MBS: Despot in The Desert

July 31, 2022 

Nicolas Pelham- The Economist

No one wanted to play football with Muhammad bin Salman. Sure, the boy was a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, but so were 15,000 other people. His classmates preferred the company of his cousins, who were higher up the assumed order of succession, a childhood acquaintance recalls. As for the isolated child who would one day become crown prince, a family friend recounts hearing him called “little Saddam”.

Home life was tricky for bin Salman, too (he is now more commonly known by his initials, [MBS]. His father, Salman, already had five sons with his first wife, an educated woman from an elite urban family. MBS’s mother, Salman’s third wife, was a tribeswoman. When MBS visited the palace where his father lived with his first wife, his older half-brothers mocked him as the “son of a Bedouin”. Later, his elder brothers and cousins were sent to universities in America and Britain. The Bedouin offspring of Prince Salman stayed in Riyadh to attend King Saud University.

As young adults, the royals sometimes cruised on superyachts together; MBS was reportedly treated like an errand boy, sent onshore to buy cigarettes. A photo from one of these holidays shows a group of 16 royals posing on a yacht-deck in shorts and sunglasses, the hills of the French Riviera behind them. In the middle is MBS’s cousin, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire investor dubbed “the Arabian Warren Buffett”. MBS, tall and broad-shouldered in a white t-shirt, is pushed to the farthest edge.

Fast forward to today, and MB has moved to the center of the frame, the most important decision-maker in Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy but MBS’s 86-year-old father, though nominally head of state, is rarely seen in public anymore. It has been clear for several years that MBS is in charge. “In effect,” a former Saudi intelligence agent told me, “King Salman is no longer king.”

At first glance the 36-year-old prince looks like the ruler many young Saudis had been waiting for, closer in age to his people than any previous king – 70% of the Saudi population is under 30. The millennial autocrat is said to be fanatical about the video game “Call of Duty”: he blasts through the inertia and privileges of the mosque and royal court as though he were fighting virtual opponents on screen.

His restless impatience and disdain for convention have helped him push through reforms that many thoughts wouldn’t happen for generations. The most visible transformation of Saudi Arabia is the presence of women in public where once they were either absent or closely guarded by their husband or father. There are other changes, too. Previously, the kingdom offered few diversions besides praying at the mosque; today you can watch Justin Bieber in concert, sing karaoke or go to a Formula 1 race. A few months ago, I even went to a rave in a hotel….

But embracing Western consumer culture doesn’t mean embracing Western democratic values: it can as easily support a distinctively modern, surveillance state. On my recent trips to Saudi Arabia, people from all levels of society seemed terrified about being overheard voicing disrespect or criticism, something I’d never seen there before. “I’ve survived four kings,” said a veteran analyst who refused to speculate about why much of Jeddah, the country’s second-largest city, is being bulldozed: “Let me survive a fifth.”

The West, beguiled by promises of change and dependent on Saudi oil, at first seemed prepared to ignore MBS’s excesses. Then, in late 2018, Saudi officials in Istanbul murdered a Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, and dismembered his body with a bone saw. Even the most pro-Saudi leaders turned away.

…. After Putin invaded Ukraine in February, the price of crude shot up. Boris Johnson was on a plane within weeks. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, previously a sworn enemy of the crown prince, embraced MBS in Riyadh in April. War even forced America’s president into a humiliating climbdown. On the campaign trail in 2020 Joe Biden had vowed to turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah”. But on July 15th he went to make his peace with MBS– trying to avoid shaking MBS’s hand, he instead opted for a fist bump that left the two looking all the chummier. Even critics at home acknowledged MBs’s victory. “He made Biden look weak,” said a Saudi columnist in Jeddah. “He stood up to a superpower and won before the world.”

For MBS, this is a moment of triumph. His journey from the fringe of a photograph to the heart of power is almost complete. He will probably be king for decades. During that time, his country’s oil will be needed to sate the world’s enduring demand for energy.

A kingdom where the word of one man counts for so much depends utterly on his character. The hope is that, with his position secure, MBS will forswear the vengefulness and intolerance that produced Khashoggi’s murder. But some, among them his childhood classmates, fear something darker. They are reminded of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a one-time modernizer who became so addicted to accumulating power that he turned reckless and dangerous. “At first power bestows grandeur,” a former Western intelligence officer told me, of MBS. “But then comes the loneliness, suspicion and fear that others will try to grab what you grabbed.”

During the early years of MBS’s ascent, I was vaguely aware of him as one prince among many. I probably wouldn’t have paid him much attention if an old contact of mine hadn’t joined his staff. His new boss, my contact said, was serious about shaking things up. He arranged the meeting at a faux-ancient mud-brick village on the outskirts of Riyadh in 2016. As my Economist colleagues and I approached, the gates of MBS’s compound suddenly slid open, like a Bond-villain’s lair. In the inner chamber sat MBS.

Reform has often been promised in Saudi Arabia – usually in response to American hectoring – but successive kings lacked the mettle to push change through. When the Al-Saud conquered Arabia in the 1920s, they made an alliance with an ultra-conservative religious group called the Wahhabis. In 1979, after a group of religious extremists staged a brief armed takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Al-Saud decided to make the kingdom more devout to fend off a possible Islamic revolution, as had just happened in Iran. Wahhabi clerics were empowered to run society as they saw fit.

The Wahhabis exercised control through the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, otherwise known as the religious police. They whacked the ankles of women whose hair poked through their veil and lashed the legs of men who wore shorts. The arrangement suited the House of Saud. Wahhabism provided social control and gave legitimacy to the Saudi state, leaving the royals free to enjoy their oil wealth in the more permissive environments of London and Paris, or behind the gates of their palaces.

I’m loth to admit it now, but as the prince talked in Riyadh about his plans to modernize society and the economy, I was impressed by his enthusiasm, vision and command of the details. He gave what turned out to be accurate answers about how and when his reforms would happen. Though he was not yet crown prince, he frequently referred to Saudi Arabia as “my” country. We arrived at around 9pm. At 2am, MBS was still in full flow.

MBS was affable, self-assured, smiling. His advisers were more subdued. If they spoke at all, it was to robotically repeat their master’s lines. Yet when MBS left the room to take a call, they started chatting animatedly. As the prince re-entered, silence fell.

Like many in those early years, I was excited about what MBS might do for the kingdom. When I returned to the capital a few months later I saw a number of men wearing shorts. I kept looking over my shoulder for the religious police, but none came – they had been stripped of their powers of arrest.

As crown prince, MBS introduced a code of law so that judicial sentencing accords with state guidelines, not a judge’s own interpretation of the Koran. He criminalized stoning to death and forced marriage. The most overt change involved the role of women. MBS attacked guardianship laws that prevented women from working, travelling, owning a passport, opening a business, having hospital treatment or divorcing without approval from a male relative. In practice, many Saudi women have found these new rights hard to claim in a patriarchal society, and men can still file claims of disobedience against female relatives. But MBS’s reforms were more than cosmetic. Some clerics were jailed; the rest soon fell into line.

For foreigners, Riyadh is less forbidding these days. “I’m afraid I’ll be caught for not drinking,” a teetotal businessman told me. “There’s cocaine, alcohol and hookers like I haven’t seen in southern California,” says another party-goer. “It’s really heavy-duty stuff”.

When MBS first entered public life, he had a reputation for being as strait-laced as his father, rare among royals. That quickly changed. Many of the people interviewed for this article said that they believe MBS frequently uses drugs, which he denies. A court insider says that in 2015 his friends decided that he needed some r&r on an island in the Maldives. According to investigative journalists Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck in their book “Blood and Oil”, 150 models were recruited to join the gathering and were then shuttled “by golf cart to a medical center to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases”. Several international music stars were flown in, including Afrojack, a Dutch dj. Then the press blew MBS cover.

Thereafter, the prince preferred to unwind off the Red Sea coast. At weekends his entourage formed a flotilla by mooring their yachts around his, Serene, which has a driving range and a cinema. According to a former official, “dj MBS”, as his friends called him, would spin the discs wearing his trademark cowboy hat. The yacht is only one of the luxuries MBS has splurged on. He also bought a £230m ersatz French chateau near Versailles, built in 2008 (the meditation room doubles as an aquarium). He is said to have boasted that he wanted to be the first trillionaire.

We put these and other allegations in this article to MBS’s representatives. Through the Saudi embassy in London, they issued a broad denial, saying “the allegations are denied and are without foundation.”

MBS’s loosening of social mores reflects the values of many of his youthful peers, in Saudi and beyond – as does his taste for the flashier side of life. Yet despite the social revolution, the prince is no keener than Wahhabi clerics on letting people think for themselves. Shortly before lifting a ban on women driving in 2018, MBS’s officials imprisoned Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the leaders of the campaign for women’s rights. Her family say jailers waterboarded and electrocuted her, and that Saud al-Qahtani, one of MBS’s closest advisers, was present during her torment and threatened to rape her. [A un investigation found reasonable grounds to believe that Qahtani was involved in the torture of female activists. Qahtani allegedly told one of these women: “I’ll do whatever I like to you, and then I’ll dissolve you and flush you down the toilet.”] Hathloul was charged with inciting change to the ruling system. The message was clear: only one person was allowed to do that.

MBS is ruthlessly ambitious – he reportedly loved reading about Alexander the Great as a teenager – but he also owes his rise to some extraordinary twists of fortune. Succession can be an unpredictable affair in Saudi Arabia. The monarchy is only two generations old, founded in 1932, and the crown has so far moved from brother to brother among the founding ruler’s sons. That has become harder as the prospective heirs age. MBS’s father wasn’t tipped to be king, but after his two older brothers died unexpectedly in 2011 and 2012, he was catapulted up the line of succession.

When Salman became the heir-designate aged 76, he needed a chief of staff. Most courtiers expected him to choose one of the suave, English-speaking children of his first wife. Instead he appointed a son who spoke Arabic with a guttural Bedouin accent. [MBS has learned English fast since then: when we met in 2016 he sometimes corrected his translator.]

The choice to elevate MBS was less surprising to those who knew his father well. Salman had dedicated himself to his job as governor of Riyadh rather than chasing more lucrative commissions, and was a stickler for 8am starts, even in his 70s. He was known as the family disciplinarian, not averse to giving wayward royals a thwack with his walking stick or even a spell in his private prison. He clearly saw something of himself in his sixth son. MBS might love video games, but he was also a hard worker and keen to advance.

MBS put few limits on what he was prepared to do to achieve control. He earned the nickname Abu Rasasa – father of the bullet – after widespread rumors that he sent a bullet in the post to an official who ruled against him in a land dispute [Saudi officials have previously denied this rumor]. He was fearsome in private, too. “There are these terrible tempers, smashing up offices, trashing the palace,” says a source with palace connections. “He’s extremely violent.” Several associates describe him as having wild mood swings. Two former palace insiders say that, during an argument with his mother, he once sprayed her ceiling with bullets. According to multiple sources and news reports, he has locked his mother away.

It’s hard to say how many wives he has; officially, there’s just one, a glamorous princess called Sara bint Mashour, but courtiers say he has at least one more. MBS presents his family life as normal and happy: earlier this year he told the Atlantic magazine that he eats breakfast with his children each morning [he has three boys and two girls, according to Gulf News – the eldest is said to be 11]. One diplomat spoke of MBS’s kindness to his wife. But other sources inside the royal circle say that, on at least one occasion, Princess Sara was so badly beaten by her husband that she had to seek medical treatment.

We put this and other allegations in this piece to MBS’s representatives, who described them as “plain fabrication”, adding that “the kingdom is unfortunately used to false allegations made against its leadership, usually based on politically [or other] motivated malicious sources, particularly discredited individuals who have a long record of fabrications and baseless claims.”

MBS finally got a taste of political power in 2015 when Salman became king. Salman appointed his son deputy crown prince and minister of defense. One of MBS’s first moves was to launch a war in neighboring Yemen. Even America, the kingdom’s closest military ally, was told only at the last minute.

There was an obvious obstacle in MBS’s path to the throne: his cousin, the 57-year-old heir-designate, Muhammad bin Nayef. Bin Nayef was the intelligence chief and the kingdom’s main interlocutor with the CIA. He was widely credited with stamping out al-Qaeda in Saudi after 9/11. In June 2017 bin Nayef was summoned to meet the elderly king at his palace in Mecca.

The story of what happened next has emerged from press reports and my interviews. It seems that bin Nayef arrived by helicopter and took the lift to the fourth floor. Instead of the monarch, MBS’sagents were waiting. Bin Nayef was stripped of his weapons and phone, and told that a royal council had dismissed him. He was left alone to consider his options. Seven hours later, a court videographer filmed the charade of MBS kissing his cousin, then accepting his abdication as crown prince. King Salman kept a back seat throughout. Bin Nayef is now in detention [his uncle, who also had a claim to the throne, apparently intervened to try and protect bin Nayef, but was himself later detained]. The staged resignation – an old trick of Saddam Hussein’s – would become MBS’s signature move.

That was just the warm-up act. In October 2017 MBS hosted an international investment conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. At “Davos in the desert”, the likes of Christine Lagarde, Son Masayoshi and other business glitterati listened to MBS’s pitch for Saudi Arabia’s post-oil future, including the construction of Neom, a new $500bn “smart city”. The event was a hit. Diplomatic grumblings about the war in Yemen or the fate of America’s security partner, Muhammad bin Nayef, faded.

The gathering was also an opportunity to invite back royals who were often abroad. Once the foreigners had left, MBS pounced. Hundreds of princes and businessmen were swept up. According to a biography of MBS by Ben Hubbard, a New York Times journalist, one of them realized something was amiss only when they got to their hotel room: there were no pens, razors or glasses – nothing that could be used as a weapon.

MBS held the detainees in the Ritz-Carlton for several weeks [the Marriott and other hotels were also commandeered to house the overflow]. Prisoners’ phones were confiscated. Some were said to have been hooded, deprived of sleep and beaten until they agreed to transfer money and hand over an inventory of their assets. All told, MBS’s guests at the Ritz-Carlton coughed up about $100bn.

Even royals previously thought untouchable, such as the powerful prince who ran the national guard, got similar treatment. Princess Basma, the youngest child of the second king of Saudi Arabia, was jailed for three years without charge or access to a lawyer; after being released she still had to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, according to a close associate of hers.

The crushing of the royals and business elite was billed as a crackdown on corruption – and undoubtedly it netted many corruptly acquired assets, which MBS said would be returned to the Saudi treasury. The methods, however, looked more like something from a gangster film than a judicial procedure.

Interrogations were overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, who reported directly to MBS whenever a detainee broke and gave out their bank details. [All the allegations in this piece concerning Qahtani were put to him via his lawyer. No response was given.] Qahtani had installed himself as one of MBS’s favored henchmen, though earlier in his career, he’d plotted against Salman and his son, trying to sideline them with rumors that Salman had dementia. Qahtani was so loyal to the former faction that he’d named his son after his then boss. According to a former courtier, on the day of the old king’s funeral the two men had it out: MBS slapped Qahtani in the face. Later, MBS let Qahtani prove his worth and brought him on to his staff. Qahtani duly named his younger son Muhammad.

On paper, Qahtani was a communications adviser, a former journalist who understood Twitter and used an army of bots and loyal followers to intimidate critics on social media [his office included giant screens and holograms that staff used for target-practice with laser guns]. In practice he was entrusted with MBS’s most important and violent missions – the ones that established his grip on power.

His remit extended far beyond Saudi’s borders. In 2016 he kidnapped Prince Sultan, a minor royal who had been bad-mouthing MBS. MBS offered his jet to fly Sultan from Paris to Cairo – instead, the plane was diverted to Saudi Arabia. According to Hope’s and Scheck’s book, Qahtani posed as Captain Saud, an airline pilot, though surprisingly one who had an expensive Hublot watch.

Even people who have nothing to do with politics have become afraid to speak near a functioning mobile phone

With rendition strategies like this, and the cash tap shut off, even royals who weren’t inside the Ritz-Carlton felt the pressure to divest themselves of ostentatious assets. The father of the Saudi ambassador to Britain put Glympton Park, his beloved 2,000-acre estate in the Cotswolds, up for sale. Riyadh’s jewellers did a roaring trade pawning the diamonds of lesser royals. “It’s like the Romanovs selling their Fabergé eggs,” said an adviser to an auction house.

Many commoners rejoiced at the downfall of their entitled elite. Princes and princesses who once lived off huge handouts began looking for jobs. Their titles became irrelevant. Unable to afford the cost of irrigation, their green ranches became desert again. Banks turned them away. One financial adviser recalled his response to princes trying to get credit on the strength of their royal status: “You call yourselves princes, but they say there’s only one prince now.”

The Ritz-Carlton episode was just one element of an extraordinary project of centralization. MBS yanked control of various security services back from the princes. He took charge of Aramco, the semi-autonomous state oil company. He installed himself as boss of the sovereign-wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund. “He destroyed all the powerful families,” says a retired diplomat. By late 2017, law, money and security in Saudi all flowed directly from him.

Among those who lost out were the fellow princes who had pushed a young MBS to the edge of the family photo on the yacht all those years ago. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, in the center of that shot, surrendered part of his $17bn wealth. As the shakedown widened, MBS’s elder half-siblings put up their yacht for sale. Many of his cousins were locked up. “Payback time,” one victim said.

While MBS was squeezing the elite at home, he was forging some important friendships abroad.

MBS and Donald Trump, who was elected president in 2016, had a lot in common. Both had the hunger of the underdog and loathed the snooty policymaking establishments in their countries; they reveled in provocation. The historic compact, by which Saudi Arabia provided oil to American consumers and America guaranteed the country’s security, had frayed in recent years. Barack Obama’s hurried exit from Iraq in 2011 and his nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 had left Saudi Arabia worried that it could no longer rely on American protection. America’s development of its own shale-oil reserves had also reduced its dependence on Saudi oil. Then Trump and MBS got cozy.

With the Trump administration’s tacit [and sometimes explicit] support, MBS set about treating the entire Middle East much as he did Saudi Arabia, trying to push aside rulers whom he found to be inconvenient. He announced a blockade of Qatar, a tiny gas-rich state to the east of Saudi Arabia. In 2017, angered by Lebanon’s dealings with Iran, MBS invited the prime minister, Saad Hariri, a long-time beneficiary of Saudi patronage, on a starlit camping trip. Hariri turned up, had his phone confiscated and soon found himself reading out a resignation speech on tv.

Both moves ultimately backfired. But Trump’s Middle East adviser, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, did little to discourage such antics. Together, he and MBS dreamt up a new regional order over WhatsApp, calling each other “Jared” and “Muhammad”. Their rapport was so great that, at Kushner’s prompting, MBS started the process of recognizing “Israel”. His father, still officially king, put a stop to that.

MBS visited America in March 2018, hanging out in Silicon Valley with Peter Thiel and Tim Cook, and meeting celebrities, including Rupert Murdoch, James Cameron and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. Many people were keen to meet the man who controlled a $230bn sovereign-wealth fund. To his frustration, they were less willing to reciprocate by investing in the kingdom.

That October the intercontinental bonhomie came to an abrupt halt. I was due to go to a conference in Turkey that month. A Saudi journalist I knew, Jamal Khashoggi, got in touch to suggest meeting up: he was also going to be in Istanbul, for an appointment at the consulate. Khashoggi was a court insider whose criticisms of MBS in the Washington Post and elsewhere had attracted much attention. He seemed to be making more effort than usual to stay in touch. While I was at the conference a friend of his phoned me: Jamal still hadn’t emerged from the consulate, he said. By the time I got there, Turkish police were cordoning off the building.

The full story soon came out in leaked intelligence reports and, later, a un inquiry. A Saudi hit squad, which reportedly coordinated with Saud al-Qahtani, had flown to Istanbul. As they waited for Khashoggi to enter the consulate, they discussed plans for dismembering his body. According to tapes recorded inside the consulate by Turkish intelligence, Khashoggi was told, “We’re coming to get you.” There was a struggle, followed by the sound of plastic sheets being wrapped. A CIA report said that MBS approved the operation.

MBS has said he takes responsibility for the murder, but denies ordering it. He sacked Qahtani and another official implicated in the intelligence reports. The fallout was immediate. Companies and speakers pulled out of that year’s Davos in the desert; the Gates Foundation ended its partnership with Misk, an artistic and educational charity set up by the prince. Ari Emanuel, a Hollywood agent, cancelled a $400m deal with the kingdom.

The crown prince seems to have been genuinely surprised at the animus – “disappointed”, says an associate. Hadn’t he committed to all the reforms the West had been asking for? Perhaps he had underestimated the outcry provoked by going after a well-connected international figure, as opposed to a royal unknown outside Saudi Arabia. Or perhaps he understood Western governments’ priorities better than they did themselves. They had done little when Muhammad bin Nayef, their partner in battling terrorism, had disappeared; they had shrugged at reports of torture in the Ritz-Carlton, and at MBS’s reckless bombardment of Yemen. Why did they have so much to say about the killing of a single journalist?

Three years after the Khashoggi killing, Davos in the desert opened with the singer Gloria Gaynor. As images of smiling children flashed up on a giant screen behind her, she broke into her disco anthem, “I Will Survive”, asking the audience: “Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?”

The chief executives of private-equity giants BlackRock and Blackstone were back, as were the heads of Goldman Sachs, SocGen and Standard Chartered. Even Amazon sent a representative despite the fact that its boss, Jeff Bezos, owns the Washington Post, the paper that employed Khashoggi. Meanwhile, Qahtani was creeping back into favor at the royal court – although he had been implicated by the un for Khashoggi’s murder, a Saudi court took the decision not to charge him.

