Sabic) is the complete opposite of what MBS had promised in the months prior to his rise to become Saudi crown prince. Indeed, as Bloomberg noted at the time:

The [Aramco] bond sale would give Saudi Arabia some of the financial payoff of an IPO, though without having to share ownership with international investors — or revealing information the kingdom would rather keep private.”

Thus, it seems that it was the privatization of Aramco that had MBS spooked.

Far beyond the cancellation of the IPO itself — MBS has endangered other parts of the plan that these powerful financial interests had been counting on for well over a year. That includes Vision 2030’s plan to increase the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) — which is managed by a group of HSBC and Bank of America directors and a CitiGroup investment banking alumnus — from its current $230 billion in assets to a massive $2 trillion. The dramatic increase in the fund’s size would make the PIF the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. Without that injection of cash into the PIF from the Aramco IPO, media reports have warned of a “ripple effect” on the U.S. economy, including massive U.S. tech companies like Uber, given that the PIF has invested heavily in such companies.

Evidence has since emerged that MBS knows that these powerful banks are still angry despite his efforts to placate them. On October 5, just a few days after Khashoggi’s murder, MBS promised a new Aramco IPO within a few years, this time valued at $2 trillion. However, media reports on that announcement made it clear that Goldman Sachs, CitiGroup and the like weren’t convinced.

Indeed, with the entire privatization effort now in doubt, so too is the estimated $6 trillion in direct investments from powerful interests that had been planned to fund the privatization schemes that comprise the entirety of Vision 2030. That figure could certainly explain why so much pressure has been levied against MBS as of late over Khashoggi. Indeed, given that the Saudis had butchered another dissident writer in 1979 in their Lebanese consulate without the same outrage that has resulted from Khashoggi’s murder, it is safe to say that the establishment’s outrage over this latest extrajudicial killing is motivated less by “human rights” than by trillions of dollars of capital.

Trouble in neoliberal paradise

While it is impossible to know MBS’ exact reason for getting cold feet in his once-ambitious plans to privatize the kingdom, we can guess. Indeed, there is a reason that MBS’ elders in the Saudi Royal family have long rejected neoliberal reforms and the mass privatization of their economy.

A 2016 report from Foreign Policy succinctly states why past Saudi Royals have avoided “free-market reforms” as the older generations of the House of Saud “understand the fragility of a monarchy whose brittle pillars rest on the quiescence of conservative clerics and a merchant class hostile to the free-market reforms that will undercut their privileges.” However, far more Saudis than just the “merchant class” have grown accustomed to the largesse of the Saudi state, as the majority of Saudi citizens benefit from Saudi state spending in the form of fuel subsidies, loans, free land, and public-sector jobs, among other boons. Indeed, half of the entire Saudi population is currently on welfare — welfare that depends on the wealth of the Saudi state and its oil revenue — while two-thirds of Saudis work in the public sector.

Of course, sharing oil profits with robber barons — as would have been the case in the partial privatization of Saudi Aramco — would reduce the amount of money the Saudi government dedicates annually to welfare programs and public-sector jobs to a significant degree. Notably, Vision 2030 also included “austerity programs” as part of its implementation, including tax increases and a significant reduction in the fuel subsidies given to ordinary Saudis.

However, less than a week after a handful of those austerity measures were implemented earlier this year, the Saudi government quickly eased them by increasing state-job salaries and launching a new economic stimulus program, after a “very negative” public response. Despite the government’s efforts to assuage the anger that austerity had caused, it was not enough and the outcry continued, forcing the Saudi government to fire the country’s water minister to absorb some of the outrage. The fierce public response seems to have given MBS his first real inkling that his “ambitious reforms” to privatize Saudi Arabia would not be so easy to implement, no matter how hard he had worked to crush dissent.

Another indication of why MBS backed out of privatization plans can be seen in what happened to other countries when their young princes, championed as “ambitious reformers,” had drunk the “McKinsey Kool-Aid.” As Salem Saif wrote at Jacobin, many of the Arab countries that had previously followed McKinsey-drafted plans for neoliberalization subsequently “became epicenters of the Arab Spring. Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Yemen — each was convulsed by demonstrations, often animated by economic grievances.”

In contrast, Saudi Arabia, with its state-owned and state-managed assets, had remained largely immune to these economically-spurred uprisings throughout the Middle East.

However, earlier this year, MBS learned the hard way from the hostile reception to his privatization rollout that being the West’s neoliberal darling comes at a high price, one that could imperil not just his position as Crown Prince but the entire Saudi government.

