US Approves Massive Weapons Sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE

August 3, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

The United States has approved massive arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates worth more than $5 billion, amid criticism of their ongoing military aggression in Yemen which has inflicted heavy civilian casualties.

The notice of approval came on Tuesday, two weeks after US President Joe Biden made a controversial trip to Saudi Arabia and met with Saudi leaders in an effort to reset strained relations with Riyadh.

The State Department said Saudi Arabia would buy 300 Patriot MIM-104E missile systems and related equipment for an estimated $3.05 billion. The missile systems can be used to shoot long-range incoming ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as fighter jets.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a partner country that is a force for political stability and economic progress in the Gulf region,” the State Department said in a statement.

“The proposed sale will improve the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by replenishing its dwindling stock of PATRIOT GEM-T missiles,” it added.

Separately, the United States will sell Terminal High Altitude Area Defense [THAAD] System Missiles and related equipment to the UAE for $2.25 billion.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of an important regional partner. The UAE is a vital US partner for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East,” the State Department said.

Although Tuesday’s approvals are for defensive weapons, they may still draw opposition in Congress, where lawmakers backed the Biden administration’s decision last year to ban US sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE because of their actions in Yemen.

The Biden administration is also considering lifting its ban on US sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Since the beginning of the war in 2015, the use of US weapons by the Saudi-led coalition in airstrikes on civilian targets in Yemen has been well documented.

As a candidate, Biden had vowed to make the Saudi kingdom a “pariah” on the global stage over the war in Yemen as well as the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist and political dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Soon after taking office, Biden appeared to be delivering on the promise, when he declared in February 2021 a halt to US support for the Saudi military operations in Yemen, including “relevant arms sales.”

His administration also released US intelligence findings that concluded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS] personally approved the operation targeting Khashoggi.

Biden, however, has softened his approach in recent months, moving to improve US relations with Saudi Arabia in the hope of getting the world’s top oil exporter to increase oil production in order to offset loss of Russian supplies to the global market and drive down gasoline prices at home.

Riyadh detains officials in new anti-corruption clean-out

July 31 2022

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

The investigation suggests MbS plans to rid himself of political rivals to the throne, as Nazaha authorities carry out over 3000 inspections on corrupt officials from several ministries

Saudi authorities detained dozens of officials on 31 July in a new anti-corruption sweep reportedly to flush out contenders to the future throne of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS).

Citing Nazaha, the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority of Saudi Arabia, the daily newspaper Saudi Gazette reported that 78 individuals were arrested on charges of money laundering, forgery, and bribery.

The report added that the arrests made by Nazaha authorities included over 3000 inspections, and that another 116 officials were found to need investigation for other crimes.

Nazaha recently called on several sectors to cooperate in the search for violations of financial or administrative corruption.

Those under investigation were reportedly employed by the ministries of interior, health, justice, defense, municipal, housing and rural affairs.

Since MbS became the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh has witnessed the arrests of dozens of intellectuals, activists, and alleged political opponents.

The Saudi government has also illustrated zero tolerance for freedom of speech, even while facing international condemnations.

At a meeting in September 2021 between MbS and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, MbS lost his temper when Sullivan pressed MbS about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a 19 April report from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) revealed.

The meeting began with MbS showing up in a pair of shorts at his seaside palace, as the tone of the talks were described as relaxed.

However, the moment Sullivan brought up the issue of Khashoggi, the mood changed, with the Saudi Crown Prince shouting at the US official, insisting the matter was not to be discussed again.

MbS then reportedly added that the US could “forget about” its request to Saudi Arabia to boost oil output, in reference to the US request to raise oil output to alleviate rising gas prices.

Saudi Arabia continued to hold its line on oil production even as gas prices increased following the litany of sanctions placed on Russia in response to its special military operation in Ukraine.

Despite condemnation of Saudi Arabia by its regional and international allies, MbS continues to deny accusations of involvement in any violations.

Macron Hosts MBS Regardless of Outrage over Khashoggi Murder

JULY 28, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS] for talks in Paris on Thursday, regardless of criticism that the invitation is deeply inappropriate barely four years after the murder by Saudi agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The meeting is seen as the latest step in the readmission of the de-facto ruler of the kingdom into the international fold, after US President Joe Biden met him earlier this month.

The topics set to loom over the meeting include energy supply as concern grows over possible power shortages in wake of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, as well as reining in the nuclear program of Riyadh’s top regional foe Iran.

“I feel profoundly troubled by the visit, because of what it means for our world and what is means for Jamal [Khashoggi] and people like him,” Amnesty International secretary general Agnes Callamard told AFP, describing MBS as a man who “does not tolerate any dissent.”

The visits mark MBS’ first trip to the EU since the murder of Khashoggi by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018, a crime that a UN probe described as an “extrajudicial killing for which Saudi Arabia is responsible.”

It also said there was “credible evidence” warranting further investigation of the individual liability of high-level Saudi officials, including MBS.

US intelligence agencies determined that MBS had “approved” the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death, though Riyadh denies this, blaming rogue operatives.

The killing drew outrage not just over the elimination of a prominent critic of the Saudi regime, but also for the manner in which it was carried out. Khashoggi was lured into the Saudi consulate on October 2, 2018, strangled and dismembered, reportedly with a bonesaw.

His reception by world leaders is “all the more shocking given many of them at the time expressed disgust [over the killing] and a commitment not to bring MBS back into the international community,” Callamard added, denouncing the “double standard.”

But despite the concern over Saudi Arabia’s rights record, the kingdom is seen by many in the West as an essential partner due to its energy resources, purchases of weaponry and staunch opposition to Iran.

Western countries resume their relationship with Riyadh after the isolation imposed on Ibn Salma

Oil, Iran On Biden’s Agenda at Arab Summit Concluding Middle East Tour

July 18, 2022 

By Staff, Agencies

US President Joe Biden is set to discuss volatile oil prices during a summit with Arab leaders on Saturday in Saudi Arabia, the final stop of his Middle East tour, meant to bolster US positioning and knit the regional countries against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second city on the Red Sea coast, will bring together leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

Biden landed Friday in Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally he once vowed to make a “pariah” over its human rights record, and met with King Salman, de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other top Saudi officials.

Tensions had been high between Biden and Prince Mohammed, especially after Biden’s administration released US intelligence findings that Prince Mohammed approved an operation targeting journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose gruesome killing in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate in 2018 spurred global outrage.

Biden now appears ready to re-engage with a country that has been a key strategic ally of the United States for decades, a major supplier of oil and an avid buyer of weapons.

Washington wants the world’s largest exporter of crude to open the floodgates to bring down soaring gasoline prices, which threaten Democratic chances in November mid-term elections.

But Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, tamped down expectations of immediate progress while speaking with reporters on the flight to Jeddah.

Biden said his trip “Is about once again positioning America in this region for the future. We are not going to leave a vacuum in the Middle East for Russia or China to fill.”

At the summit, Biden was set to hear a chorus of concern about the region’s stability and security, as well as concerns about food security, climate change and the continued ‘threat of terrorism.’

Biden was under pressure to discuss the cases of Khashoggi as well as Saudis detained under what critics of Prince Mohammed described as a far-reaching crackdown on dissent.

Late Friday, Biden said he raised Khashoggi’s killing “at the top of the meeting” with Prince Mohammed and “made it clear if anything occurs like that again they will get that response and much more.”

While in the ‘Israeli’-occupied territories, Biden admitted in comments to reporters that his motives for visiting Saudi Arabia were “broader” than human rights.

“My views on Khashoggi have been absolutely, positively clear, and I have never been quiet about talking about human rights.”

US military-entertainment complex cleaning up Saudi regime reputation

17 Jul 2022

Source: Politico

By Al Mayadeen English 

Saudi firms are working alongside US corporations, in tandem with Washington, to wash the slate clean.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, greets President Joe Biden, with a fist bump after his arrival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday July 15, 2022. (Saudi Press Agency)

The military-entertainment complex is at work, and this time with its most crucial client, Saudi Arabia. The US government and its giant corporation lackeys are working round the clock, along with Riyadh, to clean a reputation tarnished with pariah statuses and human rights abuses to pave the way for future cooperation and normalization – in other words, getting those strategic interests

Partnerships between celebrities and governments are becoming increasingly popular, and it is not very uncommon for private firms to take on projects to link influencers with foreign governments for some good PR. 

Recent times have seen US firms welcome a top-dollar client – Saudi Arabia – that has been attempting to launder a good reputation as it paves the way for normalization with what NATO dubs the “only democracy in the Middle East.” Within this framework and logic, “Israel” and Saudi Arabia both work to whitewash a dirty slate of endless crimes, and they’ll need to keep doing so to work together at this stage. 

“[Mohammed bin Salman] tried to launder his reputation, whitewash it through bringing in celebrities to hold concerts, to sportswash it by buying soccer clubs, and anyway he can sort of try to rehabilitate his reputation and his image,” said Seth Binder, director of advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy. “I think to my mind, President Biden’s trip is that sort of final complete rehabilitation.”

An article published in Politico exposed details of a proposal from the largest PR firm in the world, Edelman, which devised a strategy to fix Saudi Arabia’s bloody reputation – the proposal is an exhibition of how far Riyadh is willing to go to crumble its pariah status today.

The campaign, which Edelman proposed to the US Department of Justice, is a five-year-long campaign named “Search Beyond”, which will include productions with international celebrities from within the Kingdom. A former Edelman employee divulged that the celebrities were chosen strategically, and not in a random fashion. 