MBS revitalized the near-dormant sovereign-wealth fund, pumping tens of billions of dollars into tech, entertainment and sports, to create a softer, more appealing image of Saudi and co-opt new partners. In April 2020, the fund led a consortium to buy Newcastle United, a premier-league football team [the deal took 18 months]. The following year it launched an audacious bid to create Saudi’s own golf tour, the LIV series, hoping to lure players with a prize pot of $255m, far larger than that of American tournaments. At the first LIV tour this year, some top players boycotted the event, others went for the cash.

Joe Biden has proved tougher to woo. Soon after becoming president, Biden withdrew American military support for the war in Yemen. He wouldn’t talk to MBS, insisting that communications go through King Salman instead. He didn’t even nominate an ambassador to Riyadh for 15 months. The chat everywhere was that Saudi-American relations were in a deep freeze. Then, in February 2022, MBS had a stroke of luck: Russia invaded Ukraine.

In the days after war broke out, Biden himself tried to call MBS. The crown prince declined to speak to the president. He did take Putin’s call, however. The two men were already close. MBS had personally brought Russia into an expanded version of the OPEC cartel in order for Saudi Arabia to keep control of global oil production. Putin cemented the friendship in 2018 at the g20 summit in Buenos Aires, which took place weeks after the Khashoggi killing. While Western leaders shunned MBS, Putin gave the Saudi ruler a high-five before sitting down next to him.

MBS’s defiance of America seems to have paid off. After months of evasion, Biden reluctantly agreed to meet MBS in Jeddah in July, on the prince’s own turf and his own terms. The visit gave MBS recognition but did little to rebuild relations. There wasn’t even a concrete assurance of increasing oil production.

Some in the American foreign-policy establishment remain hopeful that MBS could become a helpful partner in the region, pointing to his recent retreat from confrontation with Qatar and his eagerness to find a diplomatic exit from Yemen. Perhaps, they say, he is maturing as a leader.

This seems optimistic. MBS’s disastrous campaign in Yemen was ostensibly in support of the country’s president but in April, hours after being summoned to a meeting and offered Arabic coffee and dates, Yemen’s president was reading out a resignation speech on tv. MBS took it upon himself to get rid of him personally – suggesting that his mode of international diplomacy remains as high-handed as ever. “What they’ve learned”, says one foreign analyst, “is don’t murder journalists who dine regularly with congressmen in the United States.”

The West has taught MBS something else, too – something that autocrats the world over may draw comfort from. No matter the sin, they would argue, if you sit tight through the odium and fury, eventually the financiers, the celebrities, even the Western leaders, will come running back. At 36, MBS has time on his side. Some observers fear that he may become only more dangerous as oil reserves start to decline and the treasure trove shrinks. “What happens when he’s a middle-aged man ruling a middle-income country and starts to get bored?” asks a diplomat who knows MBS personally. “Will he go on more adventures?”

Earlier this year, I visited an old friend in his office in Saudi Arabia. Before we started talking, he put his phone in a pouch that blocks the signal, to prevent government spies from listening in. Dissidents do that kind of thing in police states like China, but I’d never seen it before in Saudi Arabia. It isn’t just people involved with politics who are taking such precautions: most Saudis have become afraid to speak near a functioning mobile phone. People used to talk fairly openly in their offices, homes and cafés. Now, they are picked up for almost nothing.

As we chatted over the whir of his office air conditioning, my friend reeled off a list of people he knew who had been detained in the past month: a retired air-force chief who died in prison, a hospital administrator hauled away from his desk, a mother taken in front of her seven children, a lawyer who died seven days after his release from prison. “These people aren’t rabble rousers,” my friend said. “No one understands why.”

Officially, the government says it has no political prisoners. Rights groups reckon that thousands have been swept up in MBS’s dragnet. I’ve covered the Middle East since the 1990s and can’t think of anywhere where so many of my own contacts are behind bars.

Few ordinary Saudis predicted that when MBS was done trampling on the elites and the clerics, he would come for them next. Bringing Saudis into the modern, networked, online world has made it easier for the state to monitor what they are saying. A Red Crescent employee called Abdulrahman al-Sadhan used to run a satirical Twitter account under a pseudonym. In 2018 MBS’s agents arrested him and held him incommunicado for two years. American prosecutors later charged two former Twitter employees with allegedly handing over the real names behind various accounts to a Saudi official – al-Sadhan’s family believes that his name was among them. [The trial of one employee is ongoing; he denies passing on information to Saudi officials.]

On the face of it, MBS has nothing to worry about. Public opinion polls – if they can be trusted – suggest he is popular, particularly with younger Saudis. But there is a growing sense that discontent is brewing beneath the surface. MBS has broken crucial social contracts with the Saudi populace, by reducing handouts while, at the same time, dispensing with the tradition of hearing the feedback of ordinary people after Friday prayers.

It isn’t hard to imagine some of the issues they’d raise if they had the chance. Many people are struggling as the cost of living rises. When other governments were cushioning their citizens during the pandemic, MBS slashed fuel subsidies and tripled vat. Unable to afford the cost of pumping water, some farmers left crops to wither in the field. Fees for permits and fines have spiraled, too. Though MBS speaks eloquently about the country’s youth, he is struggling to find them jobs. Unemployment remains stubbornly stuck in double digits. Half of the jobless have a university degree, but most white-collar workers I met on MBS’s mega-projects were foreign.

Saudi Arabia’s attempts to diversify its economy – and so compensate for the long-term decline of oil reserves – isn’t going well either. The pandemic delayed plans for a rapid increase in international tourism. Extorting billions of dollars from your relatives may not be the best way to convince investors that the kingdom is a liberal haven.

The young prince has reversed even the baby steps towards democracy taken by previous kings. Municipal elections have been suspended – as a cost-cutting exercise, explains the supine press. The Shura Council, a consultative body of 150 people, has only met online since the pandemic [other institutions have gathered in person for months]. “I wish I had more of a voice,” said one member. Whenever I mentioned the prince, his leg twitched.

A frequent visitor to the royal court says MBS now gives the impression of someone who’s always thinking that people are plotting against him. He seems to be preoccupied with loyalty. He fills key posts either with young royals, foreigners with no local base to threaten him or people he has already broken. A government minister, Ibrahim Assaf, was one of those locked up in the Ritz-Carlton – two months later MBS sent him to the World Economic Forum as his representative. A senior executive on one of his construction projects is someone who says he was tortured in one of his prisons. “He went from being strung naked from his ankles, beaten and stripped of all his assets to a high-level project manager,” says a close acquaintance of the man.

All remain vulnerable to MBS’s tantrums. Saudi sources say he once locked a minister in a toilet for ten hours. [The minister later appeared on tv blabbering platitudes about the prince’s wisdom.] A senior official I’ve spoken to says he wants out. “Everyone in his circle is terrified of him,” says an insider. And that could make it hard for him to govern a country of 35m people effectively. Former courtiers say no one close to MBS is prepared to offer a truthful assessment of whether his increasingly grandiose schemes are viable. “Saying no”, says one, “is not something they will ever do.”

If MBS has a mission beyond extending his power, you might expect to find it in Neom, the city he promised to build in the desert. Neom would be nothing less than “a civilizational leap for humanity”, he said in 2017. Head-spinning details followed. The city’s food would be grown on hydroponic walls on a floating structure. It would be powered by the world’s largest green-hydrogen plant. Thousands of snow-blowers would create a ski resort on a nearby mountain. One day it would have driverless cars and passenger drones.

According to the official timetable, the main city would be completed by 2020. Further districts would be added by 2025. The prince’s tourism minister, Ahmed al-Khateeb, dismissed rumors that the timetable was proving over-ambitious. “Come see with your eyes and not with your ears,” he urged. So, I went.

Finding Neom was the first problem. There were no road signs to it. After three hours’ drive we came to the spot indicated by the map. It was bare, but for the odd fig tree. Camels strolled across the empty highway. Piles of rubble lined the road, remnants of the town bulldozed to make way for the mighty metropolis.

The designated area is nearly the size of Belgium. As far as I could tell, only two projects had been completed, MBS’s palace, and something Google Earth calls “The Neom Experience Centre” [when I drove to see it, it was obscured by a prefabricated hut]. The only other solid building I could see was a hotel constructed before Neom was conceived: The Royal Tulip. A poster in the lobby urged me to “Discover Neom”. But when I asked for a guide the hotel manager cursed my sister with Arabic vulgarities and tried to shoo me away. There was no sign of the media hub with “frictionless facilitation”, “advanced infrastructure” and “collaborative ecosystems” promised by the Neom website. Neom’s head of communications and media, Wayne Borg, said he was “out of Kingdom at present”.

The hotel restaurant was teeming with consultants – all the ones I met were foreign. I later found a Saudi project manager. “We think we’re about to start working, but every two months the consultants coin a new plan,” he told me. “They’re still doing plans of plans.” There was a kind of manic short-termism among these foreigners. Many were paid $40,000 a month, plus handsome bonuses. “It’s like riding a bull,” one of the Neom consultants told me. “You know you’re gonna fall, that no one can last on a bull longer than a minute and a half, two minutes, so you make the most of it.”

Despite the high salaries, there are reports that foreigners are leaving the Neom project because they find the gap between expectations and reality so stressful. The head of Neom is said by his friends to be “terrified” at the lack of progress.

Eventually, I found a retired Saudi air-force technician who offered to drive me around the city for $600. He took me to a sculpture standing in the desert with the words, “I love Neom”. A short way farther on we found a new stretch of tarmac, said to mark the edge of the dream city. Beyond it, the lone and level sands stretched far away.

Salman And His Son: Two Terrorist Murderers

March 15, 2022

By Al-Ahed News

Lebanon is ‘held hostage by Iran’, yet coercion from the Gulf suggests otherwise

January 7, 2022

This picture taken on January 3, 2022 shows a view of a screen displaying a televised speech by the head of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah, airing during a memorial service marking the second anniversary of a US drone strike that killed the top commander of the Iranian revolutionary guard corps (IRGC) Qasem Soleimani alongside Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, at a hall in a school in the southern suburb of Lebanon’s capital Beirut. [ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images]

A common trope over the past decade has been the notion that Lebanon has been “held hostage” by the Hezbollah movement and its chief backer, Iran. This is based on concerns of the growing political and military power of Hezbollah, which along with the Amal Movement has been part of the Lebanese government since 2005 with the support of their ally President Michel Aoun. Claims of 100,000-strong trained fighters within its armed ranks, also mean it is larger than the Lebanese military and is the country’s most powerful armed group.

Such beliefs have been reinforced largely over the movement’s ability to consolidate power in the absence of strong state institutions while managing to avoid accountability and responsibility over its actions. Hezbollah’s alleged role in the assassination in former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and the acquittal of three members over their involvement is a case in point. More recently, the investigation into the Beirut Port blast has stalled due to Hezbollah and Amal boycotting cabinet meetings in protest over the perceived bias of the investigating judge, Tarek Bitar. Earlier calls by Hezbollah supporters for him to be removed led to intercommunal clashes with Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) militiamen. It was some of the worst street violence witnessed in the capital in years, leaving at least seven dead, all of whom were from the Shia community, sparking credible fears of a return to civil conflict and upending a fragile peace, although Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah vowed he would not be baited into civil war.

While it is understandable for segments of Lebanon’s sectarian society to view the country as being under the firm grip of an Iranian-supported Shia movement given its modern history which has had a lasting impact on the contemporary confessional political order, this idea is also rooted in deep-seated “othering” of the once-marginalised Shia Lebanese community who were and are still seen as an Iranian fifth-column.

This perception dates back well before the establishment of the modern Lebanese nation-state, where under four centuries of Sunni Ottoman rule, the Lebanese Shia (historically and colloquially known as the metwali) were discriminated against over alleged loyalties to Persia. After the end of French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon in 1943, the Shia were essentially excluded and underrepresented from the power-sharing arrangements between the Maronites and the Sunnis when they established the National Pact. It was following the activism of the charismatic cleric Sayyid Musa Al-Sadr in the 1960s and 70s that the Shia became more assertive of their rights and religious identities with the community becoming further empowered after the signing of the 1989 Taif Accord, both politically as there was more equitable distribution of powers for the country’s Muslim political elites, and militarily, as Hezbollah was the only militia allowed to keep its arms after the civil war ended.

OPINION: Lebanon may be independent, but it still depends on too many other states

Therefore, with this context in mind, one can appreciate the concerns about the political ascendency of the Hezbollah, the community it represents and the influence exerted in Lebanon of its main supporter Iran. These feelings will become more pronounced during and after the general and parliamentary elections scheduled this year, amid a worsening economic meltdown and potential for further social unrest. Yet while both Western and Arab media tend to focus on the idea that Lebanon is being held hostage by Iran via Hezbollah, the discourse is one-sided and there is relatively scant attention paid to the fact that the Gulf Arab states, headed by Saudi Arabia, have been pressurising and weighing in on the Lebanese government, undermining the country’s supposed independence in the process.

Riyadh has had a long history of playing an influential force in Lebanese politics, often supporting Hezbollah’s political rivals and acting as a protector of Sunni interests to counter those of Iran’s.

Speaking of hostage-taking, it is ironic to note that it was the Saudis who audaciously kidnapped an acting head of state, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in 2017, who was coerced into announcing his short-lived resignation from Riyadh. It was later revealed that he was “verbally intimidated and beaten” during his detention.

The recent diplomatic fallout in October between Beirut and Riyadh, however, has resulted in concerted efforts to force the Lebanese government into making political concessions in order to mend and maintain important strategic relations.

Following remarks which surfaced by the then-Information Minister George Kordahi criticising the Saudi-led war on Yemen, the Saudis expelled Lebanon’s ambassador, recalled its own ambassador and banned all imports at a critical time when Lebanon was grappling with an economic crisis. Fellow Gulf states, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE were also quick to summon their ambassadors in solidarity. Despite insisting that he wouldn’t step down over the row, Kordahi resigned last month, likely owing to external pressure and the potential devastating consequences for the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese expats working in the Gulf who send vital remittances back home.

READ: Remembering the Great Famine of Mount Lebanon (1914-1918)

While Kordahi’s resignation may have had a cooling effect on the crisis, tensions clearly remain in light of Nasrallah’s comments earlier this week regarding the Saudis and King Salman, accusing Riyadh of exporting the ideology of Daesh, specifically referring to the monarch as a “terrorist”. The remarks were an apparent response to calls by King Salman the week before for an end of “terrorist Hezbollah’s” influence over the state.

Rather than defend a coalition member within his own government, Lebanon’s Sunni Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned Hezbollah, distancing the government from the comments. This was echoed by dual-Saudi citizen Hariri who insinuated that the only threat to Lebanon is “the one who wants the state of Lebanon to remain hostage to the state of Iran”.

The Lebanese government appears keen on appeasing Riyadh and its Gulf allies out of a rational fear of political and economic retribution, which has included the Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi ordering the deportation of Bahraini oppositionists and the announcement of an interception of “nearly 9 million Captagon tablets” smuggled in citrus fruits destined for the Gulf. “We want to send a message to the Arab world about our seriousness and our work to thwart evil from harming our Arab brothers,” Mawlawi insisted. He followed these political gestures by ordering the removal of posters deemed offensive to King Salman from the predominantly Shia areas of southern Beirut. In its attempts to salvage ties with the Gulf, the compliant Lebanese government risks allowing the latter to utilise their leverage further as the elections near.

At the strategic level then, the actions undertaken by the Saudi-led bloc are little to do with offensive comments by Lebanese politicians and leaders. Rather these have been shrewdly exploited in an attempt for the Saudis to play catch-up in trying to expand their own influence while steering the country away from Iran through Hezbollah. There may be compelling arguments that Hezbollah undermines Lebanon’s national sovereignty, however these often overlook or fail to recognise that it was Hezbollah that protected and reasserted Lebanon’s territorial integrity when the south was under foreign Israeli occupation. This may seem like harking back to the past, but it remains the biggest strategic threat to Israel to this day, having amassed an arsenal of “hundreds of thousands of short-range rockets and several thousand missiles that can reach deeper into Israel“, providing a modest and credible deterrence against the prospects of any repeat invasions or a major flareup at the border.

As a fragile state with a history of foreign meddling and patronage from multiple actors, it would be disingenuous to use alarmist rhetoric that Lebanon is being “held hostage” by any one party or regional power. In reference to Hezbollah, this is based on an over-arching legacy of the civil war but also on prejudices against a formerly marginalised community that had historically never been a major player in the affairs of the country, now with unprecedented power and clout. Beirut, we are constantly being told, is under the firm control of Iran (apparently as Baghdad, Damascus and Sanaa are too) yet challenging this narrative are the Gulf states who seem to be the ones calling the shots and who, according to Nasrallah, are in effect holding some 350,000 Lebanese expats “hostage”. In reality, it is the outdated, corrupt political system that has taken Lebanon hostage, a system which will unlikely be reformed as long as people identify and vote along sectarian lines. The country is in the all too familiar position of having to balance relations with foreign rival powers while maintaining the delicate balance on the ground among its diverse communities who are currently facing an unprecedented economic crises.

OPINION: The last time Iraq was free of foreign interference was during the Abbasids—even then it was short lived

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

Sayyed Nasrallah to Saudi King: Hezbollah Resistance Is Not Terrorist, You Are So!

Jan 3 2022

Marwa Haidar

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah stressed that the US is the source of tyranny and aggression in the region.

Talking on the second martyrdom anniversary of former head of IRGC’s Quds Force General Qassem Suleimani and deputy head of Iraq’s Hashd Shaabi paramilitary force Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, Sayyed Nasrallah emphasized on the difference between the martyrs and the “criminal” US.

His eminence pointed to US crimes in the region starting from Afghanistan, to Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon.

Sayyed Nasrallah said that the US has created ISIL in a bid to stay in the region.

He noted that Saudi Arabia has backed the Takfiri group, through spreading its Wahhabi ideology.

In this context, Sayyed Nasrallah hit back at the Saudi King who described Hezbollah as terrorist. He stressed that the terrorist is the one who sent thousands of Saudi Takfiris to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Sayyed Nasrallah affirmed that Hezbollah is a Resistance movement and not a terrorist one, accusing the regime in Riyadh of being terrorist.

Ties between Hezbollah, FPM

Sayyed Nasrallah started his speech by offering condolences over the martyrdom anniversary of Sayyeda Fatima Zahraa a.s., as well as the demise of Iranian envoy to Yemen Hassan Irloo.

His eminence also congratulated Christians and Muslims on the Christmas and the New Year.

Before getting into the topic of the occasion, Sayyed Nasrallah stressed Hezbollah’s keenness to preserve ties with the party’s local allies, responding to allegations circulated by some media outlets that the relation between Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) has worsened over latest developments in Lebanon.

“We stress on the importance of dialogue between Lebanese people. We are keen on our allies and friends and open to developing ties,” Sayyed Nasrallah addressed attendees of the ceremony held in Beirut’s southern suburb, Dahiyeh.

The Killer-Martyr Formula

Talking about the occasion, Sayyed Nasrallah noted that the repercussions of assassinating Gen. Suleimani and Al-Muhandis are still standing, stressing that marking their martyrdom anniversary shows some gratitude to their souls.

“These two martyrs have given much to their countries, region, religions, but some want to deny their good. Opposition to raising their posters on the road to Beirut Airport is a form of this ingratitude.”

Throughout the last two years, some major battles took place. Such battles proved that the Axis of Resistance is abiding by the path of these two great leaders, Sayyed Nasrallah said, citing the latest Israeli war on Gaza (Sword of Al-Quds), as well as what he called “Battle of Steadfastness in Yemen.”

Hezbollah S.G. then talked about the killer-martyr formula, as he deplored putting Iran and the US on the same level.

“There is a real problem in our region. This problem is represented by disagreements on designating the ally and the enemy of this region’s peoples.”

“Our countries must take a firm stance towards the killer and the martyr. Iraq must take a clear position. The US is the one who occupied Iraq, oppressed its people and committed crimes even before the emergence of Gen. Suleimani.”

“The US created ISIL in order to redeploy its forces in Iraq. It bears responsibility for the crimes committed by ISIL. The US is the killer and the unprecedented hypocrite who committed crimes in Iraq, while Suleimani is the martyr who stood by the Iraqi people. Iran was the first sides who stood by the Iraqi people against ISIL which was created by the US.”

“Is it fair to equate between the criminal US and Iran which stood beside Iraq? It’s catastrophic to do so.”

US Source of Tyranny, Oppression

Sayyed Nasralah then stressed that the US is the source of tyranny and oppression in the region.

“The US is fully responsible for all Israelis crimes in Palestine and Lebanon. The US is behind all raids, massacres committed by the Zionist entity in Lebanon. How can we look to the US as a friend?!”

“As for the war on Yemen, it is an American war carried out by the US,” Sayyed Nasrallah said, as he elaborated on the US policy in the region, which is based on suing discord between its countries.

In this context, Sayyed Nasrallah cited the Gulf siege on Qatar, noting that Gulf Arab countries were like puppets in the hand of the US.

Meanwhile, Sayyed Nasrallah also affirmed the US role in the war on Syria, pointing to what he called continued aggression on the Arab country through the economic blockade, especially the so-called Caesar Act.

“In every place where the US was causing destruction, martyr Suleimani was present. He achieved victories, changed the equations and finally he sacrificed his soul on this path.”

Hezbollah S.G. stressed here that the perpetrators who committed the assassination crimes of Suleimani and Al-Muhandis will be punished.

“This is a promise by free people, not only by Iranians.”

Sayyed Nasrallah then affirmed that allowing US forces to stay in Iraq “means a new assassination of martyrs Suleimani and Al-Muhandis,” stressing that the only fate awaiting US forces in the region is the pullout.

“The blood of martyrs Suleimani and Al-Muhandis delivers a message to all free people of this region. This message says: Know your enemy, the US is the head of aggression and the source of tyranny and oppression, don’t surrender.”

“Terrorist” Saudi

Sayyed Nasrallah talked about the Saudi regime’s role in backing ISIL, citing acknowledgements by Saudi officials in this regard.