The search begins for a new prince who will play along

As a consequence of the Khashoggi incident, there have been several reports from prominent publications claiming that efforts are now underway to replace MBS as crown prince. One such report in France’s Le Figaro has stated that MBS is set to be “gradually” replaced by his even younger brother Khalid bin Salman, who has most recently served as the Saudi Ambassador to Washington. This choice is significant, as it shows that the powers-that-be are seeking to replace MBS with another McKinsey-bent “young Arab princeling” instead of the former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef or another elder of the House of Saud who would oppose the privatization that MBS had promised but failed to deliver.

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Prince Khalid bin Salman attends a White House dinner, June 6, 2018, in Washington. Andrew Harnik | AP

In Washington Post op-ed, Khalid bin Salman’s support for the neoliberal Vision 2030 plan is clear, as he called it “a comprehensive plan for economic diversification as well as social and cultural reform” and echoed his older brother in stating that “our old course was not sustainable.” Beyond his stated views in support of current Saudi policy, including the genocidal war the Saudis are waging in Yemen, not much else is known about Khalid, who has little political experience given his young age and his time spent as a fighter pilot in the Royal Saudi Air Force. Yet, in his capacity as Saudi ambassador, Khalid bin Salman has met with powerful Congressmen from both parties, as well as Lockheed Martin executives, cultivating personal ties in the process.

However, the Khashoggi incident has brought new scrutiny to Khalid bin Salman, given that he had personally met Khashoggi in the Saudi Embassy in Washington in early 2018, around the same time that Khashoggi was creating Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), his new “democracy promotion” group targeting the kingdom. According to friends of Khashoggi who spoke to NBC News, the meeting was casual and friendly and lasted about 30 minutes. The topics of the discussion of the meeting are still unknown.

Will MBS be replaced? It certainly remains to be seen, as strong public pressure and political threats may yet guide the crown prince back to the neoliberal fold. Yet, what is clear is that MBS’ rise to power was backed by the international elite and the Trump administration based on the promise of these neoliberal reforms and the mass sale of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia. However, in the months before Khashoggi’s disappearance, MBS gravely endangered both of these deals, angering those that had backed his consolidation of power. Such a cadre of powerful interests will not prove easy to placate.

While it may certainly seem ironic and perhaps amusing to some that a tyrant like MBS has come under such strong pressure from the international elite, there is reason for concern. Indeed, if Vision 2030 is fully implemented — whether by MBS or his successor — forcing neoliberalism on the Saudi population is likely to make the country very unstable, as nearly occurred when MBS tried to implement it early this year.

The intense pressure from global power players may cause MBS to value his staying in power above all else, potentially prompting him to enact domestically unpopular economic “reforms” despite the outcry that will inevitably result. If MBS’ past decisions are any indication, he would use force to crush any outcry. If this takes place, we can expect many more to suffer a fate similar to Khashoggi’s, as Saudi Arabia would become an even more inhospitable place for dissidents.

 

Meet Ten Corporate Giants Helping Israel Massacre Gaza Protesters

“The Israeli military relies on a network of international companies, supplying everything from sniper rifles to tear gas, to carry out its massacres of protesters in Gaza. These companies are knowingly supporting war crimes, and are complicit in state-orchestrated murder.” — Tom Anderson, researcher for Corporate Occupation

By Joe Carton
Source

NEW YORK — As Israeli soldiers gun down unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in the Great March of Return, their lethal operations depend on an array of contractors and suppliers, many of them companies based outside Israel.

“The Israeli military relies on a network of international companies, supplying everything from sniper rifles to tear gas, to carry out its massacres of protesters in Gaza,” Tom Anderson, a researcher for Corporate Occupation, told MintPress News. “These companies are knowingly supporting war crimes, and are complicit in state-orchestrated murder.”

Since the mobilization began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed 205 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory reported on October 4.

There have been 21,288 injured, including 5,345 from live ammunition, resulting in 11,180 hospitalizations. Thirty-eight of the dead and 4,250 of the wounded were children.

A press release accompanying a September 25 report by the World Bank warned, “The economy in Gaza is collapsing,” adding that “the decade-long blockade is the core issue.”

Corporate Occupation and the American Friends Service Committee, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, and Who Profits maintain comprehensive lists of corporations enabling Israel’s crimes against Palestinians.

Here are a few of them:

Caterpillar, Inc.

Caterpillar is known internationally for Israel’s use of its bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and inside Israel itself, as well as for its role in the killing of Rachel Corrie, an International Solidarity Movement activist from the United States, who was crushed to death by one of the company’s Israel-operated machines in the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003. In Gaza, Caterpillar is notorious for Israel’s deployment of its equipment to reinforce a military barrier around the Strip, as well as to level Palestinian farmland inside it. These leveling operations both destroy Palestinian agriculture, keeping Gaza a captive market for Israeli producers, and maintain a clear line of fire for Israeli soldiers to shoot Palestinians.