So the idea comes, according to the article, as follows: What if Riyadh hosted Trevor Noah’s “The Daily Show” from multiple locations in the country for an entire week, knowing that Noah is a vocal supporter of Palestinian rights among other humanitarian issues? Or, what if Priyanka Chopra, a staunch supporter of women’s rights and feminist activism, hops on board the campaign? Other names included famous DJs Steve Aoki and David Guetta, in addition to Netflix’s “Never Have I Ever” actress Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and social media influencer Olivia Culpo. Even a partnership with world-class music festivals like Coachella is on the table. 

The cash set to be paid to celebrities, in many instances, is even far more than what they get from acting in a film. The spokespeople for Edelman themselves are being paid about $787,000 over a year of serving their Saudi clients.

This wouldn’t be the first project that Edelman is implementing with or in Saudi Arabia. The PR giant also did PR for NEOM Company – the company developing a utopian city on the Saudi coast, and it has also promoted LinkedIn in Saudi Arabia in a way that markets it as a “platform that amplified the voices of Saudi career women.”

However, “Search Beyond” is one of the most profit-bearing projects among most partnerships at home, according to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings. Edelman broke down the costs of the project into 4 categories: research, planning, and strategy; media relations and strategic partnerships; social media plan development and outreach; and client management and reporting.

Edelman also promised to “monitor online conversations and media coverage to identify ‘friends’ and detractors,” “commence a relationship-building programme of US-based media contacts,” and host “monthly client meetings.”

Ben Freeman, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said using pop culture for their “reputational laundering campaign” is something Riyadh has been trying to do for years, whether it is through sportswashing or through Hollywood connections. 

“I think that this lobbying campaign … is a big part of the reason why Biden was able to do this trip, why this was at all possible. It’s because of places like Edelman and the other folks working for the Saudis.”

Edelman filed paperwork earlier this month with the Department of Justice to conduct public relations for an advertising company based in Saudi Arabia, with the contract costing $208,000. The Saudi company works closely with the Saudi Data Artificial Intelligence Agency.

With all these ideas up in the air and on the table, nevertheless, an MTV Entertainment spokesperson said that neither MTV nor the Daily Show were involved in “Search Beyond” and declined to comment on whether they will be willing to work with Saudi Arabia in the future. 

Hiring PR firms won’t be the first and last attempt, especially when reports arose that yesterday at the Jeddah Summit, questions pertaining to Riyadh’s pariah status and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi were censored in the media

بايدن في جولته الشرق أوسطية.. النفط مقابل حقوق الإنسان

تموز 16 2022

المصدر: الميادين نت

فاطمة فتوني 

استعراض ود بين “تل أبيب” والرياض. حقوق أفراد وشعوب في مهبّ المصالح الدولية، كيف سارت زيارة الرئيس الأميركي بايدن للمنطقة معاكسةً لاتجاه الخطاب الأميركي المعلَن بشأن حقوق الإنسان والحريات ؟

“المملكة العربية السعودية منبوذة، وستدفع ثمن مقتل الصحافي السعودي، جمال خاشقجي”. ( المتحدثة باسم البيت الأبيض كارين جان بيير ، بتاريخ 2 حزيران/يونيو 2022).

لا يزال صدى تصريح الرئيس الأميركي جو بايدن، حاضراً، عندما تعهَّد أن يجعل السعودية “منبوذة”، ربطاً بجريمة  قتل الصحافي جمال خاشقجي، عندما كان على عتبة دخول البيت الأبيض.

تصل المواجهة بين الأطلسي وروسيا إلى حدّ لم يعد بايدن يرى في السعودية إلّا النفط. أمّا جمال خاشقجي، فليس إلّا ملفّاً أُغلِق وطُوِي. وأكثر التصريحات انتقاداً، بحقّ من أثبتت الـcia تورّطه في قتل الصّحافيّ السعودي، طبعتها المجاملة والمناورات الكلامية.

من “تل أبيب” إلى الرياض لم يرَ بايدن أيَّ انتهاكاتٍ لأيّ حقوقٍ، وتجاهلَ كل القضايا التي كانت في سلَّم أولوياته، عندما فاز بالرئاسة. ومن منبوذة أميركياً، بأدلة إدانة جنائية، الى شريكة تجلس إلى الطاولة. هكذا نسف الرئيس الاميركي كل تعهداته أمام حاجته إلى النفط السعودي، وسعيه لحماية “إسرائيل” وأمنها.

عندما قام الرئيس السابق دونالد ترامب بأول زيارة رئاسية له للسعودية، تمّ الترحيب به شخصياً من جانب الملك سلمان. أمّا بايدن فكان في استقباله، في مدرج المطار، حاكم مكة والسفيرة السعودية لدى الولايات المتحدة. 

دخل بايدن القصر الملكي يتقدّمه ابن سلمان من دون حديث أو كلام، كما كانت العادة، عند استقبال أي رئيس أو مسؤول عربي أو أجنبي. مشهد عكس برودة العلاقات، التي اضطر الأميركي إلى أن يضعها على نار أزمات المنطقة من جديد. لغة الجسد قد تكون أبلغ من أي كلام. البداية كانت بمصافحة “مترددة”، حفظاً لماء الوجه، بضرب قبضتَي اليدين، بذريعة فيروس “كورونا”، علماً بأن بايدن صافح قادة “إسرائيل”، وعانق مَن قابله بقبضة اليد.

هذا اللقاء كان بايدن قال إنّه لن يحدث. لكن، من الواضح أنه لا بد منه للولايات المتحدة مع مملكة غنية بالنفط، في لحظة تغيّرات جيوسياسية، لم تحقّق من خلالها حتى الآن أي إنجاز في المواجهة مع روسيا في أوكرانيا.

يُشار إلى أنّه، حين سُئل بايدن بشأن خاشقجي، كان جوابه أن ولي العهد السعودي، محمد بن سلمان، وعد بأنه “إذا حدث أي شيء كهذا مرة أخرى، فسيكون هناك رد، وربما أكثر من ذلك كثيراً”؛ أي أن القضية أُقفلت، مع اعتراف ضمني بمسؤولية ابن سلمان عنها.

وتحدّث الرئيس الأميركي في زيارته عن إنجازات في السعودية. لكن، تبقى الملفات الكبرى متعثّرة، ولاسيما مع تأكيد حكومة صنعاء رفضَها سلاماً مُجْتَزَأً. وعلى الصعيد الاقتصادي، يشير موقع “بوليتيكو” إلى أنّ السعودية تواجه صعوبات في تحقيق أهداف إنتاج النفط.

وبين الاستقبال والإنجازات المزعومة، من جهة، وادعاء دفاع الولايات المتحدة عن حقوق الإنسان، من جهة أخرى، يبرز ملف جمال خاشقجي الذي تنكَّر بايدن لكل التعهدات التي رفعها خلال حملته الانتخابية، والقاضية بمحاسبة قتلته، كما تبرز أيضاً “تبرئة” القضاء الأميركي لـ”إسرائيل من جريمة اغتيال الصحافية الشهيدة، شيرين أبو عاقلة. وهذا الأمر يكشف زيف ازدواجية معايير حقوق الإنسان لدى الولايات المتحدة.

تبدو المحاولات الأميركية لإخفاء المبرِّر الحقيقي للزيارة متعثرة للغاية، إذ صرّح بايدن، في مؤتمر صحافي، عقده عقب لقائه قادة دول “الناتو” في قمة مدريد، بأنّ الغرض من زيارته السعودية “ليس الضغط عليها من أجل زيادة إنتاج النفط“. لكنّه أوضح، لدى سؤاله عما إذا كان سيطلب من القادة السعوديين زيادة إنتاج النفط، أنّه “يتعيّن على جميع دول الخليج زيادة إنتاج النفط، بصورة عامة، وليس السعودية على وجه الخصوص”، مشيراً إلى أنّه “يأمل أن تستنتج الدول أنّ ذلك في مصلحتها”.

ونقلت وسائل إعلام إسرائيلية، عن مصادر أميركية، قالت إنها “موثوقة”، أنّ ما يجري الحديث عنه مع زيارة الرئيس الأميركي، جو بايدن، للشرق الأوسط، “لا يتعلق بناتو شرق أوسطي، أو بحلف إسرائيلي عربي”، بل إنّ ما يهم بايدن هو موضوع النفط، و”حاجته إلى السعودية في هذا الأمر”.

ووفقاً لما ورد، فإنّ الغاية من تجاهل قضية خاشقجي، هي تعزيز إنتاج النفط وتقوية النفوذ في المنطقة خوفاً من الدور الروسي الصيني فيها، للحؤول دون نسجهما علاقات بحلفاء أميركا في الشرق الأوسط، وخصوصاً دول الخليج، التي شعرت بالخوف من تراجع اهتمام أميركا بالشرق الأوسط، بعد انسحابها من العراق وأفغانستان.

تسعى الولايات المتحدة الأميركية لاستعادة سيطرتها على موارد الطاقة في الشرق الأوسط، بعد أن أجبرتها الحرب الأوكرانية الروسية على البحث عن مصادر تمويل للطاقة لحلفائها الأوروبيين، الأمر الذي أعاد إلى النفط الخليجي وغاز البحر المتوسط أهميتيهما، بالإضافة إلى العمل على زيادة إنتاج النفط الخليجي مع خفض أسعاره، من أجل خلق استقرار في سوق الطاقة، حتى لا يتأثر الاقتصاد الأميركي، الذي يعاني حالة غير مسبوقة من التضخم المالي.