“Saudi Arabia backed ISIL. It sent suicide bombers and explosive-laden cars to Iraq.”

“Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman said that the US had called on Riyadh to spread the Wahhabi ideology. Saudi Arabia sent its suicide bombers to kill Iraqi men and children, while Iran sent its fighters to defend Iraqi people.”

Sayyed Nasrallah then hit back at those who accuse Hezbollah of “harming” Lebanon’s diplomatic ties.

“Lebanon’s ties with whom? With the US which is a clear enemy? As for Saudi, we did not attack it, but rather, it was a partner in the universal war in this region.”

“Who backed ISIL in Syria? The vast majority of Lebanese people know that Lebanon’s existence was in risk because of ISIL which was created by the US and backed by Saudi.”

In this context, Sayyed Nasrallah commented on remarks made by Saudi King Salman, who described Hezbollah as a “terrorist organization.”

“The terrorist is the one who sent thousands of Takfiri Saudis to Syria and Iraq. On the other hand, Hezbollah proudly defended the region against those conspirators.”

“The terrorist is the one who takes thousands of Lebanese nationals in Gulf states hostages and threatens to expel them on daily basis.”

“The resignation of a Lebanese minister won’t change the Saudi stance towards Lebanon since its problem is with the sides who foiled its scheme,” Sayyed Nasrallah said, referring to pressures exerted on former Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi to resign over remarks he made on the Saudi war on Yemen.

“Hezbollah is a Resistance movement. It is not a terrorist, but you are so!”

Source: Al-Manar English Website

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MBS Has Lost the War in Yemen. It’s Time to End the Humanitarian Disaster

MBS Has Lost the War in Yemen. It’s Time to End the Humanitarian Disaster

By Madawi al-Rasheed, MEE

This week, Saudi Arabia announced an initiative to end the Yemen war and implement a nationwide ceasefire. The move was met with rejection by the Ansarullah group, the main protagonists on the other side of this six-year-old conflict.

The proposal, according to the Ansarullah, didn’t promise the total lifting of the blockade imposed by the Saudis on Sanaa International Airport and Hudaydah port, which, with Saleef Port, handle about 80 percent of Yemen’s imports including staples and fuel.

The Ansarullah are now on the offensive and are unlikely to retreat or surrender. It is most likely that they will continue their offensive in Marib and sweep the shrinking territories and fragile authority of the Riyadh-based exiled President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

On Wednesday, Jawad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said Iran backed a peace plan that would end the blockade and violence.

A weak position

Saudi Arabia’s announcement is triggered by its weak position following the collapse of the Arab coalition that supported its campaign and the vanishing international consent over this treacherous war on its southern borders.

Internationally, since 2015, the US under the Obama administration gave the Saudis the green light to start air strikes against the Ansarullah who swept the capital in September 2014 and later extended their control over most of the Yemeni population. Under the pretext of confronting Iranian expansion in this strategic part of the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia launched the Yemen war on 25 March 2015.

Later, former President Donald Trump continued to support the Saudis without encouraging them to seek a diplomatic solution to resolve the conflict. With the new Biden administration in office, the Saudis find themselves without this international cover as voices in Washington made it clear that one of the new administration’s Middle East policy pillars is to end the war in Yemen and relaunch negotiation with Iran, the Ansarullah’s main supporter, over its nuclear program.

Regionally, Saudi’s main ally, the UAE, pulled out of the war but still maintains a stronghold on the coast that guarantees its own maritime expansion all the way to the Horn of Africa. Its patronage over southern Yemenis had revived an old project to separate the southern coastal region from a unified Yemen.

The UAE’s intervention resulted in consolidating an independent canton, loyal to it. Saudi Arabia counted on Egypt and Pakistan but both hesitated to get involved on the ground, leaving the Saudis to fight a war without real capabilities despite its advanced airpower, thanks to a constant supply from Western governments, mainly the US and Britain.

This weak and lonely Saudi position contrasts with that of the empowered Ansarullah, no longer designated as a terrorist organization in Washington. The Ansarullah intensified their drone attacks at the heart of Saudi economic facilities over recent months, targeting oil installations and airports. They were quick to understand the weak Saudi position. The initial Saudi offensive strategy in the pursuit of securing its southern borders remains unfulfilled.

The Salman ‘doctrine’

The 2015 so-called Salman’s Doctrine, a flexing of muscles aimed at Saudi domestic audiences who are skeptical about the rise of King Salman’s son, Mohammad, to the highest positions in government, has stumbled in Yemen.

The then Saudi deputy crown prince and minister of defense needed a quick victory in Yemen that would grant him a new legitimacy as the savior and military commander.

MBS failed to achieve this. Instead, he is left alone to beg the Ansarullah to accept his ‘peace’ proposal, which falls short of alleviating the plight of the Yemenis and their aspiration to end the war.

This war was not inevitable but foreign military intervention by both Saudi Arabia and the UAE did not revive the project of a unified and democratic Yemen, nor affirmed the prospects for two stable Yemens – one in the north and one in the south – as historically has been the case…

A humanitarian catastrophe

Historically, Saudi Arabia favored maintaining patronage networks with the northern Yemeni tribes whose sheikhs regularly received subsidies and handouts to keep them loyal to the Saudi royal family. In Sanaa, the Saudis supported the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh but he turned against them and forged a new alliance with the Ansarullah, his previous arch enemies.

Mohammed bin Salman stopped the old patronage network and opted for outright war, believing that he would become the master of Yemen and its diverse population. Consequently, in addition to Saleh, most of the northern tribes shifted their allegiance to the Ansarullah.

Today, Yemen faces a humanitarian and economic crisis of a magnitude unseen in previous decades. According to the United Nations, almost 16 million Yemenis live under famine conditions, with 2.5 million children suffering from malnutrition. Yemen’s poor infrastructure is destroyed to the extent of making any potential reconstruction very long and costly.

King Salman and his son will go down in history as the destroyers of a country, people and resources. Without serious effort to contribute to the reconstruction of Yemen, the country will be drawn into several decades of upheaval and misery…

End the war

If the war stops without a detailed reconstruction program, there is a risk of many losing their livelihood and income. Local actors may not see an immediate benefit from a ceasefire in the absence of real alternatives that would allow them to survive in a destroyed country. 

The Saudi offer fails to detail how peace and economic reconstruction can resume once the air strikes stop. Today, the Yemen war has generated new forces that seem to be beyond the capacity of Saudi Arabia, which contributed to this destruction, to contain or reverse.

With the international community cutting its overseas aid and development programs – the British government is one of them – the prospect for peace in Yemen does not look imminent.

The United Nations should be given an international mandate to launch a fresh peace initiative whose main objectives should be political and economic. Politically, Yemenis should be encouraged to revive that historical moment in 2011 when all factions and groups sought democracy in the “Change Squares” of most Yemeni cities.

Economically, the international community, including above all Saudi Arabia, should pledge to contribute to a fund that starts the long and arduous journey towards recovery.

Dr Marwa Osman: Hands Off Yemen! Introduction to her program

The Arab yacht summit plotters have fallen out

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is DYxJNIWWAAMxxsb.jpg
George Nader (fourth from left) organised a secret summit of Arab leaders on a yacht in the Red Sea in late 2015
David HearstDavid Hearst is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He is a commentator and speaker on the region and analyst on Saudi Arabia. He was The Guardian’s foreign leader writer, and was correspondent in Russia, Europe, and Belfast. He joined the Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.

David Hearst

15 March 2021 15:09 UTC 

An alliance of regional rulers that put so much effort into suppressing democracy is weakening now as its participants bear substantial grudges against each other

For the past decade, an alliance of rulers has bent every sinew to halt the onward, and irreversible, fight for human rights in the Arab world.

To preserve their own decaying regimes, this alliance has laid waste to once proud and civilised nations. It has waged wars in Yemen, Libya and Syria, reducing much of them to rubble. It has funded coups in Egypt, and attempted them in Tunisia and Turkey. The blood of hundreds of thousands has been shed in these interventions.

They were fought in the name of defending the region from Islamism and extremism. In this, they attracted the credulous, or cynical, support of former colonial powers France and Britain. But in reality their “jihad” had nothing to do with defending liberalism or secularism.

These regimes had no qualms about enlisting religious forces for political ends. Their quest was for hegemony, or how to transfer autocracy from one generation to another. For them, power was part of the family silver.

Late in 2015 – two years after their first major success, that being the military coup in Egypt, the leaders of this alliance – crown princes and rulers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan – met secretly on a yacht to plot their plans for the region. To summon the same cast of characters on a yacht in the Red Sea today, six years on, would, however, be more difficult. 

For one thing, the fixer of this secret summit is in prison. George Nader is serving ten years on child sex charges. For another, the participants today bear substantial grudges against each other.

Money like rice?

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Egypt have cooled fastest. The Saudis no longer have “money like rice” as the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi once bragged to his chief of staff Abbas Kamel. And any way King Salman is not as generous as his late brother Abdullah was, even if he had the money, which he doesn’t.

Sisi has no interest in following Mohammed bin Salman into the camp of pariah dictators

Sisi tried to get a new line of funding from Riyadh by giving it two uninhabited but strategically placed Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to much protest at home. But the Saudis are no longer interested in such baubles like the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba.  

Their eyes light up when contemplating cheaper and faster ways to the Mediterranean – through Israel. Egypt is not saying it, but it is getting increasingly irritated by plans to bypass the Suez Canal, which it enlarged to the tune of $8.2bn.

Whether it is reversing a once-secret desert pipeline that ran from Iran to Israel during the time of the Shah, or the development of ports and free zones in Israel, or Blue Raman, a new fibre optic cable for the Middle East, it’s all pointing in one direction for Cairo – a huge loss of money and regional influence. 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (AFP)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (AFP)

It is not as if there have not been past divergences between banker and client state. Egypt’s refusal to send troops to fight in Saudi Arabia’s disastrous war in Yemen was one. It has refused to be as hostile to Iran and its allies in Lebanon. But two new factors are persuading Egypt that its national interests are not always best served by its regional allies. 

The Biden factor

The first is the arrival of US President Joe Biden and his obvious antipathy to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – even though he refuses to sanction him. Sisi has no interest in following bin Salman into the camp of pariah dictators. Rather, he has a strong motive to distance himself from that clan.For Trump’s Middle East allies, Joe Biden is a new nightmareRead More »

Bin Salman’s international reputation has been tarnished by the release of the US intelligence report into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. When it was released, Mohammed bin Salman expected that every member of his club, and even those that were not, like Qatar, to send a message of support. 

Most did. King Abdullah II of Jordan; Sudan’s prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, flew to Riyadh. Others like Bahrain and the UAE issued statements. The only country to fall silent was Egypt.

The second factor was the military defeat of the Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, when his forces were repulsed from Tripoli and retreated to Sirte. The Turkish intervention, and the effectiveness of its drones, came as a shock to Egypt, whose agenda in Libya was driven by the Emirates. Egypt, however, invested considerably in training, arming and supplying Haftar’s forces.

When both the UAE and Egypt discovered that they were on the losing side – and this was sometime before Haftar pushed Sisi to invade – some in the Egyptian media began to question publicly why Egypt was in this position. Libya is important to its neighbour, not least because of the millions of Egyptians who – in times of peace – work there. When Libya prospers, so does Egypt. Haftar’s defeat opened the way for direct talks with the government in Tripoli, and covert talks with Turkish intelligence chiefs. 

As a result, the candidates of the list which lost the election to the post of prime minister had been agreed beforehand by both Turkey and Egypt. When the Libyans rejected those candidates, it did not disturb the tacit understanding between Ankara and Cairo. Nor are things as close between Cairo and Abu Dhabi. The froideur started over a question of money. But it rapidly went much further over Abu Dhabi’s recognition of Israel

The second wave

The second wave of normalisation with Israel displaced the first. Both Egypt and Jordan lost influence as the gatekeepers of the Arab world to Israel, in the same degree to which the UAE gained it.

It’s no coincidence that two of the nations that attended that yacht summit are in the process of softening their hostility to Ankara

When Abu Dhabi announced it would invest $10bn in Israeli energy, manufacturing, water, space, healthcare and agri-tech, it was no coincidence that Jordan at first refused permission for Benjamin Netanyahu’s jet to use its airspace, and he had to cancel his trip to pick up the prize money in person. Netanyahu’s office said the dispute with Amman stemmed from Israel’s decision to cancel the Jordanian crown prince’s plans to visit the Al-Aqsa mosque the day before.  

Much of the legitimacy of the Hashemite dynasty rests on its role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, a role that is now being overtly threatened by its Saudi cousin with Israel’s encouragement. Bin Salman is playing a zero-sum game. By advancing his own relationship with Israel, he is weakening the stability of Israel’s safest border. 

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends the closing session of an African summit meeting (AFP)
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (AFP)

The yacht summit was convened to counter Turkey and Iran’s resistance to their schemes. So it’s also no coincidence that two of the nations that attended that summit are in the process of softening their hostility to Ankara.

Enters Turkey

Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are being pushed into each other arms by a US president who is hostile to the Saudi crown prince and the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mohammed bin Salman was told by his advisers that if Biden won, he would have to open relations with Turkey. 

Where foreign relations are based on secret pacts between leaders each of whom have good reason to fear their own people, they are built on sand

Bin Salman is not convinced, and can’t overcome the feeling that Erdogan was out to get him for having ordered Khashoggi’s murder. But the relationship between his father, King Salman, and Erdogan was never ruptured and so halting attempts are being made.

Qatar has offered to mediate, which is ironic, because when the boycott of the Gulf peninsula states started, the Turks offered to mediate. Turkey maintains strong relations with Oman and Kuwait and both Ankara and Riyadh have an interest in showing Washington they are regional players.

But is more going on under the table? Recently the Houthis claimed to have shot down a drone that “had proven its worth in Azerbaijan”, an oblique reference to Turkey. It was a Turkish drone, but not one used in Azerbaijan. Last year the Saudi government signed a deal with a local company to supply armed drones after getting a technology transfer from a Turkish defence firm, Vestel Karayel. Six drones were delivered. 

Turkey denies there was anything official about this technology transfer. A Turkish source familiar with the defence industry said Vestel did not seek government authorisation to make such a tech transfer to Riyadh. Still, the incident raised eyebrows. Janes defence news said the Karayel has not been previously known to be in service with the Saudi military.

In any case the Saudi boycott of Turkish goods still continues.

Repairing ties with Egypt

Last week’s flurry of statements from the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, chief counsellor to the president Ibrahim Kalin and the president himself about turning the page with Egypt have been downplayed by Cairo.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, confirming contacts with Cavusoglu, said that Turkey must “align with Egypt’s principles” before relations could return to normal. And the editor in chief of Egypt’s al Watan newspaper published ten conditions before relations could be restored.

This will have the same effect on Ankara as the 13 demands the blockading countries laid on Qatar.

The optimism in Ankara started when Egypt announced an oil and gas exploration bid in the Eastern Mediterranean which acknowledged the coordinates of the continental shelf declared by Ankara. The Greek foreign minister, Nikos Dendias, claims to have since “adjusted” those coordinates after a trip to Cairo.Turkey-Egypt relations: What’s behind their new diplomatic push?Read More »

Turkish intelligence chiefs have, however, met their Egyptian counterparts several times. Apart from Libya, Turkey is offering the Egyptians help in their dispute with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. UAE is doing the opposite by offering help to the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmet. 

Mohammed Dahlan, the Abu Dhabi-based former Fatah security chief, visited Addis in an announced visit. What was not announced was that his boss Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed went with him, according to one informed source. Egypt is baulking at the Turkish charm offensive and there has been no breakthrough.

“Egypt wants Ankara to take at least a symbolic step on the presence of Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey,” an official told MEE. 

If that is what is needed, it will not materialise. The Muslim Brotherhood does not have a physical presence like a regional office in Turkey. So there is nothing to close down. To go against individual members of the large expatriate Egyptian community in Istanbul would mean extraditing individuals, which Turkey is not going to do. Nor is there any discernible Turkish pressure on the Egyptian opposition media in Istanbul. Cairo would particularly like Al Sharq television off air.

“The Turkish authorities have nothing to offer nor withdraw when it comes to Al Sharq Channel because we are not funded by Turkey or Qatar,” its owner Dr Ayman Nour, the Egyptian opposition politician, told MEE. “We have not sensed any change on the Turkish side with regard to Al Sharq.”

But the axis itself is weakening and the lessons for everyone in the region are clear. Where foreign relations are based on secret pacts between leaders, each of whom have good reason to fear their own people, they are built on sand. Where they are based on the strategic interests of their peoples, they are more durable. The more national interests are based on the interests of their peoples rather than the rulers, the greater the stability of the region

Thus far it has been warm embraces one day, and stabs in the back the next.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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The Khashoggi Bomb: What Does Biden Want from Riyadh & What Are MBS’s Options?

The Khashoggi Bomb: What Does Biden Want from Riyadh & What Are MBS’s Options?

By Ali Abadi

The release of the US intelligence community’s declassified report on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is more than two years overdue. Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

The sanctions announced by the administration of US President Joe Biden did not include specific measures against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. This despite the fact that the report pins the murder on the royal. The report states that the hit team could have only gotten its marching orders from the Crown Prince, given the latter’s tight grip on the security apparatus.

The CIA report did not introduce any new information. But the intelligence assessment about what transpired and who is responsible are important. The substance of the report was toned down following several weeks of consultations between Biden and his team. The aim was to avoid pushing their Saudi ally into a corner and keeping an outlet for him to modify his behavior in line with the policies of the new US government.

The report asks correlative questions

Do the steps taken by the US administration regarding the assassination of Khashoggi indicate a turning point in the relations between the two states? Are they merely scoring political points in restoring American soft power by pretending to protect human rights? Or are these steps the end of the tolerance phase practiced by former US President Donald Trump and do they mark the start of a new relationship based on new-old foundations?

American review

First, let’s review the steps that have been taken to date by the Biden administration vis-à-vis the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

– Halting the supply of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and pushing for an exit from the US-sponsored Saudi predicament in Yemen

– Calling for the release of human rights activists in the Kingdom.

– Stopping US communication with the Saudi Crown Prince and limiting presidential communication with King Salman

– Announcing gradual steps, even if currently conditional, to return to the nuclear agreement with Iran

– Perhaps most importantly, the declaration of a break from the Trump era in several areas, including those related to dealing with Saudi Arabia leading up to the release of the Khashoggi report

It is clear that the new administration in Washington doesn’t enjoy a harmonious relationship with the current ruling team in Saudi Arabia, specifically with Mohammed bin Salman, who seized power by force, imprisoned his opponents [some of whom are in cahoots with officials in the deep state in America] or placed them under house arrest. Bin Salman is attempting to buy the support of the US government for all his reckless actions, while harming American soft power, especially with the open wound in Yemen.

There is a very important point that may be the main motive behind the new way America is dealing with Riyadh. Circles of the American elite, among the Democrats in general and even some Republicans, feel indignant and suspicious regarding the very special relationship between the Saudi Crown Prince and former US President Donald Trump and his entourage. The Democrats, in particular, want to break this relationship and expose it retroactively. There is a current within the Democratic Party that wants to go further than Biden in dealing with Riyadh. However, the US President preferred a traditional approach that separates the relationship with the Saudi Crown Prince from the one with the entire Saudi government, despite the fact that the two are indistinguishable. Even the Saudi King cannot break away from the authority of his favorite son, and this is another story.

How will Saudi Arabia respond?

Saudi Arabia’s official version about the trial of Khashoggi’s killers is irrelevant. The outcome of the trial was always a foregone conclusion, and it ended in limiting the charges to a number of people and removing the accusation not only from the Crown Prince but from his two closest associates, Saud Al-Qahtani and Ahmed Al-Asiri.

The death penalty against the killers was also abolished, while the family of the victim was compelled to waive their right to retribution in exchange for financial compensation [a typical Saudi procedure in such cases]. Of course, we are not interested now in recovering the contradictions of the official Saudi narrative, which involved disjointed narratives since the assassination saga began to unfold.

However, each of the above steps is sufficient to annoy the Saudis, who are very disappointed with the end of the Trump era, in which the Saudi Crown Prince invested hundreds of billions of dollars in order to cover his impulsive policies. Trump left, and the Saudi money went to the US treasury and American companies. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is once again in the dark about the American agenda that represents an extension of the Obama era. Faced with the American moment of truth, the Saudi government will have to deprecate this incomplete revelation through:

– Downplaying the importance of the US measures and the talk that the Saudi judiciary has spoken in the case

– Stirring up patriotism among the Saudis to give renewed legitimacy to the Crown Prince, whose image was tarnished by this crime

– Betting on time to overcome this saga

– Accelerating the relationship with “Israel” in order to use its influence in Washington to moderate the dealings with the Saudi Crown Prince. In this sense, normalization becomes a price [currently hidden] for legitimizing Bin Salman’s status in Washington

– Hinting to the Americans that Riyadh is looking for alternatives to American weapons with China and Russia, for example, in order to push Washington to reduce its criticism of the Saudi Crown Prince

Most of what the Biden administration wants is for Riyadh to return to the ranks of the passenger rather than Saudi Arabia leading the United States to where it wants in the region, especially after the Saudi Crown Prince proved unprecedented recklessness in managing internal affairs and a lack of efficiency in managing regional challenges.

The Biden administration also wants to preempt any Saudi or non-Saudi objection to returning to the nuclear agreement with Iran and to dispel any attempt by Riyadh and others to enlarge their role in a way that disturbs the new government managing this file from the perspective of various US priorities. We should pause here at an interesting point, which is that the Biden administration is adopting a triple containment strategy for objections to the nuclear deal that was reached in the era of the Democrats in 2015.