AP_04112409088_edited-1145x643.jpgChildren run for cover as Israeli army D-9 Caterpillar bulldozers as they demolish homes in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza, May 23, 2004. Lefteris Pitarakis | AP

Combined Systems, Inc.

Combined Systems — a Jamestown, Pennsylvania-based manufacturer owned by Point Lookout Capital and the Carlyle Group — supplies light weaponry and security equipment, such as tear gas and flash grenades, to repressive governments worldwide. In May, Corporate Occupation researchers spotted an Israeli vehicle, with police markings but obviously intended for military use, equipped with the company’s ‘Venom’ tear gas launcher next to the Gaza barrier.

Ford Motor Company

While other manufacturers, like General Motors, also provide vehicles used by the Israeli army to deploy its soldiers along the Gaza barrier, Ford’s are distinctive for their creative use. In 2003, Israeli vehicle manufacturer Hatehof began retrofitting Ford F550 trucks as armored personnel carriers. By 2016, Israel had moved on to F350s, modified by Israeli military electronics company Elbit Systems as autonomous unmanned vehicles capable of remotely controlled fire.

ford_-_mizpe_yair_september_2012_-_guy_edited-1145x594.jpgA modified Ford vehicle belonging to Israeli police blocks Palestinian shepherds from accessing their land near a Jewish settlement in Hebron. Photo | Ta’ayush

Monsanto

Along with herbicides from the Dow Chemical Company and ADAMA Agricultural Solutions, an Israeli unit of China’s state-owned National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina), Israel sprays Bayer subsidiary Monsanto’s notorious Glyphosate (marketed as Roundup), a known human carcinogen, on Palestinian fields across its military barrier with Gaza several times annually. As does its deployment of Caterpillar bulldozers to level the same fields, the aerial application, conducted by two civilian Israeli companies under contract to the army, serves both Israeli economic and military interests — preventing Palestinian self-sufficiency in agriculture, while allowing its forces to easily detect and fire upon Palestinian farmers and other civilians using their own land.

G4S plc

Formerly one of Israel’s biggest occupation contractors, G4S sold its major Israeli subsidiary, G4S Israel, in 2016, but kept a stake in the construction and operation of Policity, Israel’s privatized national police academy. Israel claims that its police enjoy civilian status, but routinely deploys them in military operations against Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including their use of both Combined System’s ‘Venon’ tear-gas launcher and weaponized drones to repress the Great March of Return.

G4S-1_edited-1145x753.jpgA protest against G4S’ support of Israeli human rights abuses. Photo | Hilary Aked

Hewlett Packard

Now three companies with interlocking operations — HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and DXC Technology — HP equips the Israeli military with computers and has undertaken contracts to “virtualize” IDF operations, starting in 2007 with a pilot program for the Israeli navy, which enforces the blockade of Gaza.

HSBC Bank plc

HSBC provides extensive financing to some of the most notorious military manufacturers in the world, several of them Israeli.

“HSBC holds over £800m worth of shares in, and is involved in syndicated loans worth over £19b to, companies that sell weapons and military equipment to the Israeli government,” Huda Ammori, campaigns officer for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told MintPress. “These investments include Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest private security firm, which markets its weapons as ‘field-tested,’ due to them being tested on Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”

A leading drone manufacturer, Elbit has played a key role in aerial attacks on the Great March of Return.

Motorola Solutions Inc.

Motorola provides the encrypted smartphones the Israeli military uses to deploy soldiers, as well as radio and communications services for the Israeli police.

Remington

Among casualties of the Great March of Return, Amnesty International reports, some “wounds bear the hallmarks of U.S.-manufactured M24 Remington sniper rifles shooting 7.62mm hunting ammunition, which expand and mushroom inside the body,” along with others indicative of Israel Weapon Industries’ Tavor rifles. “In the United States this is sold as a hunting rifle to kill deer,” Brian Castner, a weapons specialist for the human-rights organization, said in April.

AP_18094634140289.jpgProtesters wave Palestinians flags in front of Israeli snipers on Gaza’s border with Israel, April 4, 2018. Adel Hana | AP

Sabra Dipping Company, LLC

The White Plains, New York-based food manufacturer, co-owned by PepsiCo and Israeli foodmaker Strauss, has donated food packages to the Israeli Army’s Golani Brigade, notorious for its human-rights abuses in both Gaza and the West Bank.

“We must channel our rage”

As the Great March of Return, now in its 29th week, continues, participants and supporters say targeting firms complicit in its repression is one of the most effective means of solidarity.

“We must channel our rage at Israel’s atrocities into effective actions to hold Israel accountable,” the BDS National Committee said in a statement on April 12. “Together, we can escalate Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns.”

“Israel is meeting the Palestinian protesters with live fire, massacring over 190 Palestinians to date,” Ammori told MintPress. “Israel’s racist discrimination and brutal violence is evident, and the campaign to end complicity is vital.”

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