تداعيات داخلية أميركية

تعيد الولايات المتحدة الأميركية ترميم علاقتها بحلفائها، وخصوصاً السعودية، تحت شعار “المصالح الأميركية فوق المبادئ الإنسانية”. وتبرز تداعيات داخلية أميركية لمشهد زيارة بايدن للسعودية على موضوع التضخم وأسعار الطاقة، بسبب الرغبة الأميركية في زيادة إيرادات الطاقة للسوق العالمية، في ظل العقوبات على الطاقة الروسية. وبحسب المعلومات المتخصصة، فإنّ الطاقة، التي تستطيع السعودية إنتاجها وضخها، لن تكون قادرة على تعديل ميزان القوة، أو تغيير ميزان السوق.

وأثارت زيارة الرئيس الأميركي، جو بايدن، للسعودية، حالة من الانقسام في الولايات المتحدة، محورها ملفات حقوق الإنسان في المملكة، وفق تحليل لمجلة “فورين أفيرز”. وبعد الزيارة، ظهرت في الداخل الأميركي “انتقادات وسخرية” لأداء بايدن خلال الزيارة. ووفقاً للمعطيات، فإن ترجمة هذه الزيارة، عبر تحسين الوضع الاقتصادي داخل أميركا، مسألة “مشكوك فيها”.

ويرى مؤيدو زيارة بايدن للسعودية أن مصلحة الولايات المتحدة وميزان القوى في الشرق الأوسط يتطلبان علاقات أميركية سعودية استراتيجية، بعيداً عن حقوق الإنسان. والأولوية للمصالح الأميركية في الشرق الأوسط، والتي تتطلب “علاقة استراتيجية بالسعوديين”، في حين يصر المعارضون، وبينهم ديمقراطيون وأيضاً جمهوريون، على ضرورة أن تحسن الرياض سجلها فيما يتعلق بحقوق الإنسان في البلاد.

وعلى الرغم من الاختلاف الداخلي، فإن بايدن حاول تسويق الزيارة على أنها زيارة المصالح، وليست تنازلاً عن تعهداته، أو تفريطاً بحقوق الإنسان، حين سأله أحد الصحافيين في جدة عن رسالته لخطيبة خاشقجي، قال: “لم أحضر إلى هنا كي أقابل ولي العهد. جئت لأقابل مجلس التعاون الخليجي”. وعلى الرغم من ذلك، فإن مسؤولين أميركيين قالوا إنه “ليس من المتوقع صدور أي إعلان رئيس بشأن زيادة إمدادات النفط خلال هذه الزيارة”.

بايدن، القادم من فلسطين المحتلة، كان كتب في افتتاحية “واشنطن بوست” أن الحريات الأساسية هي دائماً في أجندته، خلال سفراته الخارجية، كما ستكون خلال هذه الجولة وفي “إسرائيل” والضفة الغربية. وفي كلامه هذا تبرئة للإسرائيليين عن كل انتهاكات حقوق الفلسطينيين وجرائم القتل والأسر والتمييز العنصري وسرقة الأراضي والاستيطان.

وبحسب مصادر فلسطينية، فإن بايدن لم ينجز أي شيء من زيارته لبيت لحم، ولم يحقق أي أهداف له، وخصوصاً أن الرفض الشعبي الفلسطيني الداخلي لزيارته كان واضحاً من خلال التظاهرات التي نددت بمجيئه.

الصحافيون، خلال مؤتمر بايدن الصحافي في بيت لحم، ارتدوا قمصاناً عليها صورة الشهيدة شيرين أبو عاقلة، بحيث إن سلوك القضاء الأميركي تجاه الجريمة أضاف رصيداً آخر لمسار التجاهل للقضايا الحقوقية الكبرى.

هكذا باتت حقوق الإنسان ثمناً لملء النقص في النفط وتعزيز النفوذ ومحاولة تسجيل النقاط في الصراعات الدولية، من أجل المصلحة الكبرى للولايات المتحدة، ومن أجل حسابات خاصة ببايدن في الداخل الأميركي.

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Embarrassed Biden: I Brought Khashoggi Murder With MBS

June 16, 2022 

By Staff, Agencies 

US President Joe Biden claimed that he confronted Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS] over the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, insisting the royal was personally responsible for the killing.

Speaking to reporters following a sit-down with bin Salman on Friday, Biden said he raised the issue “at the top of the meeting” and made his stance “crystal clear.”

“I said very straightforwardly: For an American president to be silent on an issue of human rights, is this consistent with – inconsistent with who we are and who I am? I’ll always stand up for our values,” he said. 

While, according to Biden, the prince denied any direct part in Khashoggi’s murder – which took place in a Saudi diplomatic building in Turkey in October 2018 – the US president went on to say he “indicated that [bin Salman] probably was” involved after all.

Asked about recent comments from Khashoggi’s widow, who said “the blood of MBS’s next victim is on [Biden’s] hands,” he simply replied: “I’m sorry she feels that way,” going on to say he does not regret dubbing the prince a “pariah” during the 2020 presidential race.

“Do I regret it? I don’t regret anything that I said. What happened to Khashoggi was outrageous,” he added.

The president has come under fire for continuing the close US-Saudi relationship despite repeated claims of rights abuses within the Gulf monarchy, chief among them Khashoggi’s assassination, which the CIA concluded was ordered by Mohammed bin Salman himself. 

Upon his arrival at Al Salman Palace, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Friday, Biden was photographed giving a friendly fist-bump to the prince, a gesture harshly condemned by Khashoggi’s former fiancée. 

“Hey POTUS, is this the accountability you promised for my murder?” she wrote, apparently speaking from the perspective of her late spouse, while also sharing a photo of the fist-bump.

However, Biden insisted the purpose of his trip to Saudi Arabia was not to see with the prince, but rather “to meet with the [Gulf Cooperation Council] and nine nations to deal with the security… and the needs of the free world.”

He made a similar argument in a recent Washington Post op-ed ahead of his travels, where he outlined a variety of reasons to visit the kingdom, including regional security, rising gas prices, Russia’s “aggression” in Ukraine and competition with China.

Andrei Martyanov: SAS and BRICS

July 14, 2022

Please visit Andrei’s website: https://smoothiex12.blogspot.com/
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Biden in Jeddah: mending fences, not building bridges

President Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia will likely end in face saving gestures, but no major geopolitical concessions

July 12 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Kristian Alexander and Giorgio Cafiero

Before 2019, never had a US president referred to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a ‘pariah’ on his campaign trail. Joe Biden’s Saudi-bashing as a presidential candidate, plus a host of other delicate issues, have fueled significant friction between the White House and Riyadh.

Today, relations between the US and Saudi Arabia are probably at their worst since the events of September 11, 2001, stymied by a major trust deficit in the relationship between Biden’s White House and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS).

By the same token, the Biden administration views Saudi Arabia as a critical partner in the Persian Gulf and continues to sign massive arms deals with the kingdom.

For all the rhetoric on Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose brutal murder MbS is said to have sanctioned, team Biden never imposed state-level sanctions against Saudi Arabia, nor on the crown prince himself.

Meanwhile, the administration praises the role of Riyadh in the Arab world’s trend toward normalization with Israel.

Within this context, Biden’s first presidential trip to West Asia – in which he will go to Israel, the occupied West Bank, and Saudi Arabia this week – will be important to White House efforts to mend fences with Riyadh and salvage this decades-old partnership.

In a US mid-term election year that will likely lead to significant gains for his Republican opposition, Biden seeks to score major foreign policy points in Jeddah that can be used for domestic consumption back in Washington this summer.

Incentivizing Biden to convince the Saudis to increase their oil production are the millions of US motorists struggling with high gas prices and the many average American voters grappling with generational high inflation.

Energy prices are therefore extremely important to Biden’s controversial trip to the kingdom. Yet, this month’s summit in Saudi Arabia is unlikely to give Americans much relief at the gas pump between now and the elections in November.

Shifting the narrative from oil to peace

Determined to ensure that the US public does not tie this tour’s success specifically to a Saudi oil production hike – which could easily result in the Biden administration’s humiliation – the White House message is that this visit to Jeddah largely concerns peace in the region.

As Biden wrote in the Washington Post, avoiding a future in which the region is “coming apart through conflict” is of “paramount importance” to the White House, and he will “pursue diplomacy intensely – including through face-to-face meetings – to achieve our goals.”

According to Biden, if the region comes together through “diplomacy and cooperation” there is a lower chance of “violent extremism” threatening US national security or “new wars that could place new burdens on US military forces and their families.”

This trip comes at a time in which there is a fragile truce in Yemen, where the Saudis and Emiratis have waged a devastating seven-year war. Although the conflict remains unresolved, the drastic reduction in violence and increased humanitarian assistance to the war-torn country have given millions of Yemenis desperately needed relief.

The truce in Yemen has been possible in part because of Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member support, which makes it easier for Biden to justify his visit to Jeddah. After all, it was the Khashoggi affair and the conflict in Yemen that ‘Biden-the-candidate’ cited as reasons for his ‘pariah’ treatment of Riyadh.

Thus, moving toward a settlement to this conflict, in which the last two US presidents were heavily involved in escalating, helps Biden save face as he makes this trip. If the president leaves the kingdom with some guarantees from the Saudis about their commitment to future truce extensions, that could be interpreted as a win for Biden.

“The US administration is beginning to realize that President Biden can’t just ignore Saudi Arabia and that it’s in the best interest of the two countries to start working together, not just to reduce oil prices and pressure on US consumers, but also to further the stability of the Middle East and contain [the Iranian] threat whether in Lebanon or Yemen,” Najah Al-Otaibi, an associate fellow at the Riyadh-based King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, said in an interview with The Cradle.

Expanding on her point, Al-Otaibi said that “Saudi Arabia has recently agreed to extend the United Nations-mediated ceasefire with Yemen, and Prince Mohammed [bin Salman] played a critical role in this move, according to Biden’s officials who thought it is a step forward to solving the conflict.”