This strategy includes, in addition to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and “Israel”. In addition to stopping the US presidential communication with Bin Salman and halting offensive weapons supplies to Riyadh, Washington has also stopped arms deals with the UAE and has allowed, in a carefully studied time frame, to publish satellite images of construction operations at the “Israeli” Dimona reactor, at a time when Netanyahu waited weeks to receive a call from Biden.

In conclusion, the new US administration aims to get rid of Trump’s legacy on several levels and reset US-Saudi relations to a purely American rhythm, but the desired justice stopped with Mohammed Bin Salman.

Let’s remember:

– Jamal Khashoggi’s body was never found, and the Saudi side refuses to reveal its fate.

– We are facing a declassified US report, which means that the US administration preferred to keep secret facts under wraps in order to preserve relations with Saudi Arabia and maintain the loyalty of Riyadh.

– We are facing scanty measures against those involved in the crime. Not granting them entry visas to the United States is the weakest measure in the huge US sanctions arsenal, and Washington was satisfied with the weaker punishment.

– The bitter cup was removed from the Crown Prince, although the moral message was received.

– It is important to note the impact of this position on the way European countries and the international community view the Saudi Crown Prince, who will remain in his father’s shadow as long as the latter is alive.

The question remains: What is Mohammed Bin Salman’s fate after the current king? Will his past be overlooked and his position on the altar of American strategic interests be normalized, or is Washington thinking about reopening the path of the caliphate in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is currently unavailable after Bin Salman smashed all possible alternatives?

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The dark motives behind Saudi Arabia’s push for Gulf unity

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 000_8Y82NG.jpg
David Hearst is the editor in chief of Middle East Eye. He left The Guardian as its chief foreign leader writer. In a career spanning 29 years, he covered the Brighton bomb, the miner’s strike, the loyalist backlash in the wake of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in Northern Ireland, the first conflicts in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in Slovenia and Croatia, the end of the Soviet Union, Chechnya, and the bushfire wars that accompanied it. He charted Boris Yeltsin’s moral and physical decline and the conditions which created the rise of Putin. After Ireland, he was appointed Europe correspondent for Guardian Europe, then joined the Moscow bureau in 1992, before becoming bureau chief in 1994. He left Russia in 1997 to join the foreign desk, became European editor and then associate foreign editor. He joined The Guardian from The Scotsman, where he worked as education correspondent.

David Hearst

6 January 2021 17:22 UTC 

Mohammed bin Salman could use the detente with Qatar to achieve two objectives: to announce his own recognition of Israel, and to persuade his father to abdicate the throne

It took Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman three years and six months to come to the same conclusion that some of us reached days into the blockade of Qatar: that it was doomed to failure.

The project to silence the voice of an independent neighbour was doomed the moment that then-US defence secretary James Mattis and then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson, a former oilman with extensive links to Qatar, learned of plans to invade the peninsula and stopped them.

As the weeks passed, Qatar’s hand was only strengthened. Turkish troops arrived in Doha to form a physical buffer. Iran gave Qatar the use of its airspace. The blockade could never work with an air bridge established around Saudi Arabia.

If anything, this unpleasant shock has strengthened Qatar. The same goes for Turkish and Iranian foreign policy

It took only months for Qatar to assemble a major lobbying operation in Washington, undoing or rolling back the influence of the principal lobbyist for the Saudis, the Emirati ambassador Youssef al-Otaiba, and establishing solid support of its own. US President Donald Trump did not even acknowledge that Qatar hosted the Pentagon’s most important airbase in the region, Al Udeid, when he tweeted his approval of the blockade in 2017. 

In the end, the Saudi prince overestimated Trump’s influence and underestimated the residual power of the US military. Both Tillerson and Mattis are long gone, but the pressure to reverse this mad act of recklessness never receded; it only grew with time.

With the imminent arrival of a hostile US president in Joe Biden, bin Salman sensed the time had come to put an end to his folly. Today, none of the 13 demands originally placed on Qatar by the blockading states have been met. Neither its hosting of members of the Muslim Brotherhood nor its foreign policy have changed. Al Jazeera has not been closed down. Qatar’s alliance with Iran and Turkey has, if anything, strengthened.

Domestically, Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is held in higher esteem for his defence of the state than he was before, as Qatari nationalism has mounted. Qatar is more self-sufficient and confident than it was before the blockade. 

‘Qatar has won’

If anything, this unpleasant shock has strengthened Qatar. The same goes for Turkish and Iranian foreign policy.

“You could say Qatar has won,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of politics in Dubai who was one of the foremost defenders of the blockade three years ago, told the Financial Times. “The cost of fighting was too high – there is a realisation now that this is the black sheep of the family and we just have to put up with it. These have been the worst three-and-a-half years in the history of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council].”This GCC show of unity can’t hide its weakness

But these conclusions are, for the moment, bin Salman’s alone. It is interesting to note who was absent from the display of brotherly love at the GCC summit on Tuesday. The no-show by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed came alongside the absence of Bahrain’s King Hamad and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Bahrain is in the midst of an increasingly bitter border dispute with Qatar, and Egypt remains sceptical about the whole enterprise. Mada Masr quoted Egyptian government sources as saying that Cairo does not see a sufficiently strong foundation to open a new page in relations with Doha. Qatar, they claimed, was still mounting a “methodological campaign aimed at the Egyptian regime”. 

The sources noted that none of the basic demands made of Qatar – closing down Al Jazeera, shuttering a Turkish military base, severing ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and reducing ties with Iran – had been met. It is too early to say whether this signals a fracturing of the counter-revolutionary forces that have held together since they paid for and installed Sisi as president of Egypt after a military coup in 2013.

Tensions over Yemen and Israel

Certainly, there are grounds for a bust-up between mentor bin Zayed and his protege, bin Salman. One is Yemen: who is really in charge of the Saudi-led intervention that bin Salman launched in March 2015 – the Saudis or the Emiratis? Militias funded by and loyal to the UAE have taken control of the south, leaving the Saudis with an unresolved war with the Houthis in the north.

A second source of tension is Israel. In spearheading normalisation with Israel, the Emiratis clearly pitched themselves as Tel Aviv’s principal Gulf partner. Otaiba’s boast that the UAE and Israel had the two most capable military forces in the region raised eyebrows in Riyadh and Cairo. 

The Israeli prime minster and the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain participate in a signing ceremony for the Abraham Accords in Washington on 15 September (AFP)
The Israeli prime minster and the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain participate in a signing ceremony for the Abraham Accords in Washington on 15 September 2020 (AFP)

Writing the first-ever op-ed by a Gulf diplomat for an Israeli newspaper, Otaiba boasted before normalisation took place last year: “With the region’s two most capable militaries, common concerns about terrorism and aggression, and a deep and long relationship with the United States, the UAE and Israel could form closer and more effective security cooperation. As the two most advanced and diversified economies in the region, expanded business and financial ties could accelerate growth and stability across the Middle East.”

The Emirati claim to be the principal partner of Israel could cause problems for the future king of Saudi Arabia. Another notable absentee from the GCC summit was the country’s current king, Salman.

Kingdom split

Al Jazeera’s coverage of the tumultuous events shaking the Arab world has waxed and waned. Even before the blockade, it did not, for instance, devote the same attention to the murderous bombardment of Yemen by Saudi warplanes as it did to the Egyptian revolution in 2011. 

While producers and reporters are freer to report than most of their contemporaries in the Saudi-, Emirati- and Egyptian-controlled media, the state of Qatar still has its hands on volume control. There are many examples, including the decision to downplay coverage of the trial of Loujain al-Hathloul, the prominent Saudi activist recently sentenced to five years and eight months in prison.

To deliver Saudi Arabia into the hands of Israel would represent a real prize to the alliance being built over and around the heads of Palestinians

Bin Salman could use this detente with Qatar to achieve two objectives: to announce his own recognition of Israel, and to persuade his father to abdicate and pass the crown to him.

There is no doubt that bin Salman thinks it is time to do both. From the very start of his campaign to become king, establishing close clandestine relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been key to bin Salman’s relationship with US presidential adviser Jared Kushner and his father-in-law, Trump. 

The kingdom is split from top to bottom on the issue of normalisation with Israel. Foreign-policy heavyweights in the family still publicly voice opposition, notably the former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal. The king himself, to whom Prince Turki remains close, is also opposed, and the issue will have a strong impact on the Saudi people.

Future turmoil

One first step towards resolving this is to neutralise or turn down the volume of the Arab media that could run against bin Salman. This mainly comes from Qatar, which might explain why Kushner himself was present at the GCC summit.

For all the pain involved, the prize is great – and Biden, a committed Zionist, would welcome it. To deliver Saudi Arabia into the hands of Israel would represent a real prize to the alliance being built over and around the heads of Palestinians. Saudi Arabia remains, by dint of its size and wealth, a “real” Arab nation.

While the resolution of the crisis with Qatar is to be welcomed, the motives for doing so could lead to yet more turmoil in Arab world.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

This GCC show of unity can’t hide its weakness

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

What Does The Future Hold For a Suffering Yemen?

Source

08.12.2020 

Author: Valery Kulikov

YEM83222

On November 30, both sides of the Yemeni front line marked the 53rd anniversary of the end of British occupation and Yemen’s complete independence from Britain. However, it should be noted that true sovereignty of the Yemenis is not the reality of this country. The poorest people in the Middle East continue to suffer from foreign interference.

The war between the government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels has been going on since 2014 with the active participation since 2015 of the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which was supported by the United States, Britain, France, Germany. The West’s instigating role in unleashing the Yemeni conflict, in supplying arms to Yemen and various terrorist groups, does not stop either.

The President of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee of Yemen, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, bluntly told the media on October 6 that the US counterterrorism struggle was a cover for attacks on civilians. “Saudi Arabia and the United States crossed all the red lines in the war against Yemen. They attack all vital targets and civilians with prohibited weapons and use the siege of Yemen as a pressure tool. One of the reasons the United States and Saudi Arabia still did not stop the war in Yemen, lies in the fact that they want to plunder the resources of the Gulf countries and put their mercenaries in power in Yemen,” – al-Houthi stressed.

As the  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs claims, 233,000 people have died in the last five years of the conflict in Yemen.

In addition, hunger, which the world has not faced in decades, threatens Yemen unless urgent action is taken, said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. He believes that, in addition to the ongoing hostilities, a significant cause of the famine is the reduction in funding for emergency programs in this country.

A human rights organization in the Yemeni capital, Al-Raidat al-Idala lit-tanimiyya wal-Hukuk bi-Sanaa (Pioneers of Justice for Development and Rights in Sana’a), in its annual report, showed statistics on the crimes of the Saudi coalition and human rights violations against Yemeni women stressing that “direct and indirect violations of women’s rights and their suffering as a result of the continued aggression and siege of Yemen have led to the killings, forced migration of thousands of Yemenis, health, education and nutrition crises, in addition to their psychological and social consequences.”

In view of the damage inflicted on the civilians of Yemen, a court in the city of Saada in the north-west of the Arab country, controlled by the Ansar Allah (Allah’s Helpers, Houthis) rebel movement, sentenced in absentia the highest officials of Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United States “to death. executions for the killing and wounding of more than 100 people in an air strike by the Saudi coalition in August 2018 “. At the same time, the court sentenced “several officials in Yemen, the United States and the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, including King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman, the President of the United States Donald Trump, Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi., for involvement in the deaths of thousands of Yemeni civilians.”

The court also ruled that “the defendants must pay $ 10 billion to the families of the victims.”

Regarding the assessment of the development of the situation in Yemen, Deputy Head of the Yemeni Parliament Abdulaziz Jabari in an interview with the Qatari TV channel Al-Jazeera at the end of September said that “the real master of the situation in the territories not controlled by the Houthis is the Saudi Ambassador Mohammed Al-Jaber, who treats the Yemenis as his own subordinates”, seeking to carry out instructions from the Saudi kingdom and the UAE to establish “control over political decisions in Yemen.” At the same time, the deputy head of parliament stressed that the Yemenis “will not obey anyone,” and the monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE “want to become strong players in the region at the expense of the Yemenis.”

The representative of the Ministry of Information of Yemen Mohammad Qizan said that “there is no talk about any 80% of the Yemeni territories liberated by the Saudi coalition, the government cannot return to any of the allegedly liberated provinces.”

As noted by regional media, recently, not only Saudi Arabia is trying to strengthen its military presence in Yemen. The UAE and Israel are also actively seeking to increase the number of their military installations, in particular on Socotra Island. For example, Israel plans to build its intelligence facilities on the island, and the UAE has begun building military bases and seizing large strategic territories in Socotra, which is controlled by UAE-backed separatists from the Southern Transitional Council.

At the same time, according to experts, by the end of 2020, trends in the Yemeni war were extremely unfavorable for the Saudi coalition. The foreign intervention that Riyadh began in the spring of 2015 with plans of a fairly rapid capture of East Yemen, the fall of Aden and a number of key cities on the coast, did not initially suggest that the war could drag on for so long. Ansar Allah is increasingly demonstrating that, with proper support, it can not only succeed in the Yemeni war, but also become for Iran what Hezbollah has become in Lebanon. “Ansar Allah”, speaking from the standpoint of protecting the territorial integrity of the country, attracts more and more supporters, including from the ranks of former opponents, who are massively deserting by entire tribes and divisions.

Today it is recognized that 2019 was the beginning of a radical turning point in the course of the Yemeni war. The flow of weapons and other foreign aid allowed Ansar Allah to firmly seize the operational initiative and win a series of landmark victories, while the Saudi coalition has not been able to achieve even small successes at the front for the past two years. By the end of November 2020, Houthi troops reached the approaches to Marib, where an attack on Sana’a was planned in June. There is a high probability that even before the end of 2020, the rebels will be able to take Marib, which may entail a significant destruction of the original plans of the Saudi coalition to resolve the Yemeni issue by force. In addition, the protracted Yemeni war continues to drain Saudi Arabia, whose budget has recently been bursting at the seams.

At the same time, unique opportunities are being created for Iran to deliver direct attacks by the hands of the Houthis on the territory of Saudi Arabia in response to the hybrid actions of the United States, Israel and the kingdom against Iranian forces in Lebanon, Syria or Iraq.

Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Saudi Arabia’s abominable human rights record

November 30, 2020 – 11:33

By Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman is an American award-winning author, syndicated columnist, and Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

Like the U.S., Israel, and other rogue states, the Saudis operate by their own rules in flagrant violation of international laws, norms, and standards. It’s the world’s head-chopping/public whippings capital. Anyone can be targeted for exercising free expression, human rights activism, or other forms of dissent against despotic rule.

They’re also vulnerable for not praying at designated times, improper dress code, non-observance of gender segregation, and other nonconformity with Wahhabi extremism.

Its documented high crimes include state-sponsored murder, torture, arbitrary arrests, and detentions, supporting ISIS and other terrorist groups, partnering in U.S. regional wars, banning free elections, denying due process and judicial fairness, prohibiting religious freedom, human trafficking, kidnappings, committing crimes of war and against humanity, along with virtually every other rule of law breach imaginable.

In mid-November, the London Daily Mail reported the following: “Saudi interrogators forced jailed women’s rights activists to perform sex acts, hung them from ceilings and ‘tortured’ them with electric shocks,” citing a report, titled: “A Stain on World Leaders and the G20 Summit in Saudi Arabia: The shameful detention and torture of Saudi women.”

The report explained that in May 2018, “10 human rights defenders who had successfully campaigned” to end the prohibition against women driving were arrested and detained. 

Weeks later, nine more arrests and detentions followed. Targeted individuals were activists for women’s rights in the kingdom. A few are males who support gender equality were also arrested. Most individuals targeted remain detained. It was learned that they were “subjected to torture, inhuman and degrading conditions of detention, solitary confinement, and unfair trial processes.”

In the report, human rights lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy called on G20 nations to boycott the virtual November 21-22 Riyadh summit until wrongfully detained women are free. Other charges included forcing them to watch pornography, along with performing other sexual acts on interrogators.

One detained woman was reportedly told: “I’ll do whatever I like to you, and then I’ll dissolve you and flush you down the toilet.” Another woman said Saudi King Salman’s younger brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, oversaw what went on, at one point saying:  “I can do anything I like to you.”

Commenting on her report, Baroness Kennedy said horrendous abuses endured by detained women in the kingdom wouldn’t be tolerated in “decent nation(s),” adding: “Being expected to deliver for interrogators, what that has done to the soul of a woman is so terrible.”

Saudi abuses against nonviolent activist women are typical of how their ruling authorities always operate — showing contempt for the rights of ordinary people, tolerating no dissent.

Crown prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) is the kingdom’s torturer assassin-in-chief. He personally signed off on the October 2018 brutal murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate. In 2017, he arrested and detained hundreds of royal family members and Saudi businessmen. Held under house arrest at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, they were forced to pay tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in cash and assets to the regime for release — MBS grand theft on the phony pretext of rooting out corruption. 

He consolidated power by eliminating rivals and terrorizing potential ones. Royal family members, Saudi businessmen, and others in the kingdom not willing to affirm loyalty to his rule risk arrest, detention, torture, and elimination.

Since appointed crown prince in June 2017 — gaining power because his of father’s mental and physical deterioration — he’s ruthlessly gone all-out to solidify it unchallenged. He likely OK’s sexual and other torture of detained women activists.

UN secretary-general Guterres is largely silent about Western, Israeli and Saudi high crimes, serving their interests instead of condemning them. As long as Saudi Arabia is oil-rich, its wealth used to invest in Western countries and buy their weapons, as well as partnering in their regional wars, their ruling authorities will turn a blind eye to the worst of kingdom high crimes.
 

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For Trump’s Middle East allies, Joe Biden is a new nightmare

 Source

David Hearst
17 November 2020 14:19 UTC | Last update: 17 hours 25 mins ago

David Hearst is the editor in chief of Middle East Eye. He left The Guardian as its chief foreign leader writer. In a career spanning 29 years, he covered the Brighton bomb, the miner’s strike, the loyalist backlash in the wake of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in Northern Ireland, the first conflicts in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in Slovenia and Croatia, the end of the Soviet Union, Chechnya, and the bushfire wars that accompanied it. He charted Boris Yeltsin’s moral and physical decline and the conditions which created the rise of Putin. After Ireland, he was appointed Europe correspondent for Guardian Europe, then joined the Moscow bureau in 1992, before becoming bureau chief in 1994. He left Russia in 1997 to join the foreign desk, became European editor and then associate foreign editor. He joined The Guardian from The Scotsman, where he worked as education correspondent.


The president-elect’s actions in the Middle East will be dictated by events. But the loss of Trump represents a body check for the ambitions and aspirations of Gulf hegemons
Then Vice President Joe Biden during a visit to Saudi Arabia in 2011 (Reuters)

You can detect the shadow of Donald Trump fading from the Middle East in the nervous twitches of his closest allies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is accelerating settlements before the inevitable freeze or pause in construction in January when President-Elect Joe Biden takes over. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is releasing just a fraction of the estimated 60,000 political prisoners he has stashed in his jails.

Trump’s Middle East triumphs will soon turn to disaster

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Sisi’s television anchors are, from one day to the next, given different scripts to read out. Take the sad case of Nashaat al-Deehy. When Biden was a candidate, al-Deehy trashed him: “Joseph Biden will become the oldest US president in the history of the United States of America. On 20 November he will be 78 years old. This will impact his mental situation and he suffers from Alzheimer’s and therefore is not fit to be president of the United States of America.”

But once the US media had called Biden president-elect, al-Deehy became respectful. “We have just learned that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sent a congratulations cable to US President-elect Joe Biden. This man has great respect for Egypt and is known to be wise and he listens well. He does not take decisions frantically. He does not take decisions when he’s angry. All of this was missing in the case of Donald Trump, who was violent and stubborn and arrogant. All of this we’re seeing it.”

Small gestures

The Saudi ambassador in London is in an equal turmoil. One day he hints to the Guardian that jailed women activists could be freed during the G20 summit next week.

“The G20, does it offer an opportunity for clemency? Possibly. That is a judgment for someone other than me,” said Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. “People ask: is it worth the damage it is causing you, whatever they did? That is a fair argument to make and it is a discussion we have back at home within our political system and within our ministry.”

The next day he calls in the BBC to deny what he has just said.

Poor ambassador.

The king himself is by no means immune from wild policy swings. He has started being nice to Turkey.

A week after the earthquake in Izmir, Salman ordered the dispatch of “urgent aid” to the city. Then we learn that the king of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were in talks. The occasion was to present condolences for the death of the Bahraini Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa. But direct contact with a satellite of Riyadh would have been impossible without a green light from the diwan, the Saudi royal court.

Ever since Erdogan refused to let the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul drop, he has become a hate figure in Riyadh. Turkey has been declared – repeatedly –  a regional threat by Saudi social media and Turkish goods subject to a growing boycott. Now it has all changed.

These are small gestures, but telling ones, as Trump leaves office.

CIA bites back

Top of the list of nervous allies is the man who used Trump to fashion his rise to power.

Biden has every incentive to encourage MBS’ many enemies in the Royal family to step forward to prevent the over ambitious prince from becoming King

To become crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) had to get rid of, and trash the reputation of his elder cousin Mohammed bin Nayef, who was at the time the CIA’s prime asset in the country and the Gulf region. Before he did this, bin Salman phoned Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law and Middle East adviser, to ask permission. It was given, sources with knowledge of the call told Middle East Eye.

Biden knows bin Nayef personally. Bin Nayef’s chief of staff and former interior minister Saad al-Jabri has fled to Toronto. A few days after Khashoggi’s assassination in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, MBS despatched another crew from the Tiger Squad to kill al-Jabri, according to a lawsuit filed under the Torture Victim Protection Act in the US District of Columbia.

Al-Jabri was lucky. Border agents at Toronto International Airport detected the operation and sent it back home. All this is active evidence. None of this has been dealt with. The CIA’s own assessment that MBS ordered Khashoggi’s killing has never been published.