Last month, Biden clarified that, for him, bolstering Israel’s security was a major motivation for the trip to Saudi Arabia. Despite some speculation among pundits that Saudi Arabia will soon join the Abraham Accords, this is highly doubtful, especially with King Salman still on the throne. However, with MbS “the reformer” as future king, normalization between “the Land of the Two Holy Mosques” and Israel is all the more likely.

Insecurity and an ‘Arab NATO’

Even if Riyadh remains outside the Abraham Accords, there is much that Saudi Arabia can do to make it easier for other Arab-Muslim countries to normalize with Tel Aviv, and for the kingdom’s allies, already signatories to the Abraham Accords, to build on their overt relations with the Israelis.

While in Jeddah, Biden will likely push the Saudis to take some more baby steps toward a de facto normalization with Israel, even if it remains unofficial. One way for the kingdom to do so would be by granting permission for Israeli planes to transit Saudi airspace on their way to the UAE, Bahrain, and other countries.

Other avenues could include bolstering involvement by Israeli technology firms in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, Saudi–Israeli military cooperation, and more visits by high-ranking Israeli officials to the kingdom that could build on former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s November 2020 visit to Neom.

Shoring up US–Arab partnerships in preparation for the increasingly likely scenario that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks with Iran will collapse in acrimony is a high priority for Biden.

Against the backdrop of Iran’s nuclear advancements as negotiations further stall, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states attending the GCC+3 summit are preparing for a post-JCPOA future in which friction between the US and Israel, on one side, and the Islamic Republic, on the other, appears set to intensify in the coming weeks and months.

“I think Iran, not oil, is the main issue as Iran moves closer and closer to having all the parts it needs to put together a nuclear bomb,” David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow at the Wilson Center, told The Cradle. “Only a revival of the Iranian nuclear deal can stop that trend, and nobody is optimistic about that happening now.”

Although Riyadh and Tehran have been in direct talks via Baghdad since April 2021, the Saudi leadership wants assurances from team Biden that Washington remains committed to the kingdom’s security regardless of the fate of the 2015 nuclear accord, and that the US will work with its Arab allies to counter Iran in regional hotspots, such as Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Yet, mindful of the little trust Saudi officials have in the Biden administration, it is difficult to imagine the US president gaining enough confidence from Riyadh during this upcoming trip vis-à-vis Iran-related issues. As Ottaway told The Cradle:

“I suspect [Biden] will declare another US commitment to defending the kingdom from its foreign enemies, but after Trump’s failure to take any action after Iranian attacks on Saudi oil facilities in 2019, he needs to say or do something to back up [what are] just words.”

In recent weeks, there has been much discussion about an Arab NATO that includes Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other US-friendly Arab states. Biden will seek to advance this initiative as the west and its allies and partners in West Asia remain worried about Iran’s regional foreign policy agenda.

“[Biden] wishes to reaffirm the historical strength and enduring reciprocity of the alliance, but also to press Riyadh on cooperating more on the energy side – particularly as the US moves as well to create a region-wide defense platform, the so-called Middle East NATO,” Sean Yom, an associate professor at Temple University, pointed out in an interview with The Cradle.

“There is, however, one sticking point that will probably cause a difference: the Saudis continue to desire a strong US presence in the Gulf, one that can police Iran and intervene in a potential militarized conflict, whereas Biden clearly is continuing his predecessors’ anti-interventionist stance,” added Yom.

Nonetheless, many experts have doubts about an Arab NATO ever manifesting into a real alliance, and expect the initiative to remain merely conceptual. This assessment accounts for the opposition of some Arab states to an open military coordination with Israel, as some GCC states, like the Sultanate of Oman, do not want to join an alliance aimed at weakening or intimidating Tehran.

There are also logistical hurdles which would make it difficult for these state militaries to integrate in a NATO-like manner.

“Biden’s plan for a US-backed ‘Arab NATO’ of GCC states plus Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan seems as unlikely to succeed as Trump’s Middle East Strategic Alliance, which never got off the ground,” Ottaway says.

Virtue-signalling human rights

Although Biden’s administration has determined that the moral costs of this presidential trip do not outweigh the perceived benefits, the Khashoggi affair remains a delicate issue – though significantly less so now than in the immediate aftermath of the grisly murder in October 2018.

MbS wants the US government to drop the Khashoggi issue, but elements within Biden’s party maintain that any interaction between him and the crown prince would be “profoundly disturbing.” To placate more progressive politicians, high-profile media pundits, and human rights activists who criticize Biden for “legitimizing” MbS on this trip, the president will seek some human rights concessions, like those which his administration secured at the start of his presidency.

If Biden is successful on this front, he could return to the US claiming that his visit to the kingdom helped advance, rather than hinder, the cause of human rights. Such an achievement would help Biden save face and tell his base that he did not abandon certain principles or so-called ‘American values’ by meeting MbS in the Saudi kingdom.

“His campaign trail rhetoric, like all political campaign rhetoric, was never going to bear much resemblance to executive policy and official diplomacy,” cautioned Yom. “But I do think Biden will exit the meetings by claiming that he squarely put human rights concerns, and potentially even democratic awareness, onto the agenda for Riyadh.”

Yet, whether the Saudi leadership feels it is under sufficient pressure to release any political prisoners, or provide liberties to some recently released Saudis who are banned from traveling, remains to be seen.

From the perspective of the Saudi government, the US and other western governments are inappropriately virtue signaling when raising human rights concerns in the kingdom. The view from Riyadh is that these issues are internal issues that do not concern Washington or European capitals.

Saudi and other Arab officials will often point to US sins in Iraq or police brutality against African-Americans to highlight elements of hypocrisy on the part of US politicians lecturing the Saudi government on the human rights front.

MbS reportedly “shouting” at US national security adviser Jake Sullivan after the high-ranking official brought up the Khashoggi case underscores the effect of these discussions on the leaders of Saudi Arabia.

The grander geopolitical picture 

Biden will visit Saudi Arabia amid a period of increasing east–west bifurcation and intensifying great power competition. Although neither China nor Russia is on the verge of replacing the US as security guarantor of Saudi Arabia or any GCC states, US influence in the Gulf has declined with Beijing and Moscow gaining greater clout at Washington’s expense.

Biden’s trip to Jeddah aims to reassert US influence in the Persian Gulf and attempt to prevent Riyadh and other Arab capitals from moving closer to the Chinese and Russians. An objective of Biden’s is to bring GCC states back into the geopolitical orbit of the west, while slowing down the growth of their partnerships with Beijing and Moscow.

“There were undeniable hiccups in the relationship last year, relating to halting support to the Yemen war, aggressive rhetoric against MbS, and more scrutiny on arms sales,” Yom explained.

“Fundamentally, none of these factors perturbed the great structural core of the US–Saudi alliance, built upon mutual perceptions of energy security, sovereign protections, and regional hegemony. But those hiccups were enough to make the decision-making circles in Riyadh a bit uncomfortable, enough at least to entertain Russian and Chinese overtures for military and energy cooperation.”

The White House and the entire US foreign policy establishment have grave concerns about Sino–Saudi ballistic missile cooperation and the extent to which the Chinese and Emiratis are making their defense and security relations more robust.

It is safe to say that while in Jeddah, team Biden will make it clear that the US will withhold future military assistance if GCC states move militarily closer to China. The extent to which such pressure has any impact on Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s relationships with Beijing remains an open question.

Nonetheless, team Biden must understand that this visit will occur against the backdrop of serious tensions between the US and Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has grown frustrated with many aspects of Washington’s agenda in the Biden era.

The Saudi government’s view is that Biden is an ’Obama 2.0’ – a perspective that is not unreasonable when mindful of how many Obama administration veterans, including Biden himself, are serving in the White House.

By moving closer to China and Russia, the Saudis are sending a message, loud and clear, to Washington that Riyadh has other options on the international stage as the world moves towards multipolarity with more Arab statesmen perceiving the US as a power that is withdrawing from West Asia.

Riyadh can exaggerate the extent to which the kingdom has grown closer to Beijing and Moscow to gain leverage over the US and secure more concessions from Washington. That is likely to continue, and Biden would be making a mistake in placating the Saudis in every instance to merely try to stop Riyadh from tilting closer to China and Russia.

Simultaneously, Saudi Arabia is showing itself to be increasingly confident and Biden’s visit to the kingdom will add to Riyadh’s sense of being emboldened, giving the Saudi leadership more reason to pursue its own interests in ways that sometimes align more closely with Beijing and Moscow’s foreign policy objectives than those of western powers.

Despite these geopolitical tensions, the Biden administration and Al-Saud rulers both value Washington and Riyadh’s decades-old partnership, and neither side wants to abandon it. Much anger and a significant trust deficit, however, have built up between these two countries.

Biden will not be leaving Saudi Arabia later this month with all these issues resolved. But the dialogue in Jeddah has the potential to begin a process of mending fences.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Biden’s Middle East Trip: No Starvation for Oil

July 13, 2022

Sana’a, Yemen. (Photo: Rod Waddington via Flickr, Supplied)

By Kathy Kelly

President Joe Biden’s foreign policy advisors are applauding themselves for devising a “sensitive” itinerary as he plans to embark on a trip to the Middle East on July 13.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Biden defended his controversial planned meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (known as MBS), saying it is meant not only to bolster US interests but also to bring peace to the region.

It seems that his trip will not include Yemen, though if this were truly a “sensitive” visit, he would be stopping at one of Yemen’s many beleaguered refugee camps. There he could listen to people displaced by war, some of whom are shell-shocked from years of bombardment. He could hear the stories of bereaved parents and orphaned children and then express true remorse for the complicity of the United States in the brutal aerial attacks and starvation blockade imposed on Yemen for the past eight years.

From the vantage point of a Yemeni refugee camp, Biden could insist that no country, including his own, has a right to invade another land and attempt to bomb its people into submission. He could uphold the value of the newly extended truce between the region’s warring parties, allowing Yemenis a breather from the tortuous years of war, and then urge ceasefires and settlements to resolve all militarized disputes, including Russia’s war in Ukraine. He could beg for a new way forward, seeking political will, universally, for disarmament and a peaceful, multipolar world.

More than 150,000 people have been killed in the war in Yemen, 14,500 of whom were civilians. But the death toll from militarily imposed poverty has been immeasurably higher. The war has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, creating an unprecedented level of hunger in Yemen, where millions of people face severe hardship.

Some 17.4 million Yemenis are food insecure; by December 2022, the projected number of hungry people will likely rise to nineteen million. The rate of child malnutrition is one of the highest in the world, and nutrition continues to deteriorate.

I grew to understand the slogan “No Blood for Oil” while living in Iraq during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm war, the 1998 Desert Fox war, and the 2003 Shock and Awe war. To control the pricing and the flow of oil, the United States and its allies slaughtered and maimed thousands of Iraqi people. Visits to Iraqi pediatric wards from 1996 to 2003 taught me a tragic expansion of that slogan. We must certainly insist: “No Starvation for Oil.”

During twenty-seven trips to Iraq, all in defiance of the US economic sanctions against Iraq, I was part of delegations delivering medicines directly to Iraqi hospitals in cities throughout the country. We witnessed the ghastly crime of punishing children to death for the sake of an utterly misguided U.S. foreign policy. The agony endured by Iraqi families who watched their children starve has now become the nightmare experience of Yemeni families.

It’s unlikely that a US President or any leader of a US-allied country will ever visit a Yemeni refugee camp, but we who live in these countries can take refuge in the hard work of becoming independent of fossil fuels, shedding the pretenses that we have a right to consume other people’s precious and irreplaceable resources at cut-rate prices and that war against children is an acceptable price to pay so that we can maintain this right.

We must urgently simplify our over-consumptive lifestyles, share resources radically, prefer service to dominance, and insist on zero tolerance for starvation.

This article first appeared in The Progressive Magazine.

Netanyahu highly values MBS role in signing ‘Abraham Accords’

11 Jul 2022

Source: Israeli media

By Al Mayadeen English 

Former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu expresses openly for the first time MBS’ clear contribution to the signing of several normalization agreements with “Israel”.

Former Israeli occupation PM Benjamin Netanyahu (Archive)

Israeli media relayed the appreciation of the leader of the Israeli opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu, to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, for his contribution to the completion of the four so-called “Abraham Accords”.

Netanyahu said that in case he assumes leadership once again, then he intends to achieve full “peace agreements” with Saudi Arabia, as well as with other Arab states.

The former Israeli Prime Minister’s statement comes ahead of an upcoming visit by US President Joe Biden to the Middle East, during which he will meet with Palestinian and Israeli occupation officials.

According to Israeli media, Biden plans to meet with Netanyahu during his upcoming visit to “Israel”.

This is the first time in which an Israeli official openly highlights bin Salman’s clear contribution to the signing of the normalization agreements with the Israeli occupation.

The UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan were part of the so-called “Abraham Accords” brokered by former US President Donald Trump’s administration in 2020 to normalize relations with “Israel”.

Mossad plane lands in Riyadh ahead of Biden’s visit

On Monday, the political affairs commentator for the Israeli Makan channel, Shimon Aran, revealed that a private Israeli plane “that the Israeli Mossad used in the past landed this afternoon in Riyadh.”  

The Israeli commentator confirmed, through his account on Twitter, that the plane landed this afternoon in Riyadh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, apparently in preparation for US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit.

Netanyahu visited Saudi Arabia

It is noteworthy that “Israel” Hayom newspaper had previously revealed that Israeli envoys visited Riyadh several times throughout a period of time that extends for over a decade now. However, these visits have always been kept secret.

There has been one exception to the secret visits and that is Netanyahu’s visit in November of 2020 to the Red Sea city of Neom, which was widely yet carefully publicized, where he met with bin Salman.

Previously, Israeli Security Minister Benny Gantz had visited Saudi Arabia as chief of staff, while Aluf Meir Dagan, Tamir Pardo, and Yossi Cohen arrived as heads of Mossad and Ben Shabbat as head of the “National Security Council.” The purpose of the visit was to develop security coordination, especially against Iran.

Netanyahu, as did most Israeli officials, had flown to Saudi Arabia in a private plane especially leased for this occasion. At the time, it was business contacts that have matured into political, military, and security deals.

 A “road map for normalization”

In the same context, four informed US sources told Axios that the White House has been working on a “road map for normalization” between Saudi Arabia and the Israeli occupation ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to West Asia in July.

Earlier this year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said, “We do not view Israel as an enemy, but rather as a potential ally in the many interests that we can pursue together, but some issues must be resolved before we can reach that.”

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Biden Says His Visit Is Meant to Integrate The ‘Israeli’ Entity In the Region

July 1 2022

By Staff, Agencies

The goal behind US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the Middle East is to further integrate the Zionist occupation regime into the region.

“I am, as I said, going to ‘Israel’ to meet with ‘Israeli’ leaders to affirm the unbreakable bond ‘Israel’ and the United States have,” Biden said when asked about the trip during a news conference in Madrid.

“And part of the purpose is — the trip to the Middle East — is to deepen ‘Israel’s’ integration in the region, which I think we’re going to be able to do and which is good — good for ‘Israeli’ security,” he added.

That goal of integration is “why ‘Israel’ leaders have come out so strongly for my going to Saudi,” Biden stated.

The Zionist occupation leaders encouraged Biden to visit Saudi Arabia, despite the president’s past call for it to be a “pariah” because of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Biden is set to visit the ‘Israeli’-occupied Palestinian territories on July 13-14, and continue from there to Jeddah for a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council the following day.

‘Israel’ and the Gulf States “have real concerns about what’s going on in Iran and other places in terms of their security,” he went on to claim.

Biden pushed back against an assertion that the trip was about asking Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, in light of the rising price of gas in the US.

He said that he does not have a planned meeting specifically with the Saudi king or crown prince, but that they will be part of the larger GCC meeting. Biden said he plans to ask all Gulf States to increase oil production, not just the Saudis.

The Little Prince and the Saudi Blower

مشروع بايدن: «ناتو إسرائيليّ» بأموال العرب بلا قنبلة إيرانيّة!

 الثلاثاء 28 حزيران 2022

الأحلاف، السياسية منها والعسكرية، كانت بين أبرز مرتكزات الهيمنة الأميركية على العالم (أ ف ب)
 محمد صادق الحسيني

كلّ شيء يتحرك بسرعة وفجأة من أجل تنفيذ تعليمات السيد الأميركي المختنق في الشرنقة الأوكرانية!

تتزاحم الزيارات والمصالحات بين عواصم المتخاصمين، وتعود طاولة المفاوضات النووية الى الانتعاش بشكل سريع، وتنقل بحركة أوروبية انقلابية من فيينا لتصبح على مقربة من عرش ابن سلمان المهدّد بالباليستي اليمني ويُستدعى «الحاجب «

العراقي ليقوم بدور التهدئة بين الرياض وطهران.

وتتحرك «المقاصة» المالية القطرية لتحلل ما هو محرّم على بايدن داخلياً في الوقت الراهن بخصوص إطلاق سراح الأموال الإيرانية المجمّدة.

وقد يتوّج ذلك في مسقط لتحضر بريطانيا كشريك فاعل!

إنها حركة «دمج» قرار الدولة الأميركية العميقة المهزومة عالمياً والمنسحبة من منطقتنا بحالة الضعف والهزال الصهيوني وعجزه عن حماية أمنه بنفسه لينبلج عملياً الإعلان عن «مشروع بايدن الإسرائيلي الجديد» من إحدى مدن الملح في منتصف تموز المقبل.

ودائماً على قاعدة «الضرورات تبيح المحظورات» سيبرّر الأميركي كلّ هذا للرأي العام لديه، مع تقديم ضمانات لأيتام ترامب من تل أبيب الى الرياض بأن لا قنبلة نووية ايرانية في الأفق.

ولما كان منسحباً من المنطقة كما فعل مع أفغانستان لذلك سيقول لهم جميعاً :

 تفضلوا قلعوا شوككم بأيديكم وأطلقوا نظام الدفاع الجوي المشترك، وشركاتنا المتعددة الجنسية ستؤمّن لكم كلّ ما تريدون لينتعش مجمع الصناعات الحربية الأميركي بأموال العرب…

واما عن آلية حصول ذلك، فقد أفاد مصدر دبلوماسي متابع للتحركات الجارية، بما يلي:

أولا ـ انّ الهدف الأساسي للرئيس الأميركي، من زيارته المقبلة للشرق الأوسط، هو إعادة ترتيب المنطقة من جديد، اقتصادياً وسياسياً وعسكرياً، وهو الأمر الذي يستدعي جعل إيران جزءاً لا يتجزأ من هذه الترتيبات الجديدة .

ثُانيا ـ يرى بايدن أنّ العودة الى الاتفاق النووي مع إيران هي الخطوة الأساسية لإنجاح مشروعه.

وعليه فإنّ هدف الرئيس الأميركي من وراء سعيه لدمج إيران، في مشروع إعادة صياغة الشرق الاوسط، يتمثل في ما يلي:

أ ـ تهدئة خواطر الدول الخليجية وطمأنتها على أمنها في المستقبل .