It is not just Biden himself the crown prince has to fear – although the presidential candidate reserved his sharpest words for the killing of Khashoggi – but the return of the CIA to the top table of decision making in the White House.

Overnight MBS goes from having a president in the White House who “saved his ass”, as Trump put it, to a successor who is not remotely interested in doing the same. Biden has every incentive to encourage MBS’s many enemies in the royal family to step forward to prevent the over-ambitious prince from becoming king. There are enough of them, by now.

Get out of jail card

An Oval Office under new management leaves MBS with relatively few options.

He could use Israel as his get-out-of-jail card, by pushing for recognition and normalisation. There is bipartisan support in Congress for the Abraham Accords signed between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel.

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Although the incoming Biden administration will put more emphasis on restarting direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, it would not stop another major Arab state like Saudi Arabia from joining the party.

The opposition to Saudi normalisation with Israel would be at home, not abroad. Recognising Israel would be perilous domestically. However much Saud alQahtani’s social media trolls bully Saudi public opinion, it is ferociously pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist.

Never more so than today, Palestine remains the key source of instability in the Middle East, the conflict that defines it, the conflict that endures as a symbol of European colonisation and Arab humiliation.

The custodian of the Two Holy Mosques recognising Israel? Not over many Muslims’ dead bodies.

Each time MBS has had to walk back on his wish to recognise Israel (and he was very near to flying to Washington and playing the role of smiling sponsor at the signing ceremony in the White House, before cancelling at the last minute) he has turned to his father, the king, to say that nothing has changed and reaffirm official state policy.

This is the Arab Peace Initiative published by his predecessor King Abdullah in 2002 and it only allows  recognition of Israel after a negotiated solution has been found based on 1967 borders.

US President Donald Trump waves to supporters on 15 November (Reuters)

US President Donald Trump waves to supporters on 15 November (Reuters)

The loss of Trump’s “крыша” – or protective roof – and the arrival of a hostile president in Biden will mean that MBS will need his father in the post as king even more than he has done in the past. We know from Saudi sources that at one point MBS was toying with the idea of forcing his father’s premature abdication on health grounds and seizing the crown himself.

The loss of Trump’s protective roof and the arrival of a hostile president in Biden will mean that MBS will need his father in the post as king even more than he has done in the past

In his latest round of purges, MBS targeted leading members of Hay’at al-Bayaa (the Allegiance Council) whose role is to approve a royal succession and the appointment of a new crown prince.

The latest arrests to purge the Allegiance Council of his critics would only have made sense if MBS himself was intending to becoming king. But that was in good times, when bin Salman’s star was rising and he could still visit London and Washington without creating flashmobs of human rights protesters.

In bad times, the king remains the tribal chief, who commands the loyalty of the royal family and the kingdom. Regardless of Salman’s actual mental condition, he is still the head of the family and there will be no rebellion against him. The same would not apply to his son if he pushed his father aside and seized the crown. He would be fair game for a palace coup. This is probably the main reason why the father is still king.

Regional alliance

The fate of the regional alliance that a future King Mohammed was attempting to build around himself also hangs in the balance. The real fight going on in the Sunni Arab world is about who would take over as leader and Western proxy.

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The purpose of the alliance with Israel – in Emirati eyes – is not to increase wealth but power, power to become, with Saudi Arabia under King Mohammed, the regional hegemon.

That ambition still exists.

But the role that an “Arab Nato” alliance was intended to play to combat and curb Iran will now be diminished by Biden’s attempt to restore the nuclear agreement with Tehran. Iran’s rulers stared Trump in the eyes and did not blink first. They outlasted this US president as they have done to Jimmy Carter and every president who followed him.

The nuclear agreement (known as JCPOA) was Barack Obama’s crowning foreign policy achievement – although it was the fruition of years of negotiation involving many countries and past foreign ministers – the so-called P5 plus one, the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, and Turkey and Brazil before them.

However, each side’s moves are sequenced and whatever difficulties that lie on that path, Biden will pivot once more to restoring this nuclear agreement. Even if some sanctions continue, the policy of using them to exert “maximum pressure” will be over.

Detente will inevitably create a new reality in the Gulf region.

It will also create a new reality for members of the opposing alliance, Turkey and Qatar. Biden is no admirer of Erdogan, with whom he has spent many hours talking. He has apologised to Erdogan once for remarks suggesting that Turkey helped facilitate the rise of the Islamic State group. He is not about to do that again soon.

In a meeting with the New York Times’ editorial board filmed in December, Biden described Erdogan as an autocrat. Asked about how comfortable he felt with the US still basing 50 nuclear weapons in Turkey, Biden said his comfort level had “diminished a great deal” and that he would be making it clear to the Turkish leader that the US supports the opposition.

A volatile world

Once in power, Biden may find it more difficult to express this personal hostility. Whether he likes it or not, Turkey is a more confident regional military power than it was in Obama’s time.

Its military has proved itself as a counterweight to Russian military power in Syria and Libya, and it has just achieved a major breakthrough in Nagorno Karabakh, establishing for the first time access by road from the Turkish border to the Caspian Sea.

This is a strategic win for the Turkish state.

If he is going to partially lift sanctions on Iran, Biden will find that he needs Turkey as a regional counterbalance. There are today too many arenas, from Syria and Iraq to Libya, where Turkey has become a player. Biden has to deal with these “facts on the ground” whether he likes it or not.

Similarly, pressure will also now grow on Saudi Arabia to end its siege on Qatar. Their immediate neighbour, the UAE, will always regard Qatar’s pro-Islamist foreign policy as an existential threat. But the same does not apply to Riyadh, and quiet negotiations in Oman and Kuwait have already taken place.

Biden’s actions in the Middle East will be dictated by events. But the loss of Trump represents a body check for the ambitions and aspirations of Gulf hegemons.

It’s a more uncertain, volatile world.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

سيّد الكرامة وروح المسؤوليّة

ناصر قنديل

لم يكن ممكناً أن يمرّ كلام الرئيس الفرنسي أمانويل ماكرون، بما فيه من رواية لوقائع مفاوضات تأليف الحكومة التي تولاها علناً الرئيس المكلّف مصطفى أديب، وقادها فعلياً نادي رؤساء الحكومات السابقين كحزب حاكم جديد، من دون أن تقدّم المقاومة وحزب الله رواية موازية من موقع الشريك الكامل في صناعة الوقائع، والشاهد عن كثب وقرب لهذه الوقائع، ومن طالته سهام الاتهام وفقاً لرواية ماكرون. كما لم يكن ممكناً كلام ماكرون ألا يلقى تعليقاً وتفنيداً وتحليلاً من جانب حزب الله، طالما أن المعلوم للقاصي والداني، أنه كما كانت الأزمة التي تعصف بلبنان في شق رئيسيّ منها ثمرة قرار أميركي بإسقاط لبنان أملاً بأن يسقط حزب الله، وفقاً لكلام حرفي قاله ماكرون، فإن المبادرة الفرنسية التي قادها ماكرون تتركّز بنسبة كبيرة منها على فتح الطريق لمقاربة مختلفة للعلاقة مع حزب الله، وبالتالي يحتل حزب الله موقعاً موازياً لموقع ماكرون في الوقوف على طرفي ثنائية تمسك بخيوط المشهد، ما يعني أن مسار المقاربة للعلاقة الفرنسية بحزب الله يشكل المحور الحاكم لمسار المبادرة الفرنسيّة. وبعد سماع كلام ماكرون، لا بد من أن يخرج صوت حزب الله، لتكتمل صورة الثنائية وتتركز عناصر المعادلة.

بالتوازي مع هذا الاعتبار السياسي يحضر بقوة اعتبار أخلاقي ومعنوي وقيمي، ربما تزيد قيمته عن قيمة الاعتبار السياسي، فالحزب الذي يمثل المقاومة بكل قيمها وروح التضحية التي تمثلها، لن يصمت وقد تركزت عليه سهام ماكرون بصفته واحداً من أحزاب السلطة، ومن المتربّحين من المال العام، والمتعيّشين على المصالح الطائفية، والذين يفضلون مصالحهم على حساب مصالح شعبهم، وصولاً للدفع بحزب الله الأبعد بين أقرانه عن السلطة ومغانمها ومكاسبها وفسادها، لتصدُّر واجهة المستهدفين بالتهم السوداء، خصوصاً عندما يكون الاتهام بهذه اللغة الرعناء، وهذا التعالي المفعم بروح المستعمر، وعقل الوصاية، وما بين السطور من أستذة تدعو المقاومة للاختيار بين ما أسماه ماكرون بالخيار الأسوأ، وبين الديمقراطية، لمقاومة نال حزبها الرئيسي ديمقراطياً أعلى نسبة تصويت بين الأحزاب اللبنانية.

إطلالة الأمين العام لحزب الله السيد حسن نصرالله التي جاءت في سياق ممارسة هذا الحق وهذا الواجب، تضمنت من حيث الشكل تحجيماً لكلام ماكرون، حيث توزع كلام السيد نصرالله على ملفات عدة، من تعزية الكويت برحيل أميرها، إلى تنامي خطر داعش منذ جريمة داعش الإرهابية في بلدة كفتون، وصولاً للتوقف بلغة التحدي أمام مزاعم رئيس حكومة الاحتلال بنيامين نتنياهو حول وجود مستودعات صواريخ في منطقة الجناح قرب منشآت الغاز، فكانت دعوة فورية لوسائل الإعلام للملاقاة في المكان، إسقاطاً لمشروع تشويش على الإطلالة أراده نتنياهو قبل دقائق من موعدها، ليأتي الردّ على طريق يوم ساعر، انظروا إليها إنها في البحر تحترق، ليصل بهدوء إلى الملف الحكومي وفي قلبه كلام ماكرون، وبدا أنه يتعمّد عدم منح كلام ماكرون مكانة الصدارة من خلال الدخول الى كلامه من سردية تفصيلية لمسار العملية الحكومية والتعامل مع المبادرة الفرنسية من جميع الأطراف ومن ضمنها حزب الله، وثنائي حزب الله وحركة أمل، كاشفاً بالتفاصيل كيف تحوّلت الحكومة من مشروع إنقاذ قائم على تشارك الجميع خارج قضايا الخلاف الى مشروع انقلاب واستفراد بالحكم من خراج الدستور والأعراف لصالح جهة ذات لون واحد سياسي وطائفي، بقوة التهديد بالعقوبات والعصا الفرنسية، وبتغطية فرنسيّة تحت شعار السعي لإنجاح المبادرة، بلغة التهديد بالعواقب الوخيمة، وصولاً لحكومة تستعيد مسار حكومة 5 أيار 2008، والتآمر على المقاومة، لتصير الحكومة حكومة مهمة حدّدها الملك سلمان بنزع سلاح حزب الله، وليست حكومة المهمة التي تحدّث عنها ماكرون ووافق عليها الجميع. وهذا ما لا يمكن التساهل مع تكراره مرة أخرى، فلن تقبل حكومة الانقلاب ولن تقبل حكومة توقِّع من دون نقاش على شروط مجحفة لصندوق النقد الدولي، أو حكومة تبيع اصول الدولة، وحكومة تفرض ضرائب مرهقة على اللبنانيين، وكل ذلك كان يجري بشراكة فرنسا وتحت عباءة تهديداتها، متسائلاً هنا من الذي لجأ للتهديد والترويع، فرنسا ماكرون أم حزب الله؟

بكل هدوء، انتقل السيد إلى مناقشة كلام الرئيس الفرنسي، طارحاً السؤال المفتاح، هل القضايا التي سقطت عندها الحكومة كانت من ضمن المبادرة الفرنسية، أم هي قضايا وعناوين ابتدعها نادي رؤساء الحكومات السابقين وحدهم، مورداً جواباً رسمياً فرنسياً يؤكد أن ما طرحه نادي الرباعي جاء من خارج المبادرة، ليسأل إذا كيف يكون الجميع مسؤولاً؟ والسؤال الأهم، ما هي عهود المقاومة التي تنكّرتْ لها، أليس ما قام به حزب الله وحلفاؤه ورئيس الجمهورية هو عين التسهيل المطلوب، وهو عين الوفاء بالوعود والعهود، وللمقاومة سجل حافل بمصداقية الوفاء بالوعود والعهود؟ أما الدعوة للاختيار بين ما أسماه ماكرون بالخيار الأسوأ والديمقراطية، فجوابها واضح بالتمسك بحقوق الغالبية النيابية بمنع انقلاب بعض الأقلية النيابية لوضع اليد على البلد في ظلال المبادرة الفرنسية عكس المسار الديمقراطي، والمقاومة عنوان خاطئ لكل توصيفات ماكرون حول الفساد والمصالح، وعنوان خاطئ حول السلاح وتوظيفه في السياسة، والمقاومة لم تشهر سلاحها إلا رداً لعدوان أو مواجهة لاحتلال، أو تصدياً لإرهاب.

تفوق السيد نصرالله على ماكرون بالقيمة المضافة لا بفائض القوة، بقوة الحق لا بحق القوة، بالوقائع والحقائق ودقة التدقيق لا بالمزاعم والتوهّمات والتلفيق. تفوّق السيد نصرالله بحفظ الكرامة من دون حرب، وخاض ماكرون حرباً فقد فيها كرامته، فرض السيد نصاً تفسيرياً لمبادرة خانها صاحبها، ووضع آلية لإنقاذها من تخاذل كان يصاحبها. ورسم السيد سياق الصداقة خارج نفاق المواربة خشية ترهيب أو طلباً لترغيب، وخسر ماكرون فرصة صداقة لأنه تحت ترهيب حليف وترغيب مغانم حليف آخر، لكن رغم كل ذلك مد السيد يده لكلمة سواء، وأغلق باب الهدم وفتح مجدداً باباً واسعاً لخيار البناء، فانتصر السيد بكلام في قمة المسؤولية من موقع خارج المسؤولية الرسمية على كلام بعيد عن المسؤولية من أعلى مواقع المسؤولية الرسمية، ورمى الكرة في ملعب ماكرون قائلاً، لمن قالوا إن كلمة ماكرون تعادل كش ملك لحزب الله، إن اللعبة مفتوحة ولم تنته، والرمية التالية لرئيس فرنسا فإن أحسن لاقيناه وإن أساء فليلاقينا.

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قراءة سياسيّة وهادئة لكلام ماكرون

ناصر قنديل

راجت منذ لحظة انتهاء المؤتمر الصحافي للرئيس الفرنسي امانويل ماكرون قراءة بدت موضع إجماع من خصوم حزب الله وأصدقائه، وهذا بحد ذاته أمر غريب ولافت للنظر، محورها ان خطاب ماكرون يمثل تحولاً في النظرة للعلاقة مع حزب الله باتجاه التصعيد، وأن ماكرون حمّل حزب الله مسؤولية إفشال مبادرته في لبنان، واستخدمت في تبرير هذا الإستنتاج مفردات الخطاب التنديدي بدور الحزب في سورية، وبوصفه مستقوياً بالسلاح في الداخل، يرهب به خصومه ويسعى للتصرف كأنه أقوى من الآخرين، ودعوته للاقتناع بعدم أخذ الشيعة اللبنانيين نحو الخيار الأسوأ، وقبول القواعد الديمقراطية، هذا من جهة؛ ومن جهة ثانية تركيز حجم رئيسيّ من كلام ماكرون في نص المؤتمر والإجابة عن الأسئلة حول حزب الله.

لا يخطئ الذين يقرأون ما قاله ماكرون بعين البحث عن عمق الموقف في التعامل مع حزب الله ورصد التحولات فيه، باعتباره القضية الرئيسية في الكلام، والقضية الرئيسية في جوهر المبادرة الفرنسية، والقضية الرئيسية في نظرة فرنسا لموقعها وموقفها من الصراعات الكبرى في المنطقة، والقضية الرئيسية التي تتمحور حولها الأزمة اللبنانية ببعدها الدولي والإقليمي، بمعزل عن نقاش آخر ضروري، لكنه بالمعنى السياسي والاستراتيجي أقل أهميّة من الأول، وهو مسار المبادرة الفرنسية وفرص نجاحها أو فرضيات تعطّلها، لجهة السعي لاستيلاد حكومة جديدة، تتولى الإصلاحات المتفق عليها بعيداً عن استثارة قضايا الخلاف، وفقاً لما تمّ تضمينه في كلام ماكرون في قصر الصنوبر كإطار لمبادرته، التي توجهت نحو حزب الله أسوة بسائر القوى والقيادات، لصياغة نقطة تقاطع افتراضية محلية في زمن الصراع المفتوح على مساحة المنطقة ولبنان في قلبها.

كي نقدّم قراءة صحيحة لما قاله ماكرون يجب أن نتحرّر من نبرة الكلمات ودرجة التكرار في بعض التوصيفات السلبية، لأنها تقنيات إقناع البيئة السياسية والنخبوية التي ينتمي إليها المتحدث، وتأكيد للموقع الذي ينتمي إليه المتحدث، والأهم لأننا ندرك بأن الأزمة اللبنانيّة الواقفة على شفا انفجار أو انهيار، هي رغم ما يتصل بأسبابها الداخلية الوجيهة من فساد وسياسات ماليّة مدمّرة، تعبير في تجلياتها الداخلية وبعديها الدولي والإقليمي، عن قرار أميركي شاركت فيه أوروبا وفرنسا ضمنها، وشاركت فيه حكومات الخليج بلا استثناء، محوره وقف التمويل الذي كان يضخّ في شرايين المصارف اللبنانية والنظام المالي اللبناني، ومن خلالهما في الأسواق الماليّة ومن خلالها جميعاً في القطاعات الإقتصادية وهو تمويل كان مستمراً لعقدين، رغم إدراك أميركي وغربي وعربي لتفاقم المديونية وصولاً للعجز عن السداد منذ العام 1998، وتصاعداً في 2002 و2012 وتكراراً بصورة أشد تفاقماً في الـ 2017، ورغم إدراك أنه تمويل لنظام سياسي اقتصادي قائم على لعبة الفوائد المرتفعة من جهة، لربحية غير مشروعة للنظام المصرفي، وبالتوازي الإنفاق القائم على المحاصصة والفساد والتوظيف العشوائي في سياق العملية التقليدية لإعادة إنتاج النظام السياسي نفسه، فقد قرّر الأميركيون أنهم غير معنيين بما ستؤدي إليه عملية وقف التمويل من انهيار، وشعارهم فليسقط لبنان كله إذا كان هذا الطريق يمكن أن ينتهي بسقوط حزب الله، ووفقاً لهذا الشعار سار معهم الحلفاء، بحيث يجب أن يبقى حاضراً في ذهننا أن القضيّة المحوريّة في الصراع حول لبنان هي القرار الأميركي بالمواجهة مع حزب الله، وهذا لا يحتاج إلى جهد لاكتشافه فكل سياق المواقف الأميركية علنيّ جداً في التعبير عنه، قبل تفجير مرفأ بيروت وبعده، وواشنطن لا تنفكّ تسعى لحشد الحلفاء لخوض هذه المواجهة، وصولاً لكلام الملك السعودي من منصة الأمم المتحدة حول توصيف حزب الله كمصدر لأزمة لبنان وأزمات المنطقة والدعوة لأولويّة نزع سلاحه.

– كي نضع الكلام الفرنسي في السياق الصحيح، يجب أن ننطلق من معرفة الموقع الذي يتحدّث من خلاله ماكرون، ففرنسا كانت ولا تزال العضو في حلف الأطلسي والحليف القريب من أميركا، والشريك في الحرب على سورية، المتوضّع فيها على ضفة مقابلة لحزب الله، حيث لغة السلاح تتكلم، والضنين بأمن ومستقبل “إسرائيل”، حيث لغة العداء تحكم علاقته بحزب الله. فرنسا هذه هي التي تتحدّث عن محاولة لفعل شيء مشترك مع حزب الله، على قاعدة عدم مغادرة الفريقين لمواقعهما، وربط النزاع حولها، لصناعة تسوية تحول دون الانهيار في لبنان، انطلاقاً من استكشاف مصالح مشتركة بذلك، حيث فرنسا تعتبر خلافاً لحلفائها ومعسكرها التقليدي دولياً وإقليمياً، أن خيار الضغط الأميركي المدعوم سعودياً وإسرائيلياً، حتى ينهار لبنان أملاً بأن ينهار حزب الله معه، خيار أرعن، سيرتب نتائج مؤذية للحلف الذي تقف فيه فرنسا، فبدلاً من الفراغ يأتي المنافسون الإقليميون والدوليون، وقبل أن تسقط بيئة حزب الله يسقط الحلفاء، وفي الفراغ والفوضى يتموضع الإرهاب على سواحل مقابل أوروبا وترتفع بصورة جنونية حالة النزوح، وينتظر الفرنسي من حزب الله أن يقرأ من موقعه كخصم، ومن موقع تحالفاته ومعسكره، أن منع انهيار لبنان مصلحة، فهو إنقاذ لشعب يعنيه، وتحقيق لاستقرار سياسي وأمني يفيده، وقطع لطريق الفوضى والفتن التي لا يرغبها، وفتح للباب نحو فرص لتسويات أكثر اتساعاً ربما تقبل عليها المنطقة خلال سنة مقبلة. وهذه المنطلقات التي تحركت من خلالها المبادرة الفرنسية، هي ترجمة سياسية لمضمون الدعوة التي أطلقها وزير مالية فرنسا برونو لومير في مؤتمر وزراء مالية قمة العشرين مطلع العام، عندما قال بالنص “تدعو فرنسا لفصل مساعي تعافي لبنان عن المواجهة التي تخوضها واشنطن ضد طهران وحزب الله”.