ب ـ ضبط إيقاع إيران في الشرق الأوسط مستقبلاً، من خلال تقديم إغراءات اقتصادية وتجارية لها، في إطار مشروع الدمج المُشار إليه أعلاه.

ثالثا ـ يرى بايدن انّ أمام إيران خيارين هما:

أ ـ أن تكون جزءاً من هذه الترتيبات المستقبلية.

ب ـ أو تواجه التحدي العسكري من الولايات المتحدة وحلفائها.

رابعا ـ يعتبر الرئيس الأميركي انّ معيار نجاح زيارته للشرق الأوسط هو نجاحه في العودة الى الاتفاق النووي مع إيران، والاتفاق معها على الترتيبات المستقبلية، لمنطقة الشرق الأوسط، من خلال تفاهمات ثنائية، بينها وبين واشنطن، خارج الاتفاق النووي.

خامسا ـ اما بخصوص الترتيبات العسكرية، التي يريد بايدن العمل على الشروع بتنفيذها، بين الدول العربية و»إسرائيل»، فإنّ مواقف الأطراف المعنية بهذا المشروع، هي مواقف متباعدة وليس من السهل حشدها لقبول التنفيذ.

سادسا ـ إذ انّ دولة الإمارات العربية مثلاً الدولة الأكثر اندفاعاً للمشاركة «الإسرائيلية» في التحالف العسكريّ المقترح من الولايات المتحدة لمواجهة إيران.

 بينما ترفض كلٌّ من مصر والكويت وعُمان الدخول في تحالف معادٍ لإيران وذلك لأنها لا ترى انّ إيران تشكل ايّ تهديد لأمن هذه الدول او لمصالحها العربية والاقليمية .

سابعا ـ وفي إطار موقفها، من إنشاء تحالف عسكري ضدّ إيران في الشرق الأوسط، فإنّ الإمارات و»إسرائيل» تنويان البدء بإقامة قواعد الإنذار «الإسرائيلي» المبكر في الإمارات بعد انتهاء زيارة بايدن مباشرة.

علماً انّ الجهات «الإسرائيلية» المعنية قد انتهت من نقل المعدات والتجهيزات العسكرية اللازمة لذلك الى الإمارات العربية المتحدة.

كما انّ الخبراء العسكريين «الإسرائيليين» والفنيين والمهندسين، التابعين لشركات الصناعات الجوية «الإسرائيلية»، موجودون أيضاً في الإمارات ويقومون بتنفيذ الترتيبات التحضيرية لإقامة تلك القواعد.

ويمكرون ويمكر الله، والله خير الماكرين.

بعدنا طيّبين قولوا الله…

Inside MBS’ Torture Cells: Untold Stories of Sexual Assault, Sheer Brutality and Murder

June 26, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

A study, carried out by Grant Liberty, a human rights charity Prisoners revealed that prisoners held for opposing the government in Saudi Arabia are being murdered, “sexually” assaulted and inflicted with “sheer” brutality.

The study identified 311 known prisoners of conscience in the era of Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud [MBS]–the kingdom’s leader who is the current crown prince, deputy prime minister, and minister of defense.

Researchers, who shared the report exclusively with The Independent, claimed that 53 prisoners have been tortured, while six were sexually assaulted, and 14 were pushed into undergoing hunger strikes.

The report looked at the plight of 23 women’s rights activists, 11 of whom were still behind bars, as well as also identifying 54 journalists.

Some 22 of the prisoners were arrested for crimes that they carried out when they were still children – five of them were put to death. An additional 13 were facing the death penalty, while four had died in custody.

Lucy Rae, of Grant Liberty, told The Independent: “Sadly the abuse of the prisoners of conscience continues as the world watches on, women are subjected to sustained and brutal violations with no basic human rights.

“We call upon the kingdom to back up its statement of being a ‘modern and progressive country’ with actions and release innocent individuals who were disappeared, were arrested and subjected to sham trials.

“Imprisoning, torturing and abusing an elderly mother such as Aida Al Ghamdi because her son has sought asylum surely is abhorrent and wrong in any nation.”

Abdullah al-Ghamdi, a political and human rights activist who is the son of Al-Ghamdi, said he escaped Saudi Arabia after being threatened for campaigning against authoritarian policies in the middle eastern country.

His mother, Aida, and two of his brothers were arrested after he left, he added.

“They were arrested not because they had committed a crime, but because of my activism,” Al-Ghamdi, whose situation is explored in the report, said.

Al-Ghamdi, who lives in the UK, added: “For over three years, my dear ageing 65-year-old mother and my younger brother have been held by the Saudi royal family. They have been held in solitary confinement and subjected to physical torture by cigarette burning, beating and lashing.

“It’s very hard to contact my family as this will put them in danger as the Saudi government told them not to contact me and give me any updates on my mother and brother’s case, so as of yet I am unsure of my mother’s charges.”

He said his mother was held for over a year in Dhahban Central Prison in Jeddha before being moved to Dammam Mabahith Prison. He wishes she was “safe, free and be able to rejoice with her loved ones”.

“There is not a time where she is not on my mind and it pains me that all my hard work hasn’t led to a definite answer for her freedom,” he added.

Al-Ghamdi said he had been “fighting to bring justice and freedom to the Saudi nation” since 2004 and secure a “democracy where there is an independent justice system”.

He said his mother had been tortured in front of her son Adil, who was also beaten and tortured.

“Due to her old age she has diabetes, high blood pressure and she suffers from regular abdomen pains; due to the unjust treatment and torture within prison her mental health has worsened,” he said of his mother.

“MBS and the Saudi royal family are holding her hostage demanding that I return to Saudi Arabia to face torture and imminent death so that people like me who stand for justice, equality and a fair society are silenced like those before me.”

He urged the “world, the UN and every single person with a voice” to speak out against “this outrageous behavior”.

Rae also cited the case of Loujain Al Hathloul, who was subjected to a travel ban and jailed for campaigning for women’s rights.

Human rights organizations say Al Hathloul has been forced to endure abuse including electric shocks, flogging and sexual harassment while in jail. Loujain, who successfully campaigned to win Saudi women the right to drive, was arrested alongside 10 other women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia in May 2018 – weeks before the country reversed the driving ban.

Rae warned it was imperative to “make people aware of the sheer brutality, murders and sexual assault happening to prisoners of conscience” in the country, adding it is “our duty as a human race” to protect the innocent.

“And we can start by demanding the release of these prisoners. Grant Liberty will not stop until every prisoner of conscience is freed and that Saudi Arabia is recognized for what it really is – a pariah to democracy and human rights,” she said.

انتخابات الكيان المبكّرة وعلم الاحتمالات

June 20, 2022

ناصر قنديل

في ظاهر الأمور جاء قرار الائتلاف الحاكم في الكيان بحل الكنيست والذهاب إلى انتخابات مبكرة يرجّح أن تجري في شهر تشرين الأول المقبل، تعبيراً عن تطوّرات المشهد السياسي الداخلي في الكيان، مع وجود حكومة تمزقها تناقضات مركبة بين مكوّناتها الآتية من أصناف اليمين واليسار، والتي تشكلت بأغلبية هزيلة، بعدما دنا موعد انتقال الرئاسة بين شركائها من ضفة اليمين الى ضفة يسار الوسط، من نفتالي بينيت إلى يائير لبيد، وفي ظل هشاشة الدعم النيابي الذي تلقاه بعدما بدأت الأغلبية بالتداعي، ووجود التحدي الدائم الذي يلوح به الخصم القوي بنيامين نتنياهو والذي يعرض على التصويت يوم غد الأربعاء لإجراء انتخابات مبكرة ويمكن لن يحصد أغلبية الكنيست، إذا صحت التقديرات بانتقال أكثر من نائب من ضفة الائتلاف الى ضفة نتنياهو، لكن هل هذا يكفي لتفسير قرار بحجم إدخال الكيان في حالة فراغ على مستوى القرار السياسي الأول في لحظات تبدو شديدة الدقة في تاريخه، حيث المواجهة مع قطاع غزة في تنامٍ، والمشهد في الضفة الغربية يتصاعد، والتوتر جمر تحت الرماد مع لبنان في ظل أزمة النفط والغاز وترسيم الحدود والبدء باستثمار حقل بحر عكا، بعد اتفاق أوروبي إسرائيلي على صفقة دسمة، بينما التحدي بين الكيان وإيران في ذروته، وكلها تحديات دفعت بالأحزاب للتفكير بحكومة وحدة وطنية في ظروف مشابهة؟

يمنح تزامن قرار الائتلاف الحاكم في الكيان مع التحضيرات الجارية لزيارة الرئيس الأميركي جو بايدن الى المنطقة، بعداً خاصاً، حيث كشفت التقارير الصحافية الأميركية والإسرائيلية عن ضغوط أميركية على الائتلاف الحاكم والمعارضة معاً لاستبعاد اندلاع أزمة حكومية، والذهاب لحل الكنيست، بهدف تمرير زيارة بايدن بعد أقل من شهر، بوجود حكومة كاملة المواصفات في الكيان، يمكن أن تتم الزيارة بوجودها وتكون ذات جدوى، خصوصاً أن ما كشف عن مضمون الزيارة يقول إن التعاون الخليجي الإسرائيلي في بناء شبكات موحّدة للرادارات تحت قيادة أميركية، يشكل أحد أهداف الزيارة، بينما رفعت بعض الصحف الإسرائيلية سقوف توقعاتها للقول إن زيارة بايدن تهدف للحصول على موافقة سعودية على التطبيع مع «إسرائيل» كثمن للاعتراف الأميركي بشرعية تولي ولي العهد السعودي للعرش في بلاده، ويجري الترويج لزيارة الرئيس الأميركي بصفتها تعبيراً عن انسداد الخيار التفاوضي بين واشنطن وطهران، وترجيح كلفة خيار المواجهة بينهما.