لنفهم أكثر وأكثر تنطلق فرنسا في مقاربة مبادرتها نحو لبنان، من حسابات مصلحية متمايزة عن حسابات حليفها الأميركي، بعضها يتصل بسعي فرنسي لاستعادة موقع تقليدي على المتوسط ورؤية فرصة لذلك من باب التمايز فيما فرنسا تخسر آخر مواقعها التقليدية في أفريقيا، وخسرت مع الذين خسروا الحرب على سورية، وبعضها يتصل بصراع وتنافس حقيقيين بين فرنسا وتركيا في المتوسط، وبعضها يتصل بالفرص الاقتصادية التي يوفرها لبنان للشركات الفرنسية في زمن الركود، لكن بعضها الأهم ينطلق من موجبات القلق من البدائل التي يفتح بابها طريق الانهيار الذي تتبناه واشنطن، ولكن الأهم أن منهج فرنسا في المقاربة المتمايزة يتم من داخل حلفها التقليدي وليس إعلان خروج من هذا الحلف لموقع منفصل يعرف ماكرون أنه فوق طاقة فرنسا، وربما يعتقد أنه في غير مصلحتها. والفهم هنا يصبح أسهل إذا اتخذنا المقاربة الفرنسية للملف النووي الإيراني والعلاقة مع إيران نموذجاً بحثياً، حيث لا تغيب الانتقادات واللغة العدائية عن الخطاب الفرنسي للسياسات الإيرانية، وباريس لا تتوانى عن تحميل إيران مسؤولية التوتر في المنطقة، من اليمن إلى سورية وصولاً إلى لبنان والعراق، وتحدّثت بلسان ماكرون عن تدخّلات إيرانيّة غير مشروعة في الأوضاع الداخلية لدول المنطقة، وحملت فرنسا دائماً إيران مسؤوليّة ما تسمّيه المبالغة بفرض نفوذ بقوة السلاح في المنطقة، بمثل ما كانت تسجل اعتراضاتها على بعض مفردات سلوك إيران في ملفها النووي، وتعلن مشاركتها للأميركي في الدعوة لوقف البرنامج الصاروخي لإيران، لكن فرنسا ومعها أوروبا لا ترى في الانسحاب من الاتفاق النووي وفرض العقوبات وتصعيد التوتر الطريق المناسب، لأنها تخشى تبعات مدمّرة لخيار المواجهة، وتؤمن بأنه لن يوصل إلى مكان. وهذا هو بالضبط ما شكل منهج المقاربة الفرنسية للوضع في لبنان، وبمثل ما عجزت فرنسا ومعها أوروبا عن ترجمة تمايزها في الملف الإيراني بخطوات مستقلة عن سياسات واشنطن كالتمرد على العقوبات وإقرار آلية مالية جدية للتعامل مع إيران من خارج منظومة العقوبات، يمكن طرح السؤال حول فرص نجاح فرنسا بترجمة تمايزها اللبناني، أي إنجاح مبادرتها، التي تحتاج من جهة إلى تجاوب حزب الله، ولكنها تحتاج أكثر إلى تسهيل حلفاء فرنسا لفرص النجاح.

تبدأ قراءة الكلام الفرنسي بعد فشل النسخة الأولى من المبادرة، من اختبار الرهان الفرنسي على ضوء أخضر من الحلفاء، أولاً، ومن كيفية تناول الرئيس الفرنسي لمواقف الحلفاء، قبل الحديث عن تقييمه لدرجة تعاون الخصم، أي حزب الله، وقبل الحديث عن النبرة التي تحدث من خلالها عن هذا الخصم، فالمبادرة تحوّلت منذ انطلاقتها إلى ساحة صراع، محورها من جانب حلفاء باريس الأميركيين والسعوديين واللبنانيين، السعي لكسب باريس إلى خيار المواجهة، وإقناعها بأن لا جدوى من الرهان على فرصة تسوية مع حزب الله، ودون دخول في التفاصيل، يكفي كلام ماكرون عن أن العقوبات الأميركية كانت أحد أسباب تعقيد المشهد، وأن الحلفاء الداخليين الممثلين بالرئيس السابق للحكومة سعد الحريري ورؤساء الحكومات السابقين حاولوا توظيف المبادرة للعبث بالتوازنات الطائفية فتسببوا بتعثرها، بمثل ما حمل حزب الله مسؤولية التشدد في شروط التعامل مع مبادرة الحريري لتصحيح “خطأ اللعب بالتوازنات”. وهذا يعني أن الذين انتظروا أن يخرج ماكرون بإعلان الانضمام إلى جبهة المواجهة مع حزب الله، وأن يحصر به مسؤولية فشل المبادرة الفرنسية ليحمله تبعات أخذ لبنان نحو الانهيار، وربما حلموا بتصنيفه على لوائح الإرهاب وإنزال نظام العقوبات الأوروبية عليه، قد أصيبوا بالخيبة والإحباط، فهل كان من حق حزب الله ومناصريه انتظار أن يخرج ماكرون ليعلن أن حزب الله كان دون الآخرين عنصراً إيجابياً للتفاعل مع المبادرة، أم أن مجرد تركيز ماكرون على القول بأن الطبقة السياسية اللبنانية قد فشلت بالمجمل وأن القيادات اللبنانية بلا استثناء خانت تعهداتها، وأن الحفاظ على المصالح تقدم عند القوى اللبنانية على دعم المبادرة لإنجاحها، يجب أن يكون كافياً ليعتبر حزب الله أنه ربح الجولة، ولا يدع خصومه الخاسرين يصورونه خاسراً بدلاً منهم؟

خلال خمسة عشر يوماً كانت المعركة السياسية والإعلامية، تدور حول نقطتين، الأولى هي هل طرح المداورة في المواقع الوزارية هو مجرد ذريعة تم دسها على المبادرة الفرنسية من نادي رؤساء الحكومات السابقين، لاستفزاز الثنائي وخصوصاً حزب الله، أم أنها طرح إصلاحي تضمنته المبادرة وانقلب عليه حزب الله؟ والنقطة الثانية هي هل العقوبات الأميركية جزء من سياق الضغوط لإنجاح المبادرة الفرنسية ام هي باستهدافها حلفاء لحزب الله، تعقيد لفرص المبادرة واستهداف لها؟ وقد قال ماكرون ما يكفي لترجيح كفة الرواية التي تبناها حزب الله وحلفائه في القضيتين.

هل استجابت فرنسا لدعوات الانضمام إلى جبهة المواجهة مع حزب الله، أم أنها وجدت من الأعذار والتبريرات ما يكفي للقول إن الفرصة لم تسقط ولا تزال متاحة لإنعاش التسوية على قاعدة الفرضيات ذاتها التي قامت عليها، وفي قلبها، فرضية المصلحة المشتركة مع حزب الله بتفادي المواجهة وتفادي الانهيار؟

ماكرون ليس حليفاً لحزب الله، بل هو في قلب معسكر الخصوم، وهذا معنى أن حزب الله ربح جولة الحفاظ على التفكك في هذا المعسكر الدولي والإقليمي، وعزّز انقساماته، ونجح بإبقاء فرنسا خارج هذا الخيار، وماكرون لم يكن ينتظر من حزب الله منح الاطمئنان لمبادرته بلا شروط الحذر الواجب مع خصم، واتهام حزب الله بهذا الحذر ولو استخدم من موقعه كخصم في وصفه نبرة عالية، متوقع ولا يفاجئ، لكنه كان ينتظر ممن يفترضهم حلفاء ألا يقوموا بتفخيخ مبادرته، لكنهم فعلوا، وقال إنهم فعلوا، بالعقوبات الأميركية والتلاعب بالتوازنات الطائفية من خارج المبادرة، والربح بالنقاط بالنسبة لحزب الله يجب أن يكون كافياً، بمعزل عن فرص نجاح المبادرة، كما هو الحال في الملف النووي الإيراني، بقاء فرنسا وأوروبا على ضفة التمسك بالاتفاق ورفض العقوبات كافٍ بمعزل عن قدرتهما على بلورة خطوات عملية بحجم الموقف.

من حق حزب الله، لا بل من واجبه أن يتناول بالتفصيل كل المنزلقات التي تورط فيها خطاب ماكرون، وأن يفند أي اتهام، ويتصدى لأي لغة عدائية ولكل تشويه لمسيرته النضالية، ولكل توصيف غير لائق، وأن يقدّم روايته لما جرى ويكشف كل ما يثبت تعامله بشرف الوفاء بالتعهّد خلافاً لاتهامات ماكرون، لكن على حزب الله أن يفعل ذلك وهو يضحك في سره، لأنه ربح جولة هامة، وأن لا يتيح لخصومه أن يضحكوا بشماتة مَن أصيب بالخيبة وينتظر تعويض خسارته بأن يتصرّف الرابح كخاسر، فربما يحوّل الخاسر خسارته انتصاراً.

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The House of Saud Struggles to Normalize Ties with “Israel” As It Sinks in the Yemeni Swamp

The House of Saud Struggles to Normalize Ties with “Israel” As It Sinks in the Yemeni Swamp

By Staff

The father and son relationship between Saudi King Salman and his son the Crown Prince – Mohammed bin Salman [MBS] – is at crossroads regarding the methods in which normalization with the apartheid “Israeli” entity would occur; though the sand kingdom is over its head regarding the consequences of the brutal war it waged on Yemen.

MBS is interested in a normalization with the entity, while King Salman likes the so-called “Arab Peace Initiative”, but the war in Yemen and threats to the Crown Prince at home are keeping them busy.

In a rare speech this week, Salman said Saudi Arabia still adheres to the so-called “Arab Peace Initiative”, which conditions normalization on an “Israeli” withdrawal to the 1967 lines and the establishment of a Palestinian state. But MBS wants to speed up normalization as part of his strategic and, above all, economic vision.

In his speech, King Salman focused on regional affairs: Iran and the “Israeli”-Palestinian so-called “peace” process – though he never mentioned the “Israeli’ entity’s normalization with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Was he trying to prove that he’s still in control of his kingdom and that he still sets foreign policy? Is this an intergenerational dispute, pitting the son’s project against the father’s traditional attitudes?

Saudi Arabia’s decision-making processes are enigmatic, as are relationships among members of the royal family and the kingdom’s domestic and foreign-policy considerations.

Yet, Saudi-“Israeli” normalization – which Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser announced will be happening very soon – seemed to be delayed.

Moreover, it’s not clear whether the delay is a matter of principle – that is, until a Palestinian state arises, or at least until “Israeli”-Palestinian negotiations resume – as King Salman said, or only a temporary one, until MBS manages to persuade him.

The difference in the two royals’ positions also raises another question. Saudi Arabia has provided an umbrella for the latest “peace” deals. Not only did it not condemn them, it praised the UAE and Bahrain for taking this step, which was coordinated with MBS, and opened its airspace to flights to and from the “Israeli” entity.

Not to mention, the public opinion in Saudi Arabia for a historic turnabout in the sand kingdom’s relationship with the “Israeli” entity is being paved.

Though, one issue stays unresolved.

It’s clear that Riyadh need to make peace with Washington, either before or as part of a deal with the “Israeli” entity. The main dispute between them is the war in Yemen, which began after King Salman was crowned in 2015.

In this war, the Saudi and UAE armies have treated Yemen’s civilian population brutally and used American weapons to do so. More than 125,000 people have been martyred, including 14,000 who were killed in deliberate attacks on civilian targets.

Hence, the Saudis’ aggression on Yemen has reappeared on the Washington agenda due to a partially classified report on US involvement in the conflict written by the State Department’s inspector general. The document’s unclassified sections, which were reported in the American media, reveal the magnitude of war crimes by Saudi and Emirati forces and their mercenaries, to the point that the US faces a risk of prosecution at the International Criminal Court.

Oona Hathaway, a former Department of Defense lawyer and now a Yale professor, told The New York Times: “If I were in the State Department, I would be freaking out about my potential for liability. I think anyone who’s involved in this program should get themselves a lawyer.”

Public and international pressure led Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, to freeze an arms deal with Riyadh in 2016 as a way of pressuring the Saudis to change their tactics in Yemen. One year later, Trump reversed that decision and opened the floodgates of US arms sales to the Saudis.

To Trump, Saudi Arabia, he said, has “nothing but cash,” which it uses to buy American services, protection and other goods. Regarding the slaughter of civilians in Yemen, he said the Saudis “don’t know how to use” American weapons.

Congress didn’t believe Trump’s explanations, and in April 2019, it passed a bipartisan resolution calling for an end to US military involvement in Yemen. Trump vetoed the resolution and circumvented the ban on arms sales to Riyadh by declaring a state of emergency over Iran, which allowed him to continue complying with Saudi requests.

The US government did budget $750 million to train Saudi soldiers and pilots on fighting in populated areas, with the goal of reducing harm to civilians. It also gave the Saudis a list of 33,000 targets they shouldn’t strike. But the Saudis don’t seem to have been overly impressed, and violations continue to this day.

Unlike Saudi Arabia, the UAE understood the dangers of its involvement in the war in Yemen and withdrew its forces, overcoming the ban on selling it F-35 fighter jets and other arms. It then overcame the “Israeli” obstacle by signing this month’s so-called “peace” deal.

MBS, who started the war in Yemen along with his father, is still wallowing in the Yemeni swamp that has complicated his relationship with the US. And that’s on top of his resounding failures in managing the Kingdom’s foreign policy, like forcing then-Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign, imposing a blockade on Qatar, waging an unsuccessful oil war with Russia that sent prices plummeting and abandoning the Palestinian issue.

Domestic issues haven’t gone that well for MBS either. His Vision 2030 is stumbling. The Kingdom’s treasury has had problems funding megalomaniac projects like his city of the future, which is supposed to involve three countries (Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan), diversify Saudi Arabia’s sources of income and reduce its dependence on oil. So far, it remains on paper.

He did boast an impressive achievement in the war on corruption when he detained dozens of billionaires at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and shook them down, but this was more about squeezing his political rivals’ windpipes than fighting corruption.

Accordingly, MBS can only envy his friend, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed [MBZ], the UAE’s de facto ruler who extricated his country from the war in Yemen and became Washington’s darling – not only because he normalized ties with the “Israeli” entity. And above all, he isn’t surrounded by hostile relatives.

So the question arises: Did all this happen in defiance of Salman’s wishes?

MBS who according to US intelligence didn’t hesitate to put his own mother under house arrest and keep her away from his father for fear she would work against him – may also prove to be someone who doesn’t see obeying his parents as a cardinal virtue. King Salman may be able to give speeches in support of the Palestinians, but his son, as defense minister, has the power to stage a coup against his father if he thinks this will serve him or his agenda, which might yet include normalizing ties with “Israeli” entity.

الرئيس الفرنسي، بعد مصطفى أديب، يعتذر عن عدم التأليف: ماكرون يلتحق بواشنطن والرياض

الرئيس الفرنسي، بعد مصطفى أديب، يعتذر عن عدم التأليف: ماكرون يلتحق بواشنطن والرياض

الأخبار

الإثنين 28 أيلول 2020

اعتذر مصطفى أديب السبت. وبعد يوم واحد، لحق به الرئيس الفرنسي إيمانويل ماكرون. ليس السبب إصرار الثنائي على تسمية وزير المالية، بل إصرار أميركا على أن يكون حزب الله خارج الحكومة. تلك عقبة قد يطول الوقت قبل حلّها. ماكرون أسف لعدم قدرته على إنجاح مبادرته، ممدداً وقتها. كلمته اللبنانية أمس، التي بلغت ذروة الوقاحة منذ تنصيب نفسه مرشداً للجمهورية، جعلته أقرب من ذي قبل إلى تبنّي الخطاب الأميركي – السعودي حيال لبنان ومشكلاته، ويمكن اختصارها بعبارة: «أنا ما خصني» بفشل مبادرتيانتهت تجربة تكليف مصطفى أديب. كتاب اعتذاره عن عدم تأليف الحكومة، كان معه منذ اليوم الأول لتكليفه. هو الذي بدا مقيّداً بسلسلة من الالتزامات الداخلية والخارجية التي لم يتمكن من تخطيها. لكن مع ذلك، لم يبدُ هذا الاعتذار الذي تحوّل إلى واقع يوم السبت أكثر من ترجمة لموقف الملك السعودي، ثم موقف نائب وزير الخارجية الأميركي ديفيد هيل، وقبلهما وزير الخارجية الأميركي مايك بومبيو. في كل الحالات كانت الرسالة الأميركية – السعودية واحدة: حزب الله مسؤول عن الانهيار في لبنان، ويجب أن يكون خارج الحكومة. كلام بدا كافياً ليحمل أديب ملفاً أسود بيده يتضمن كتاب اعتذاره. لكن ليس أديب وحده من انحنى للموقف الأميركي. الرئيس الفرنسي إيمانويل ماكرون عاد إلى السرب الأميركي. تخلى، في مؤتمره أمس، عن دور الوسيط، الذي لعبه منذ السادس من آب. كان همه همّين: إبعاد مسؤولية فشل المبادرة عنه، وتحميل حزب الله هذه المسؤولية. وهو بالرغم من تأكيده أن المبادرة لم تمت، إلا أنه لم يقدم خلال مؤتمره الذي قارب ساعة من الوقت أي مقاربة تسمح بتفعيلها. بل على العكس، هو، بكلامه، أعلن نهاية المبادرة بشكلها الحريص على وحدة اللبنانيين، وزاد من صعوبة نجاحها في تصويبه المكثف على حزب الله. قال إن «الحزب لا يمكنه أن يكون جيشاً محارباً لإسرائيل وميليشيا الى جانب سوريا وحزباً محترماً في لبنان، وهو أظهر العكس، وعليه أن يفهم أنه يخسر لبنان بأسره». ولم يتوقف هنا، بل اعتبر أنه «حان الوقت لحزب الله أن يوضح اللعبة. لا يمكنه أن يُرهب الآخرين بقوة السلاح ويقول إنه طرف سياسي». لكن مع ذلك، أقرّ ماكرون بأثر العقوبات الأميركية، مشيراً إلى أنها لا تبدو خياراً مناسباً. كما أعلن أن لا دليل على أن إيران لعبت دوراً في منع تأليف الحكومة اللبنانية. ولفت الى عدم الخشية من وقوع حرب أهلية في لبنان.

مرّ ماكرون عرضاً على مسؤولية رئيس الحكومة السابق سعد الحريري في إفشال تأليف الحكومة، عبر إشارته إلى أنه أخطأ بإضافة المعيار الطائفي في توزيع الحقائب الوزارية. كما أوضح أن الورقة الإصلاحية لم تتضمن أي شرط طائفي في تأليف الحكومة، مشيراً إلى أن «حركة أمل وحزب الله قررا أن لا شيء يجب أن يتغيّر، وقالا بوضوح إنهما يريدان تسمية الوزراء الشيعة». أضاف: «حزب الله مسؤول لأنه لم يحترم وعده لي… أخجل ممّا يقوم به القادة اللبنانيون».

واعتبر ماكرون أنه من الآن حتى 6 أسابيع، إذا لم يحصل أي تقدّم في لبنان، فسنكون مضطرين إلى سلوك خيار آخر لإعادة تشكيل طبقة سياسية جديدة، والشهر المقبل سيكون أساس العمل. وأكد أنه لا أحد يثق بالنظام المالي الحالي، ولن يعرف لبنان أيّ عصر ذهبي في ظل هذا النهج.

مصادر في ٨ آذار اعتبرت أن ماكرون لم يكن منصفاً في تحميله المسؤوليات. وذكرت أن حزب الله وحركة أمل لم يخلّا معه بأي التزام، بل على العكس، وافقا على حكومة مهمّات مستقلة، يؤلفها مصطفى أديب وتوافق عليها الأحزاب، كما وافقا على ٩٠ في المئة من الورقة الإصلاحية. وقد تفهّم ماكرون اعتراضهما على الانتخابات المبكّرة. بهذا المعنى، تشير المصادر إلى أن الرئيس الفرنسي هو الذي أخلّ بالتزامه بتأليف حكومة تفاهم وطني. وهو الذي بدا متناقضاً في كلامه عن حكومة تتمثل فيها الطوائف، لكن من دون أن يكون للطوائف أي دور في التسمية. من يسمّي الوزراء إذاً؟ يسأل المصدر. ويقول: هل يريدنا أن نلتزم معه بتسليم البلد لرؤساء الحكومات السابقين؟ وهل يريدنا أن نلتزم بتسمية سعد الحريري لـ ١٤ وزيراً؟ وهل يريدنا أن نلتزم بإلغاء نتائج الانتخابات النيابية؟ ليخلص المصدر إلى أنه يبدو أن الالتزام الوحيد المطلوب هو ما قاله بومبيو عن وجوب تأليف حكومة من دون حزب الله.

حريريّون يحتفلون بخبر «روسيا اليوم» عن اتفاق ماكرون – بن سلمان على عودة الحريري


وفي السياق نفسه، بدأت الإدارة الأميركية الترويج لعقوبات جديدة ستُفرض في غضون أيام على سياسيين لبنانيين، بذريعة مسؤوليتهم عن تفجير المرفأ يوم 4 آب الماضي.

ماذا بعد الاعتذار؟ بعد كلام ماكرون، فإن التشاؤم في المسار الحكومي سيكون سيد الموقف. سعد الحريري أعلن مراراًَ أنه ليس في دائرة المرشحين لتولي رئاسة الحكومة. وهو صار واضحاً أنه لن يعود إلا بغطاء سعودي. ويوم أمس، بدأ بعض المقرّبين منه يحتفل بالخبر الذي نشرته قناة «روسيا اليوم» عن اتصال بين ماكرون وولي العهد السعودي، محمد بن سلمان، اتفقا فيه على الحل في لبنان عبر سعد الحريري. أتى ذلك بعد معلومات عن اقتراح رفضته السعودية، يقضي بتأليف حكومة ثلثها من السياسيين وثلثاها من الاختصاصيين. في المحصلة، بعد تجربة مصطفى أديب، صارت مسألة قبول التسمية مغامرة كبيرة. في الظروف الحالية، لا أحد يمكنه أن ينجح في التأليف. ببساطة، لأن الشروط والشروط المضادة لن تتغير، ولأن ثمة فريقاً في الداخل والخارج يريد حكومة من دون حزب الله، فيما الأخير يزداد تمسكاً بتسمية الوزراء الشيعة بالتكافل مع حركة أمل.

مصادر 8 آذار: ماكرون أخلّ بالتزامه بتأليف حكومة تفاهم وطني


الانتخابات الأميركية ستجرى قبل انتهاء فترة الأسابيع الستة التي أعطاها ماكرون للأطراف اللبنانيين للاتفاق. هل هذا مقصود؟ ليس واضحاً، لكن زمنياً على الأقل، فإن الحديث عن عدم تأليف حكومة في لبنان قبل إجراء الانتخابات الأميركية يزداد واقعية. لكن المفارقة أن الانتخابات نفسها لن تكون كافية لتأليف الحكومة. بعد الانتخابات قد تدخل أميركا في صراعات كبيرة، ربما لا تنتهي قبل موعد انتقال الفائز إلى البيت الأبيض في شهر كانون الثاني. وفي حال خسارة ترامب وتبدّل الادارة، فإن أحداً فيها لن يلتفت إلى لبنان قبل الربيع المقبل.

بحسب المعطيات الأولية، وفيما لم يسجل أي خرق جدي في المراوحة الحكومية، فإن العام الحالي سيمر من دون تأليف حكومة. هذا يقود إلى مضاعفة التحديات التي تواجه الناس، والتي بدأت تباشيرها لحظة إعلان أديب اعتذاره. الدولار قفز ٥٠٠ ليرة دفعة واحدة، ويُتوقع أن لا يتوقف ارتفاعه، خاصة مع بدء عملية تخفيف الدعم. ربما، في نظر بعض السياسيين، لا بديل من تعويم حكومة حسان دياب.

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إنّ التهديدات التي يُطلقها الرئيس المهرّج دونالد ترامب ووزيره المشعوذ بومبيو ضدّ إيران، وقراراتهما بفرض العقوبات يميناً وشمالاً ما هي الا دعاية انتخابية رخيصة على الطريقة الهوليودية لا تحمل في طياتها اي تأثيرات جدية على موازين القوى الدولية إنما هي مخصصة حصراً لإنجاح حملة ترامب الانتخابية…

ومن نافل القول طبعاً إنّ دعوات ملك السعودية، خلال كلمته التي وجهها للجمعية العامة للأمم المتحدة، لا قيمة لها ولا علاقة لها بالواقع ولا تدلّ إلا على تبعية مطلقة لواشنطن تستند الى اوهام بانها ستحمي العرش السعودي الآيل للسقوط بعدما تخبّط في أوحال المستنقع اليمني وأمعن في سفك الدم اليمني الطاهر وهو يلوذ اليوم بالقاعدة العسكرية المترنحة للأميركيين على اليابسة الفلسطينية ظناً منه أنها ستنقذه من الفتح اليمني المبين الذي بات على الأبواب.

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ثم ان أميركا مشغولة عنه وعن أمثاله في هذه اللحظة التاريخية، وعن المنطقة كلها في معركة من العيار الثقيل على مستوى الحروب الكونية وموازين القوى الدولية في مكان آخر تماماً…!

فها هم رجالات ترامب منهمكون في تعزيز حشود واشنطن وقدراتها العسكرية، في المحيطين الهندي والهادئ، لمواجهة الخطر الصيني الروسي المشترك، كما يزعمون، اذ نشرت مجلة ديفينس وان الأميركية تصريحات هامة لضباط، من قيادة المحيط الهندي والهادئ ، من دون أن تسمّيهم واهمّ ما جاء فيها:

1)

ان البنتاغون يقوم حالياً باختبار منظومات اتصالات وقيادة وسيطرة متقدمة جداً، في قاعدة غوام الجوية البحرية البرية (تضم ايضاً وحدات من القوات البرية الأميركية). حيث يقوم ضباط من هذه القيادة بمساعدة سلاح الجو على اختبار نظام قيادة وسيطرة وادارة عمليات ومعارك، يسمى نظام إدارة المعركة المتقدم

2)

يجري حالياً، بين ‪15 – 25 / 9 /2020، تركيب وتجربة المنصة الثالثة من هذه الانظمة في قاعدة غوام الاميركية (غرب المحيط الهادئ)، كما اكد احد ضباط سلاح الجو الاميركي، الذي يشارك في العملية لمجلة ديفينس وان.

3)

اما قائد قيادة المحيط الهندي والهادئ ، الادميرال فيل ديفيدسون ، فقد صرح لمجلة ديفينس وان، بتاريخ 17/9/2020، صرّح قائلاً بأن قاعدة غوام هي عقدة اتصالات حيوية ولا بد من اقامة قواعد لنظام الدفاع الصاروخي ايجيس في هذه القاعدة قريباً.

4)

وأضاف الأدميرال ديفيدسون قائلاً: لهذا السبب (أهمية القاعدة) فإن قاعدة غوام ستكون اول قاعدة تجري فيها تجربة انظمة الاتصالات جي ايه سي دي 2 وهذا هو مختصر الاسم الانجليزي لمنظومة القيادة والسيطرة الشاملة: المجال المشترك – القيادة والسيطرة

5)

اما عن طبيعة هذه القيادة فهي عبارة عن غرفة عمليات يتم فيها تجميع كافة المعلومات الاستخبارية، التي تصل الى الجيش الاميركي وسلاح الجو وسلاح البحرية وسلاح المارينز وكافة فروع القوات المسلحة الاميركية الاخرى، لتتم معالجتها الفورية، من قبل الانظمة المشار اليها اعلاه والضباط الذين يديرونها، وذلك بهدف تحليل المعلومات واتخاذ القرار العملياتي النهائي بشأنها، وإبلاغه فوراً للقوات المكلفة بالمهمات القتالية، في كافة صنوف القوات المسلحة الأميركية، حسب ما قالة الادميرال ديفيدسون للمجلة.

6)

واضاف الادميرال ديفيدسون قائلاً: إن القدرات / الامكانيات الاستخبارية والاستطلاعية المدمجة (التي يتم جمعها ووضعها بتصرف مركز قيادة موحد) ستكون لها اهمية قصوى، في المناورة بالقوات، انطلاقاً من غوام، سواءٌ كانت تلك قوات جوية او بحرية او من سلاح المارينز. وهذا ما سيساعد القوات البريه، العاملة في المناطق القريبة من القاعدة، في تعزيز قدراتها الميدانية، خاصة أن قاعدة غوام ستكون أولى القواعد الأميركية المستهدفة، في حال وقوع المواجهة.

7)

وفِي معرض استعجاله نصب قواعد الاتصالات المدمجة هذه، الى جانب انظمة الدفاع الصاروخي، فان الادميرال ديفيدسون يتابع قائلاً، وفِي التصريح نفسه الذي ادلى به لمجلة ديفينس وان، يتابع قائلاً ان نظام الدفاع المدمج (المشار اليه سابقاً باسم نظام القيادة والسيطرة المدمج) ضروري جداً لمنع العدو من اخراجنا من المعركة (هزيمتنا التي لا يقولها مباشرة) بسرعة وبسهولة ودون تكلفة.

8)

بعد أن تم نصب المنصة الثانية لنظام ايه أم بي أس، اي لنظام القيادة والسيطرة وادارة العمليات، بداية هذا الشهر فإنه اصبح من الممكن رصد مجموعة من الصواريخ المجنحة وقدرة القادة الميدانيين من التعامل معها وإسقاطها / ابطال مفعولها لإخراجها، بواسطة مدافع عملاقة، كما وصفه ضباط الميدان هناك.

9)

الا ان الادميرال ديفيدسون أصرّ، في التصريح الذي أدلى به للمجلة، ان نظام الاتصالات المدمج، المذكور أعلاه، أساسي جداَ لأية عمليات هجومية (تنطلق من القاعدة). خاصة أن هدفنا هو، في نهاية الأمر، أن نكون قادرين على مواجهة أية وسائل استطلاع أو اسلحة هجومية معادية تستهدف القاعدة، وذلك بالاعتماد، يوماً ما، على دعم الذكاء الصناعي، الذي سيكون يعمل بشكل وثيق مع الطاقات البشرية (أي مع ضباط الاستخبارات الذين يعملون في غرفة العمليات المشتركة المذكورة أعلاه) وذلك بشكل يسمح بتزويد الجهات المعنية وفي الوقت المناسب لصياغة نتيجة العمل المشترك (يريد القول: لتمكين القيادة العسكرية في التصدّي للعدو بنجاح).

أي النجاح في تحقيق الأهداف التي ذكرها الأدميرال أعلاه.

إذاً من جديد تريد واشنطن التأكيد على مواصلة حشودها الاستراتيجية، ضد روسيا والصين، على المدى البعيد، وضد إيران على المدى القريب والمتوسط. وهو الامر الذي تؤكده عقوبات ترامب المتواصلة وتصريحاته وتصريحات مسؤوليه المتعاقبة في هذا الشأن كما ذكرنا اعلاه.

ولكن ماذا اعد ثلاثي القوة العالمية الصاعدة بقيادة روسيا من اسلحة خارقة ونادرة وقاصمة لكل موازين القوى التقليدية!؟

إنه الصاروخ الاستراتيجي الفرط صوتي اڤانغارد (الطليعة) والذي كرّم بوتين مصنعه قبل يومين في برنامج تلفزيوني علني معلناً عصر هيمنة السلاح الروسي وحلفائه على العالم الجديد..

فماذا نعرف عن اڤانغارد..؟

– اسمه بالانجليزية هو: Avangard.

اعلن الرئيس الروسي عن وجوده، الى جانب خمسة أسلحة جديدة أخرى لأول مرة، بتاريخ 1/3/2018.

Intercontinental balletic missile (ICBM)– تصنيف هذا الصاروخ: صاروخ حربي استراتيجي، يسمى بالانجليزية.

طبيعة هذا الصاروخ: بعيد المدى مخصص لحمل رؤوس نووية بقوة 2 ميغان (ميغاطن يعني مليون طن)، أي أن TNT القوة التفجيرية لهذا الرأس النووي الذي يحمله صاروخ أڤانغارد تساوي تفجير مليوني طن من مادة .

وزن الصاروخ 2 طن وطوله خمسة أمتار وأربعون سنتمتراً.

سرعته تتراوح بين 20 – 27 ضعف سرعة الصوت (يتم تحديد السرعة من قبل قيادة الصواريخ الاستراتيجية حسب الهدف الذي سيتجه اليه الصاروخ). وهذا يعني أن سرعته تتراوح بين 24,680 كم – 33,318 كم في الساعة (ثلاثة وثلاثون الفاً وثلاثمئة وثمانية عشر كيلو متراً في الساعة).

علماً ان المسافة بين موسكو والساحل الشرقي للولايات المتحدة (يعني بوسطن / نيويورك / واشنطن / ميامي) تبلغ حوالي 8000 كم (ثمانية آلاف). بينما تبلغ المسافة بين موسكو والساحل الغربي للولايات المتحدة (يعني لوس انجيلوس / سان فرانسيسكو / سياتِل – مصانع شركة بوينغ – حوالي 9000 كم (تسعة آلاف كم).

بتاريخ 27/12/2019 دخل اول فوج، من صواريخ أڤانغارد، الخدمة القتالية في قوات الصواريخ الاستراتيجية الروسية. كما تم تجهيز فرقة الصواريخ الاستراتيجية الثالثة عشرة، ومقرها مدينة ياسني (الواقعة على بعد 500 كم من مدينة أورينبورغ وهي عاصمة المقاطعة التي تحمل الاسم نفسه. علماً ان هذه المدينة تقع على بعد حوالي الف وخمسمئة كيلو متر الى الجنوب الغربي من موسكو.

مدى الصاروخ: قادر على الوصول الى أي نقطة في العالم.

أما الأسلحة الأخرى التي تحدث عنها الرئيس الروسي، سنة 2018، فهي:

صاروخ بوريڤيستنيك النووي باللغة الروسية وتعني طير النوء / او النورس / (يعمل بالطاقة النووية) وبإمكانه التحليق في الاجواء لمدة سنوات. ويسمى في لغة الناتو SSC – X – 9 Skyfall.

صاروخ كينجال ، وهو صاروخ جو / أرض /، يطلق من الطائرات الحربية.

وزن الصاروخ: اربعة اطنان.

طول الصاروخ: سبعة أمتار وقطره متر كامل (يعني عيار 100 سم).

تسليحه: اما رأس نووي او رأس حربي تقليدي متشظٍ، زنة / 500 كغم /.

سرعته: فرط صوتي تصل سرعته الى اثني عشر الفاً وثلاثمئة واربعين كيلومتراً ( 12,340 كم) في الساعة. وهو قادر على تنفيذ كل انواع المناورات، التي يمكن تخيّلها، لتفادي الدفاعات الجوية المعادية، خاصة في المرحلة الأخيرة، قبل وصوله الى الهدف.

توجيهه: يتم توجيهه من خلال نظام توجيه ذاتي / داخلي مدمج في الصاروخ / ومن خلال نظام الاتصالات الروسي بالأقمار الصناعية المسمّى غلوناس).

مدى الصاروخ: الفا كيلومتر.

صاروخ تسيركون (Zirkon) ويطلق عليه حلف الناتو اسم: SS – N – 33 Zirkon.

طبيعة الصاروخ: فرط صوتي ويطلق من البوارج الحربية على أهداف بحرية.

سرعة الصاروخ: فرط صوتية وتصل الى تسعة آلاف وثمانمئة واثنين وسبعين كيلو متراً في الساعة.

مدى الصاروخ: يبلغ مداه بين 250 – 500 كم في الساعة.

الرأي الحربي: يمكن تسليح الصاروخ برأس حربي تقليدي، يحتوي على 300 – 400 كغم من المواد شديدة الانفجار (يتم تحديد وزن المواد المتفجرة حسب الاهداف التي يُراد تدميرها)، كما يمكن تسليح هذا الصاروخ برأس نووي.

الخدمة القتالية: المعلومات الاستخباراتية الغربية تدّعي أنه لم يدخل الخدمة القتالية حتى الآن وأنه سيصل هذه المرحلة مع نهاية العام الحالي، الا ان مصادر أخرى تؤكد دخوله الخدمة القتالية منذ بضعة اشهر.

صاروخ سارمات (Sarmat) الاستراتيجي العابر للقارات، الذي يسميه حلف الناتو: SS- X – 30 Satan 2.

وزن الصاروخ: خمسة عشر طناً.

مدى الصاروخ: سبعة عشر ألف كيلومتر.

تسليحه: هذا الصاروخ مسلح بسلاح نووي يحمل 15 رأساً نووياً يتجه كل منها الى هدف مختلف عند انفجار الرأس الاساسي.

نظام الليزر المسمى: بيريسڤيت (Perespvet).

استخداماته: يستخدم هذا النظام، حسب تصريح لرئيس اركان الجيش الروسي ڤالاري غيراسيموڤ، في حماية صوامع إطلاق الصواريخ الاستراتيجية. كما يستخدم في اعتراض الأجسام الذائقة، بمختلف انواعها واحجامها، وتدميرها قبل أن تصل الى اهدافها.

المعلومات المتوفرة عن هذا السلاح: لا معلومات استخبارية، لدى الولايات المتحدة والدول الاوروبية، عن هذا السلاح حتى الآن.

منصات الإطلاق: حتى الآن يتم اطلاق هذا السلاح من محطات إطلاق ارضية ثابتة لكنه سيصبح نظاماً متحركاً في القريب العاجل، حيث يجري تطويره كي يصبح قابلاً للإطلاق من المسيرات والمروحيات والطائرات الحربية والعربات العسكرية المدولبة.

الغواصات النووية المسيّرة، بوسايدون (Poseidon).

– غواصة مسيرة تعمل بالطاقة النووية.

– قدرتها على الغوص: تصل الى الف متر تحت سطح البحر.

– مداها: يبلغ مدى هذه الغواصة عشرة آلاف كيلومتر.

– طولها 24 متراً وسرعتها 200 كم في الساعة.

تسليح هذه الغواصة: يضم تسليح هذه الغواصة المسيرة رأسين نوويين بقوة خمسين او مئة كيلوطن (الكيلوين يساوي الف طن من مادة TNT الشديدة الانفجار).

– طريقة استخدام هذا السلاح: يستخدم هذا السلاح عن بعد، حيث تكون الغواصة اما راقدة / نائمة / قرب الهدف المعادي، كالقواعد البحرية او المنشآت الاستراتيجية القريبة من السواحل، او يتم توجيه هذه الغواصات الى اهدافها خلال الحرب. وعندما تلتقط أي من هذه الغواصات، الأمر بإطلاق سلاحها على الهدف / الأهداف / فإنها تنفذ ذلك فوراً ويتم التفجير بطريقة تحدث امواج تسونامي عاتية جداً تصل الى عشرات الكيلومترات داخل أرض العدو وتدمر كل شيء في وجهها.

اما النوع الأشد فتكاً من اسلحة هذه الغواصة فهو القنابل، التي يطلق عليها اسم القنابل المُمَلَحَة (Salted Bomb)، وهي قنابل اشعاعات نووية تلوث مساحات شاسعة جداً، من اراضي العدو، ولزمن طويلٍ للغاية.

علماً ان جميع هذه الاسلحة الاستراتيجية الروسية، التي لا ولن يكون هناك مثيل لها في العالم حتى نهاية هذا القرن، قد صنعت بعد انسحاب الولايات المتحدة الاميركية من اتفاقية الحد من انظمة الصواريخ المضادة للصواريخ (او الدرع الصاروخية)، التي تسمى باللغة الانكليزية: Anti – Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM)، التي كانت قد وقعت، بين الاتحاد السوڤياتي والولايات المتحدة الأميركية، بتاريخ 28/5/1972.

وقد انسحبت الولايات المتحدة الاميركية من هذه الاتفاقية، بعد حادثة تدمير برجي التجارة في نيويورك، بتاريخ 11/9/2001، بحجة ضرورة صناعتها لصواريخ استراتيجية جديدة او جيل جديد من الصواريخ لحماية أراضيها كما ادعت، وكأن عملية التدمير نتجت عن قصف معادٍ بصواريخ استراتيجية عابرة للقارات.

بينما كان الهدف الحقيقي، من وراء الانسحاب، هو صناعة جيل جديد من الأنظمة الصاروخية العابرة للقارات، مستغلةً الضعف الذي كانت تعاني منه روسيا آنذاك، بهدف إخضاع روسيا للشروط الأميركية، تمهيداً لتجريدها من اسلحتها بالقوة، طبقاً للسيناريو الذي طبقته واشنطن في العراق منذ 1990 (تدمير القوة العسكرية كخطوةٍ اولى تمهيداً للغزو والاحتلال)، كي تمهد الطريق لاحتلال الاراضي الروسية والسيطرة عليها عسكرياً وتسليم ثرواتها الطبيعية (تبلغ 40% من الثروات الطبيعية في العالم بأسره) للشركات الاميركية العابرة للقارات، وتكريس الهيمنة الاميركية على العالم اجمع نتيجةً لذلك.

اذن فهذه هي الأسلحة الخارقة، التي تجعل صاروخ ترامب الخارق، الذي أسماه بالانجليزيه: Super Duper Missile، وهو ليس الا الصاروخ الاميركي من طراز AGM – 183 ARRW، الذي قال عنه الخبير العسكري الروسي الشهير، ڤيكتور موراخوفسكي، ان المهندسين الاميركيين عاجزون عن السيطرة على هذا الصاروخ، الذي يدّعي ترامب ان سرعته تصل الى حوالي عشرين الف كيلومتر في الساعة.

كما علّق رئيس المؤسسة الفضائية الروسية روس كوسومس، ديميتري روغوزين، على ادعاءات الرئيس الأميركي ساخرًا بالقول: ما العمل؟ إننا جاهزون للتسلّم.

في ضوء ما تقدم، مضافاً اليه ما هو قريب منه في صنوف الاسلحة الصينية، وما تمتلكه إيران من قوةٍ صاروخيةٍ وبحريةٍ وقوات برية قادرة، وإن بحدود الصعيد الاقليمي، فإن النتيجة الموضوعية الوحيدة لتقييم هذا التفوق التسليحي الهائل، الى جانب التفوق التكنولوجي في صناعة الصواريخ في كل من روسيا والصين، التي تعتبرهما الولايات المتحدة، حسب تصريحات وزيري الحرب والخارجية الاميركيين، الخطر الرئيسي عليها، نقول إن نتيجة التقييم الموضوعي الوحيدة تقول:

إن هذا هو السبب الرئيسي، الذي يجعل من انسحاب القوات الأميركية، من جميع مناطق “الشرق الاوسط”، امراً واقعاً مع وقف التنفيذ، الى ما بعد الانتخابات الرئاسية الأميركية، وذلك لأن مواجهة ما تزعمه واشنطن من خطر روسي صيني استراتيجي يحتم عليها إعادة النظر في انتشار قواتها العسكرية في العالم أجمع ويجعل وجود هذه القوات في “الشرق الاوسط” عديم الفائدة تماماً، خاصةً في حال حصول نزاع عسكري دولي سيجعل وضع هذه القوات أشبه بوضعية اقراص الفلافل داخل شطيرة (ساندويش) الفلافل، وذلك بسبب سهولة حصارها من الجنوب (مضيق باب المندب ومضيق هرمز) ومن الشمال الغربي (مضيق جبل طارق الذي ستغلقه القوات البحرية والجوية الجزائرية)، بالإضافة الى بُعد هذه القوات عن مسرح العمليات المفترضة، بين الصين والولايات المتحدة، والذي سيكون بشكل أساسي في المحيط الهادئ وشرق المحيط الهندي.