ثمة مؤشرات معاكسة يأخذها بعض المحللين ضمن دائرة الاحتمالات والفرضيّات، فالكلام الأميركي عن قرب امتلاك إيران لما يكفي لامتلاك قنبلة نووية وإرفاقه بالإعلان عن الاستعداد للعودة الى الاتفاق النووي، رغم إلقاء اللوم على إيران لتعثر التفاوض، بقي غير مفهوم الوظيفة في ظل التصعيد الأميركي بوجه إيران، وساء بحجز ناقلة النفط في اليونان وطائرة الركاب في الأرجنتين، أو التصعيد في مجلس حكام الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية، ومثله الجواب الإيراني بتأكيد الجهوزية للعودة الى الاتفاق، وإلقاء اللوم على واشنطن في التعثر، في مناخ عالي السقف في الحديث عن الجهوزية لمواجهة أية اعتداءات إسرائيلية، واللغة القاسية في الرد على الوكالة الدولية، ما فتح الباب للحديث عن فرضية تقول بأن واشنطن وطهران تتجهان للتوقيع على الاتفاق. وهذا معنى تصريحات المستشار الإعلامي للوفد الإيراني في فيينا عن عدم وجود بند رفع العقوبات عن الحرس الثوري في الطلبات الإيرانية التفاوضية من جهة، وعدم استعداد إيران لتقديم أي تعهد بعدم ملاحقة المسؤولين الأميركيين عن اغتيال القائد قاسم سليماني، ووفقاً لهذه الفرضية فإن زيارة بايدن تهدف لتقديم ضمانات لـ«إسرائيل» بأنها لن تكون وحدها في حال تعرّضها للاستهداف من إيران، وأن واشنطن ستكون مسؤولة عن منظومة رادارات وتعمل في الخليج وترتبط بشبكة الباتريوت من القبة الحديدية التي تقودها واشنطن أصلاً داخل الكيان، وان الرئيس الأميركي بعد إنهاء هذه المهمة سيعتبر أنه بات طليق اليدين في العودة للتفاوض وصولاً لتوقيع الاتفاق مع إيران.

إذا صحت هذه الفرضية تكون الإطاحة الذاتية بالحكومة الائتلافية في الكيان، استباقاً وقائياً من مثل هذا الخيار، واعتماد الفراغ الحكومي في الكيان لتحقيق الفراغ التفاوضيّ بين واشنطن وطهران.

MBS-Kushner investments could complicate vital Saudi regional diplomacy

June 05 2022

Saudi Crown Prince MbS wants Israel onside but has yet to figure out how to move forward without rocking the Saudi boat.

Source

By Agha Hussein

The Saudis need to choose: Will it be regional stability with Tehran or regional confrontation with Tel Aviv? Riyadh cannot have both.

Saudi Arabia is slated for a complete socioeconomic overhaul under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MbS) ambitious Vision2030, which aims to steer the kingdom towards a post-oil economy. For this to be realized, peace and political stability with Saudi’s neighbors is essential.

In this context, Riyadh sees diplomatic engagement with rival Iran as crucial to addressing the security dilemmas the kingdom faces from neighboring Yemen, Iraq and the Persian Gulf, which have the potential to derail progress on Saudi’s reform program.

However, MbS’ recent signals toward Israel could hinder the kingdom’s efforts to formalize the Iran-Saudi diplomatic ‘framework‘ aimed at bringing stability to its borders.

MbS and Israel

On 7 May, The Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) – of which MbS is chairman – committed $2 billion to a private equity fund for Israeli tech startups. This represents the first known case of the PIF investing in Israeli businesses.

The fund belongs to Jared Kushner, former US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and informal advisor who worked with MbS to draw Saudi foreign policy closer to Israeli interests.

During the Trump administration, Kushner and MbS formed a close interpersonal relationship. Kushner bypassed the US State and Defense Departments and dealt directly with the crown prince, helping him to consolidate power in return for closer alignment with Israel on Iran.

However, MbS eventually decided that the kingdom needed de-escalation with Iran as a means of addressing its growing security dilemmas in Yemen and the Persian Gulf. Citing the tensions it was causing with Iran, MbS took a step back from his partnership with Kushner by declining to join the August 2020 Abraham Accords struck between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, which Kushner played a lead role in facilitating.

This was followed by an Iraqi-mediated dialogue initiated between Tehran and Riyadh in October 2021, which has continued with a few intervals up to the present.

What about Iran?

Now, the investment in Kushner’s fund says two things about MbS’ current priorities. One, that the crown prince retains interest in finding niches of Israeli-Saudi cooperation, and two, that he intends to do so via the old, familiar approach with Kushner as a key broker and interlocutor.

But this challenges an important element of Iranian-Saudi diplomacy: namely, that both states’ compartmentalize their many differences across West Asia for the sake of detente and stability in their immediate, shared Persian Gulf region.

The Islamic Republic for its part has a very regionalized national security doctrine, which emphasizes keeping Israeli influence away from its own borders. Tehran may interpret MbS’ overtures to Israel as a sign that the Saudi talks are not promising outcomes consistent with its national security objectives.

If this is the case, Iran could decide to withdraw from the talks altogether. Indeed, Iran temporarily halted the Iraqi-brokered dialogue with Saudi Arabia in March when it launched missile strikes at purported Israeli Mossad sites in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

Additionally, since economic diversification is a key pillar of Vision2030, Iran may view the investment in Kushner’s fund as MbS integrating Israel into his own bigger-picture. From Tehran’s perspective, this is counterproductive to Iran’s desired scenario of an Israel-free Persian Gulf and therefore does not bode well for the continuity of Iranian-Saudi diplomacy.

Ties with Turkey

Saudi Arabia’s relations with Turkey, another West Asian powerhouse, have recently thawed under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to mend fences with the kingdom.

While Turkey’s angle has more to do with building economic and security ties, for Riyadh this entente has special importance for its overall regional diplomacy. This is because the tension in Turkish-Saudi ties is associated heavily with the 2018 state-sanctioned murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, reportedly at the personal behest of MbS.

The fallout from the murder made MbS persona non grata for many in the international community, and he remained a pariah until only relatively recently amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing energy crisis.

This proved especially inconvenient when MbS began his urgent tilt to a more diplomatic foreign policy. Riyadh’s access to various diplomatic channels was suddenly very limited because of MbS’ personal, unilateral control over Saudi decision-making. Indeed, even Saudi Arabia’s (partial) rapprochement with Qatar, ending a three-and-a-half year blockade, required Kushner’s mediation.

Two weeks before Erdogan’s 28 April visit to Riyadh, a Turkish court transferred the trial of Khashoggi’s Saudi assassins to the kingdom. Thus, since Erdogan sees shoring up MbS’ international standing as necessary for their entente, the latter has reason to ensure that Ankara gets a degree of geopolitical value out of it too.

Critically, this is where the risk that MbS’ Israel outreach poses to Iranian-Saudi diplomacy, could spill over to the budding Turkish-Saudi normalization.

Turkey’s overtures to MbS have occurred in parallel with its rapprochement with Israel. If Turkish-Saudi dialogue covers regional agendas instead of just bilateral ones, Iran may well suspect the two of eyeing a bloc and drawing Israel toward it as a mutual ally.

Keeping Israel out

Iran would overplay its hand and damage its diplomatic credibility by raking up Turkey in dialogue with Saudi Arabia, as the latter could interpret this as Iranian heavy-handedness and drop the idea that Iran is able or willing to help it de-escalate matters in Yemen and the Persian Gulf.

Tehran does not want this to happen, as it has tactically benefited from playing the Yemen/Gulf de-escalation card: both to bring Riyadh to the negotiating table, and to show it that avoiding Israel is a worthy trade-off to cool tensions with Iran’s allies in Yemen and even Iraq.

Conversely, if Iran accepts that it cannot force the Turkish factor into its talks with Saudi Arabia, its diplomatic strategy toward Riyadh provides no recourse against the possibility of MbS asking Ankara to help connect him to Tel Aviv.

In this scenario, continuing the Saudi talks presents Iran with a credibility crisis – that of its ability to enforce its national security red-lines by pressuring or incentivizing its neighbors to avoid Israel. This could lead to Tehran abandoning the dialogue with Riyadh, or putting it on ice.

Vision or Mirage?

Saudi Arabia needs harmony, not contradictions and conflicts, between its various diplomatic processes and dialogues, both to properly restore MbS’ international reputation and to provide the stability the kingdom needs for Vision2030’s implementation.

The diplomatic cadre in Riyadh seems aware of this, going by the Saudi Foreign Minister’s statement on 24 May that the kingdom’s hands are ‘stretched out to Iran’.

Currently, Riyadh’s most obvious and potentially impactful option to de-escalate tensions across the region is to continue its dialogue with Tehran. Shelving ties with Israel is a small price to pay for the stability-dividends it offers Saudi Arabia.

Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia, “Israel” postponed: NBC News

June 4, 2022 

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

The US president’s visit to Saudi Arabia – whom he deems a ‘pariah’ – and Washington’s spoiled child, “Israel”, has been postponed, according to officials.

Joe Biden, feeling happy. 

US President Joe Biden’s visits to Saudi Arabia and “Israel” have been postponed till July, NBC News reported. The postponed trip will see an expansion, a “broader trip to the Middle East,” according to the sources.

“We are working on a trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia for a GCC+3 Summit,” a senior administration official told NBC News. “We are working to confirm dates. When we have something to announce, we will.”