عالم يتراجع ويتساقط وينحدر نحو الفناء

وعالم يتقدم وينهض ويتجه لولادة جديدة

وجه العالم يتغير رويداً رويداً ومحور المقاومة جزء لا يتجزأ من عالم النهوض.

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله.

بين الموقف السعودي والفيتو الأميركي… ودور نادي الرؤساء!

حسن حردان

شكل موقف الملك السعودي سلمان بن عبد العزيز، في كلمته أمام الجمعية العامة للأمم المتحدة، لناحية توجيه الاتهام الى حزب الله بالإرهاب، واشتراط عودة الاستقرار للبنان بنزع سلاح المقاومة، شكل مؤشراً واضحاً لا لبس فيه على تماهي موقف المملكة مع الهدف الأميركي المُراد تحقيقه في لبنان في هذه المرحلة، كون الموقف السعودي إنًما هو يُجسّد ويُترجم السياسة الأميركية في لبنان وعموم الوطن العربي والشرق الأوسط.. ذلك أنّ السياسة السعودية إنما هي مرتبطة تماماً بالسياسة الأميركية، وليست مستقلة عنها…

والهدف الأميركي هو إخراج حزب الله وحلفائه من السلطة وتغيير المعادلة النيابية، في سياق خطة مدروسة، كان قد شرحها بالتفصيل السفير الأميركي السابق في لبنان جيفري فيلتمان في شهادته الشهيرة أمام الكونغرس الأميركي في شهر تشرين الثاني 2019.

ولتحقيق هذا الهدف، أقدمت واشنطن على تشديد الحصار المالي على لبنان وتفجير الاستقرار فيه وربط تسهيل الحلول للأزمة ورفع الحصار عن لبنان بإقصاء حزب الله وحلفائه عن السلطة التنفيذية، عبر فرض تشكيل حكومة من الاختصاصيين، يكون ولاؤهم للسياسة الأميركية، لضمان تنفيذ خطة إنجاز انقلاب سياسي في لبنان على غرار انقلاب 2005 للسيطرة على السلطة وتحقيق الأهداف الأميركية التي تنسجم أيضاً مع الأهداف الصهيونية… وهي:

فرض الهيمنة الأميركية على لبنان وإخضاعه بالكامل لتوجهات الولايات المتحدة، وإنهاء وجود المقاومة ونزع سلاحها، وتأمين أمن الكيان الصهيوني، وفرض اتفاق لترسيم الحدود البحرية والبرية بين لبنان وفلسطين المحتلة يحقق لكيان العدو أطماعه في ثروات لبنان النفطية والغازية والمائية، وصولاً إلى فرض خطة القرن لتصفية القضية الفلسطينية، والتي لا يمكن أن تفرض طالما هناك مقاومة تملك القدرات والإمكانيات الردعية وتشكل جزءاً من محور مقاوم يعيق تعويم مشروع الهيمنة الأميركي…

لذلك فإنّ طرح موضوع المداورة في حقيبة وزارة المالية، ومن ثم إعلان رئيس الحكومة السابق سعد الحريري اقتراح أن يسمّي الرئيس المكلف مصطفى أديب وزير شيعياً مستقلاً، إنما يضمر محاولة تمرير الخطة الانقلابية الأميركية السعودية الأشمل، والتي تقتضي قلب المعادلة في لبنان عبر تغيير قواعد اللعبة السياسية وفرض آليات جديدة لتشكيل الحكومة، يتولى نادي رؤساء الحكومات السابقون التحكم فيها من خلال إظهاره في صورة، أولاً، من يسمّي الرئيس المكلف، وثانياً، من يشكل معه الحكومة من دون أيّ مشاركة من الكتل النيابية ورئيس الجمهورية، وأنّ المطلوب ألا يعترض أحد على ذلك، والقبول بالتشكيلة الحكومية والطريقة المبتكرة في تأليفها، وإلا تكونوا، (أيّ الكتل النيابية التي تمثل الأكثرية)، تعرقلون المبادرة الفرنسية، وتقفون عقبة في طريق إنقاذ البلاد من الكارثة الاقتصادية والمالية إلخ…

والرهان في محاولة تمرير هذه الخطة من قبل نادي الرؤساء، إنما على…

أولاً، إحداث شرخ في العلاقة بين التيار الوطني الحر وحزب الله وصولاً الى تفكيكه.. من خلال محاولات فريق المستقبل والقوات اللبنانية، التصويب بشكل مستمر على هذا التحالف بتحميله مسؤولية الأزمة من جهة، وتغذية التناقضات والخلافات والعمل على تأليب قواعد الطرفين ضدّ بعضهما البعض من خلال إثارة الشائعات عبر وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي.

ثانياً، إطلاق مناورات مستمرة مفخخة لوضع تحالف حزب الله ـ أمل في وضع حرج… فإذا قبل يكون قد وقع في فخ الموافقة على ولادة حكومة انقلابية يسمّيها، من ألِفها إلى يائها، الرئيس المكلف مصطفى أديب ومن ورائه نادي رؤساء الحكومات السابقين، أما إذا رفض التحالف فإنه يجري اتهامه بالعرقلة ويُحمّل المسؤولية عن تعطيل تشكيل الحكومة.

ثالثاً، ممارسة الضغط الاستثنائي على التيار الوطني عبر…

1

ـ استغلال المبادرة الفرنسية التي تلقى قبولاً وترحيباً عاماً، لا سيما في الوسط المسيحي، انطلاقاً من الارتباط الثقافي والعلاقات المصلحية الاقتصادية مع الغرب.

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ـ الضغط الأميركي بسلاح العقوبات، والذي رفع الأميركي من منسوب التهديد به لقيادات في التيار الوطني وفي المقدمة الوزير جبران باسيل، إذا ما وقف ضدّ تشكيل حكومة يختارها أديب.. وكانت العقوبات على الوزيرين السابقين، علي حسن خليل ويوسف فنيانوس، في سياق هذه الخطة الأميركية لإرهاب حلفاء حزب الله ودفعهم إلى الرضوخ للمطلب الأميركي القاضي بفرض تشكيل حكومة تكنوقراط أميركية الهوى. تكون الأداة لتمرير جملة الأهداف المُراد تحقيقها في لبنان…

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ـ ممارسة الضغوط من قبل بكركي على الرئيس ميشال عون، لمنعه من الاعتراض على تشكيل حكومة، منزلة عليه بالبراشوت، وبالتالي دفعه الى التخلي عن ممارسة صلاحياته الدستورية التي تضمن له الحق بالمشاركة في تأليف الحكومة مع الرئيس المكلف.

انطلاقاً مما تقدّم، باتت الصورة واضحة، مهما جرى تمويهها، وهي الضغط بكلّ الوسائل لفكّ عرى التحالف بين التيار الوطني الحر وحزب الله، وفرض تشكيل حكومة اللون الأميركي.. واقتراح الرئيس الحريري بأن يسمّي أديب وزيراً مستقلاً للمالية من الطائفة الشيعية، لا يخرج عن هذا السياق، وهو مناورة حيكت في مطبخ نادي رؤساء الحكومات السابقين، لتعلن باسم الحريري لضمان خطة الرجعة في حال فشلت محاولة تمريرها، والرئيس فؤاد السنيورة يتقن حياكة مثل هذه المناورات المفخخة، التي جرى تصويرها على أنها تنازل كبير في حين هي بالجوهر تريد دسّ السمّ في العسل، لتمرير حكومة يختار كلّ وزرائها نادي الرؤساء.. وفي الحالتين هي خروج على دستور الطائف الذي يحدّد بوضوح كيفية تشكيل الحكومة على أسس التمثيل البرلماني والطائفي والميثاقي.. كما يحدّد دور رئيس الجمهورية في المشاركة في عملية تأليف الحكومة مع الرئيس المكلف…

من هنا فإنّ المهمة الملحة الملقاة على عاتق تحالف حزب الله والتيار الوطني الحر إنما هي…

1

ـ التنبّه لخطورة المخطط الذي يستهدف النيل من تحالفهما، وإقصائهما عن السلطة وإضعاف تمثيلهما الشعبي والوطني.. وإعلان التمسك، أكثر من أيّ وقت مضى، بهذا التحالف، (وهو ما أكد عليه بالأمس الوزير باسيل)، والعمل على تحصينه والتصدي بخطة موحدة بالتنسيق مع كلّ القوى الوطنية، لمنع الانقلاب على قواعد دستور الطائف التي تضمن مشاركة الكتل النيابية وفق أحجامها التمثيلية، وعلى أسس التمثيل الطائفي والحفاظ على الميثاقية.. ريثما يتمّ تطبيق البنود الإصلاحية في اتفاق الطائف، لإلغاء الطائفية السياسية المنصوص عليها في المادتين 95 و22 من الدستور.

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ـ الامتناع عن إطلاق أيّ تصريحات علنية حول مسائل الخلاف، والتركيز على أهمية القضايا المشتركة التي قام عليها التحالف، لا سيما في هذه المرحلة التي يستهدف فيها هذا التحالف بسهام أميركية مسمومة، وبسهام خصوم الداخل، الذين يراهنون على تفكيك التحالف لتحقيق ما يطمحون إليه من العودة إلى فرض هيمنتهم على السلطة، وإضعاف شعبية وتمثيل التيار الوطني الحر في الشارع المسيحي باعتبار ذلك مقدمة أيضاً لمحاصرة حزب الله المقاوم.. وهو ما يشكل أيضاً هدفاً مركزياً لرئيس حزب القوات سمير جعجع، الذي باتت تتمحور معظم مواقفه حول كيفية تحقيق هذا الهدف الذي يعتبره هو الأساس في نجاح أو فشل الخطة الأميركية الانقلابية للإمساك بناصية القرار السياسي في لبنان وقلب المعادلة النيابية…

صراع الحريري ونادي رؤساء الحكومات على السعوديّة؟

نادي رؤساء الحكومات: مفتاح التأليف حصراً بيد الحريري

د. وفيق إبراهيم

رئيس الحكومة السابق سعد الحريري يسعى لإرضاء الفرنسيين والأميركيين مخترعاً اقتراحاً بتوزير شيعي لوزارة المالية إنما لمرة واحدة فقط، وبشكل يسحب منها ميثاقيتها التي يصرّ عليها حلف حزب الله – حركة أمل.

اما حلفاؤه الثلاثة في نادي رؤساء الحكومة السابقين وهم فؤاد السنيورة وتمام سلام ونجيب ميقاتي، فاعتبروا في تصريح لهم أن موقف الحريري خاص به ولا يعنيهم، وذلك في موقف يقترب من رفضهم له.

هل هناك مرجع يفصل بين الفريقين المذكورين؟ نعم إنها السعودية التي تمسك بالقرار السياسي السني في لبنان منذ تسلم الراحل رفيق الحريري لرئاسات الحكومات المتعاقبة بين 1990 و2005 وورثته المتجسدين في ابنه سعد والسنيورة وتمام سلام والميقاتي ونجله الأكبر بهاء المتوثب لأداء دور لبناني.

ماذا يقول السعوديون؟

انتصر الملك سلمان للخط الأميركي الذي يريد تدمير إيران لأنها تكاد تحتل العالم؟ وتعمم الإرهاب في كل مكان، ما أتاح للملك السعودي تركيز استهداف كبير لإيران التي تريد نشر «شيعيّتها» في اليمن والعراق وسورية ولبنان والخليج وتدعم إرهابييها. وهنا ركز سلمان على حزب الله موجهاً هجوماً حاداً دعا فيه العالم بأسره الى تجريد حزب الله من سلاحه وضربه لأنه إرهابي، مضيفاً أن لا قائمة للبنان إلا بعد إلغاء الحزب الإرهابي، كما وصفه.

هذا الموقف الحاد يضع القوى اللبنانية الموالية للسعودية، خصوصاً الفريق السني في دائرة المحاسبة السعودية. فالقريب من هذا الموقف يتمتع بالرعاية السعودية السياسية والمالية والدينية، فيما يجد الرافض لها نفسه معزولاً.

لذلك يبدو نادي رؤساء الحكومات السابقين أقرب القوى السنية الى التصعيد السعودي ومعه أشرف ريفي والمشنوق ودار الإفتاء. وداعش والنصرة وهيئة تحرير الشام. فهؤلاء ذاهبون الى التماهي الكامل مع التصعيد السعودي.

لجهة سعد الحريري فلا شك في أنه نادم على إطلاقه مشروع حل لوزارة المالية أي تعيين شيعيّ مستقلّ يختاره الرئيس المكلف أديب ولمرة واحدة.

كيف يمكن لسعد أن يلتحق بالموقف التصعيدي السعوديّ من دون سحب اقتراحه الأخير من التداول؟

لا بدّ للشيخ سعد أن يطلق أكثر من تصريح إعلامي مخادع حول استقلالية الوزير الشيعي في وزارة المالية وابتعاده الكامل عن حركة أمل وحزب الله، بذلك قد يرضي السياسة السعودية نسبياً ويضيف بأنه لمرة واحدة ما يدفع الثنائي الشيعي الى رفض اقتراحه. ويتعمّد التأكيد على دوره الأساسي في تشكيل الحكومة المرتقبة. وهذا يؤذي مكانة رئاسة الجمهورية دستورياً وطائفياً.

هذا ما حدث بالفعل بصدور بيان من الرئيس ميشال عون أكد فيه أن رئاسة الجمهورية شريك كامل في إنتاج الحكومات ولا يمكن تجاوزها أو تجاهلها.

فيكون سعد باقتراحه الأخير دافعاً ومؤسساً لرفض شيعي من جهة ورئاسي وماروني من جهة ثانية، فتعود العلاقات بين القوى السياسية إلى حالة من الاحتراب الشديد تنعكس على الشارع على شكل مواجهات غير قابلة للتأجج لأن فريق حزب الله – امل لا يريدها ويعمل على إجهاضها.

فيتبين أن القوى اللبنانية الموالية للسعودية تتصارع لكسب ود الملك سلمان وابنه محمد بشكل لا تعير فيه أي انتباه لمدى حراجة الوضع اللبناني وخطورته.

لذلك، فإن الساحة اللبنانية يتحكم فيها حالياً مشروع أميركي سعودي يدفع في اتجاه السيطرة على حكومة لبنانية مرتقبة لا تضمّ القوى الرافضة للتطبيع مع العدو الإسرائيلي. بما يفسّر أسباب هذا الاستهداف السعودي المركز على دور حزب الله في قتال «اسرائيل» والإرهاب.

هل يمكن للمراقب أن يفترض انبثاق موقف سني رافض لهذا التصعيد السعودي؟

إن القوى الشعبية السنية، خصوصاً ذات البعد التاريخي ترفض أي تقارب مع «اسرائيل» وتشجع على محاربته، لكن الكلام هنا يتركز على فريق الحريرية السياسية ومتفرّعاتها، ويستثني أيضاً فريقاً كبيراً من النواب السنة المستقلين الذين يرفضون هذا الانهيار الوطني والقومي في صفوف رؤساء الحكومات السابقين والحريرية السياسية بكامل تنوّعاتها.

يتبين بالنتيجة ان لبنان ذاهب الى أشكال مختلفة من تصعيد سياسي واقتصادي واجتماعي يرعاه المحور الأميركي السعودي الذي يضع لبنان بين اقتراحين: اما الانهيار الاقتصادي الكامل او حكومة موالية لهذا المحور تعمل على تجريد حزب الله من سلاحه وإلغاء دوره اللبناني في وجه «إسرائيل» المحتلة، وخارجي في وجه الإرهاب المهدّد للمنطقة عموماً ولبنان خصوصاً.

لكن ما يدعو الى التنبه الشديد هو احتمال انعكاس الخلافات بين القوى السنية الى معارك بين أنصارها، او مشاريع حروب مع مذاهب وطوائف أخرى، لن تؤدي إلا الى انتاج مهزوم واحد هو الاستقرار اللبناني، وبالتالي الكيان السياسي وفقاً لمشروع كيسنجر الذي كان يعتبر لبنان فائضاً تاريخياً لا لزوم له.

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Ansarullah Dares Saudi King to Directly Face Iran If He Has Scores to Settle

Ansarullah Dares Saudi King to Directly Face Iran If He Has Scores to Settle

By Staff, Agencies

A senior Yemeni Ansarullah official asked Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz to settle scores with Iran if he dares to face the Islamic Republic directly.

Chairman of Yemen’s Supreme Revolutionary Committee Mohammed-Ali al-Houthi made the remarks in a sarcastic tweet on Friday.

“King Salman well knows the Yemenis are only fighting the Americans who are using the Saudi soil and US-made weapons to wage a war against the Yemeni nation,” al-Houthi said.

“If the Saudi king has scores to settle with Iran, he’d better face the country directly,” he added.

The Ansarullah official made the remarks in reaction to the Saudi king’s virtual address to the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations, in which he said Riyadh would not take its hands off the Yemeni nation until it “gets rid of Iran’s domination.”

King Salman blamed the Islamic Republic for much of the Middle East’s instability, and repeated a host of baseless accusations against Iran, ranging from “sponsoring terrorism” to seeking weapons of mass destruction.

The video of the speech was released on Wednesday showing the aging monarch sitting at his office as he struggled to read the text from papers, which he was grasping with both hands, without looking at the camera.

The 84-year-old monarch accused Iran of providing support to Yemen’s popular Ansarullah movement, which has been defending the Arab country against the kingdom’s 2015-present war. He once again blamed Iran for the 2019 Yemeni attacks against Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil installations.

The Saudi ruler also took aim at the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, claiming Tehran exploited the agreement to “intensify its expansionist activities.” He also claimed “the kingdom’s hands were extended to Iran in peace with a positive and open attitude over the past decades, but to no avail.”

Iran strongly dismissed the Saudi king’s claims, and highlighted the Saudi regime’s atrocities and civilian massacres in Yemen, of which King Salman made no reference during the speech.

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Road to Saudi Ties with ‘Israel’ Being Paved, Cautiously

Road to Saudi Ties with ‘Israel’ Being Paved, Cautiously

By Staff, AP

Although Saudi Arabia has made its official position on the region’s longest-running conflict clear, claiming that full ties between the kingdom and the Zionist entity can only happen when ‘peace’ is reached with the Palestinians, state-backed Saudi media and clerics are signaling change is already underway with ‘Israel.’

It is a matter that can only happen under the directives of the country’s heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS].

“It’s no secret there’s a generational conflict,” said New York-based Rabbi Marc Schneier, who serves as an advisor to Bahrain’s king and has held talks in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to promote stronger ties with the ‘Israeli’ entity.

Gulf capitals have been increasingly looking to the Palestine-occupier entity as an ally to defend against common rival Iran amid quiet concerns about the direction of US foreign policy and the uncertainty around the upcoming presidential election. But it’s not only countering Iran that’s brought ‘Israel’ and Arab states closer in recent years.

The rabbi said the former Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman, told him that the top priority of his brother, MBS, is reforming the Saudi economy.

“He said these exact words: ‘We will not be able to succeed without ‘Israel’.’ So for the Saudis, it’s not a question of ‘if,’ it’s a question of ‘when.’ And there’s no doubt that they will establish relations with ‘Israel’,” Schneier said.

Prominent Saudi royal, Prince Turki al-Faisal, insisted that “any talk of a rift between the king and the crown prince is mere speculation.”

“We’ve seen none of that,” said the prince, who served for years as head of intelligence and briefly as ambassador to the US.

In a phone call with US President Donald Trump on September 6, King Salman repeated his commitment to the Arab ‘Peace’ Initiative, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency. The initiative offers ‘Israel’ normal ties with Arab states in return for Palestinian statehood on territory the Zionist entity occupied in 1967 — a deal that starkly contradicts the Trump administration’s Middle East so-called ‘Deal of the Century’.

When the White House announced last month the United Arab Emirates and ‘Israel’ agreed to establish full diplomatic ties — a move matched by Bahrain weeks later — Saudi Arabia refrained from criticizing the deal or hosting summits condemning the decision, despite Palestinian requests to do so.

It also approved the use of Saudi airspace for ‘Israeli’ flights to the UAE, a decision announced the day after Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, met with Prince Mohammed in Riyadh. Kushner has been pushing Arab states to normalize ties with the Zionist entity.

Prince Turki said Arab states should demand a high price for normalizing ties with ‘Israel.’ He said ‘Israel’ remains “the stumbling block in all of these efforts.”

Relatively, Raghida Dergham, a longtime Arab columnist and co-chair with Prince Turki of the Beirut Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi, said younger generations in the Middle East want normality rather than a confiscation of ambitions and dreams.

“They want solutions not a perpetuation of rejection,” said Dergham, whose Beirut Institute e-policy circles have tackled questions about the future of the region and its youth.

When the UAE-‘Israel’ deal was announced in August, the top trending hashtag on Twitter in Saudi Arabia was against normalization with ‘Israel.’ Still, public criticism in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain has largely been muted, in part because these governments suppress free speech.

“It is very hard to get accurate data, even when polling people,” said Yasmine Farouk, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Farouk said public opinion on ‘Israel’ in Saudi Arabia is diverse and complex, with opinions varying among different age groups and among liberals and conservatives. She said there is an effort to prepare the Saudi public for change and to shape public debate around ‘Israel.’

As Saudi Arabia prepares to mark its 90th National Day on Wednesday, clerics across the country were directed to deliver sermons about the importance of obeying the ruler to preserve unity and peace.

Earlier this month, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, delivered another state-backed sermon on the importance of dialogue in international relations and kindness to non-Muslims, specifically mentioning Jews.

He concluded by saying the Palestinian cause must not be forgotten, but his words caused a stir on social media, with many seeing the remarks as further evidence of the groundwork being laid for Saudi-‘Israeli’ ties.

The English-language Saudi daily, Arab News, which has been featuring op-eds by rabbis, changed its social media banner on Twitter this past Friday to say “Shana Tova,” the Jewish New Year greeting.

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