One foreign diplomat, in addition to two US officials, revealed that the visit to Saudi Arabia will no longer be carried out in June. Two other US officials said that the “Israel” visit was being postponed, although both visits were scheduled along with visits to Germany and Spain this month.

The motive behind the postponement was not clear, however. The dates, furthermore, could even change again. The White House declined to comment, and the Israeli and the Saudi embassies in the US did not respond to any questions. 

Biden is about to set all his ‘moral’ reasonings aside as he makes his visit to Saudi Arabia, despite dubbing the country a ‘pariah’ state for killing Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. The US will be setting its positions aside for the energy and oil crisis which has risen as a result of the NATO-fueled war on Russian oil and exports

Read more: US-Saudi relations reach ‘breaking point’ – WSJ

The US president is expected to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman -the man behind Khashoggi’s assassination- once he lands in Riyadh, despite his assertions that his meetings would exclusively be with King Salman bin Abdulaziz as he is his proper counterpart.

He will also meet with the heads of several Arab nations, including Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan.

The visit will see Biden abandoning many of the “morals” he has been trying to uphold before the public, and it all goes back to the Ukraine war, as Washington deems it necessary to have other energy producers on its side after it sanctioned Russia out of the global oil market.

Reports about the visit – ironically – come the same day as White House Spokeswoman Karen Jean-Pierre said Biden’s “pariah” remarks about Saudi Arabia still stood.

Jean-Pierre was asked how after US intelligence assessed that MBS was behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, to which she replied that a visit to Saudi Arabia would be consistent with Biden’s remarks last year that Saudi Arabia would “pay the price, and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.”

Biden To Visit Saudi Arabia, To Meet ‘Pariah’ MBS 

By Staff, Agencies

US President Joe Biden has decided to travel to Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks and is expected to meet with the kingdom’s crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman [MBS], whom he once shunned for his brutality. It’s a visit that is coming together as OPEC+, which is led by Riyadh, announced Thursday it will pump more oil amid skyrocketing energy costs around the globe.

Biden’s first trip to the Saudi kingdom as president is likely to occur later this month but details have not been finalized. Biden is also expected to visit “Israel” during the trip.

The White House on Thursday praised Saudi Arabia for its role securing an OPEC+ pledge to pump more oil and the president himself lauded the Saudis for agreeing to a cease-fire extension in its eight-year old aggression on Yemen that was also announced Thursday.

“Saudi Arabia demonstrated courageous leadership by taking initiatives early on to endorse and implement terms of the UN-led truce,” Biden said in a statement after the 60-day extension of the cease fire was announced.

The kingdom’s leadership also had a close relationship with former US president Donald Trump, who largely shielded Saudi Arabia from repercussions after Khashoggi’s killing.

Biden administration officials have been working behind the scenes to repair relations, discussing shared strategic interests in security and oil with their Saudi counterparts. 

The White House is weighing a Biden visit that would also include a meeting of the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates — as well as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, according to the person familiar with White House planning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the yet-to-be finalized trip.

Biden would be expected to meet with MBS during the visit, according to the person.

Such a meeting could ease a tense and uncertain period in the partnership between Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, and the United States, the world’s top economic and military power, that has stood for more than three-quarters of a century.

But it also risks a public humbling for the US leader, who in 2019 pledged to make a “pariah” of the Saudi royal family over the killing of Khashoggi.

Neom: MBS’ personal dystopia

June 1, 2022 

Source: The Wall Street Journal

By Al Mayadeen English 

“I drive everybody like a slave…When they drop down dead, I celebrate. That’s how I do my projects” – Neom CEO, Nadhmi al-Nasr.

Nadhmi A-Nasr, the Neom project’s CEO, who was handpicked by Mohammad bin Salman (Bloomberg)

“If you don’t tell me who’s responsible, I’m going to take a gun from under my desk and shoot you.”

This is how Neom’s Chief Executive Nadhmi Al-Nasr conducted an emergency meeting, asking his communications team why they didn’t warn him that some companies may cut their ties with the project following complaints against Saudi Arabia’s human rights records.

Most of the people involved with the meeting later left the project, forming a small sample of an exodus of foreign staff from Neom, who are leaving the project due to the abuse they suffer.

Neom is the most ambitious project sought out by the country’s Crown Prince and de facto ruler, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS). According to WSJ, the project is “a group of futuristic technology-driven communities with its own laws across an area the size of Massachusetts that the 36-year-old leader hopes will one day feature flying cars, robot dinosaurs and a giant artificial moon.”

However, what bin Salman thinks is his utopia is proving to be closer to a dystopia, where employees and executives are made to feel that they’re worthless because they are not able to meet the unrealistic expectations and demands being imposed on them by the project’s CEO. Some even left $500,000 a year jobs in Neom rather than work under Nasr, according to former employees.

In a resignation letter, one chief executive who resigned in the summer of 2020 at a planned mountain resort at Neom said that Nasr’s leadership was “consistently inclusive of disparagement and inappropriately dismissive and demeaning outburst.”

“When they drop down dead, I celebrate”

Current and former employees say that the staff turnover has slowed the $500 billion project down, as Neom has only now begun breaking ground after more than “five years of planning and multiple master plans.”

Moreover, there is a certain culture of fear among some of the executives delivering the projects, brought on by the jailing of Saudi businessmen and royals on trumped-up corruption charges as part of bin Salman’s power grab. MBS also makes unrealistic demands for Neom, and often changes his mind, which further slows down the work pace.

“Nadhmi takes his cue from his boss and everyone else at Neom takes their cue from Nadhmi,” said Anthony Harris, former director of innovation in Neom’s education team, who said that as part of the project.

“You are made to feel like you’re absolutely worthless, notwithstanding the large amount of money they are paying.”

In one meeting, Mr. Nasr told one executive to “walk into the desert to die, so he could urinate on his grave,” WSJ reported.

Neom’s CEO also said in a recording “I drive everybody like a slave…When they drop down dead, I celebrate. That’s how I do my projects.”

A satellite photo shows palaces near Neom (AP)

Victory Secrets of Attila the Hun

One senior Saudi official said that bin Salman and the royal court know Nasr’s management style, and are also aware of the high employee turnover at Neom, but apparently, they are under the impression that this style works.

After the Covid pandemic hit and lockdowns began in 2020, the CEO told employees stuck abroad that they were replaceable if they didn’t come back to Saudi Arabia. Some never made it back.

Furthermore, employees were criticized at a town-hall meeting with Neom staff that took place in the summer of 2020 for allowing Neom to fall behind schedule. Staff were also ordered to tattle on employees’ slowing progress.

Nasr, during a conference in Las Vegas in 2019 (Bloomberg)

One running joke in the project involved executives sharing images of a book they joked Nasr must have read “Victory Secrets of Attila the Hun”, the successful business management book inspired by the exploits of the feared 5th-century leader.

Sexual misconduct

Neom, according to WSJ, aims to create a more liberal society than the rest of Saudi Arabia, following MBS’ Vision 2030. However, current and former employees are saying that sexual harassment was frequent.

One female expatriate left Neom after complaining of inappropriate behavior by her boss, a Western executive who is close to Nasr and remains in his position.

Another British-American former employee told Nasr in an e-mail that she believed she was fired by her boss because she refused to continue a sexual relationship with him. Human resources haven’t taken any action against the said boss.

“Misogyny, racism and abusive behaviors aren’t just tolerated by leadership, these abhorrent behaviors are in fact consistently demonstrated by leadership,” Andrew Wirth, the former chief executive of Neom’s mountain resort, said in a written statement.

Interestingly, instead of attempting to tackle these issues, Neom has opted to create a paranoid ambiance within its perimeters by installing cameras where employees live. Former IT employee who was part of the monitoring with the camp Joseph Wright revealed that the cameras watch “everything you do,” frightening the many residents.

Inside the Secret Meeting Between the CIA Director and Saudi Crown Prince

May 28, 2022

Source

By Ken Klippenstein

In an unusual foray into diplomacy, William Burns pressed Mohammed bin Salman on oil production, prominent detainees, and the kingdom’s relationship with China

Last month, as part of a regional tour, CIA Director William Burns quietly met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, a port city in western Saudi Arabia. The unusual meeting, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is the first known encounter between the United States’ top spy and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler — and, according to three sources familiar with the matter, the latest attempt by high-ranking U.S. officials to appeal to Saudi Arabia on oil amid rising U.S. gas prices. Also on the table, two of the sources told The Intercept, were Saudi weapons purchases from China.

President Joe Biden has so far refused to meet with MBS, as he is known, owing to the crown prince’s role in ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But in February, Biden made an effort to begin repairing the relationship with the kingdom, asking King Salman to increase the country’s oil production in return for U.S. military support for its “defense” against Yemen’s Houthis. According to a Saudi readout of the call, Biden was denied. Though Burns again asked for an oil production increase last month, Saudi Arabia announced last week that it would be sticking to its production plan, once more denying the U.S.’s request.

A spokesperson for the CIA declined to comment on Burns’s travels. The Intercept’s sources — a U.S. intelligence official, two sources with ties to the U.S. intelligence community, a source close to members of the Saudi royal family, and a think tank official — interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The meeting was also an opportunity to broach a subject of intense concern to Washington: Riyadh’s growing relationship with China. In addition to Burns’s ask on oil, the CIA director also requested that Saudi Arabia not pursue a purchase of arms from China, according to the two sources close to U.S. intelligence.

Saudi Arabia’s very public overtures to Beijing — most notably, exploring the possibility of selling its oil in the Chinese currency, yuan — have caused consternation in Washington. This week, in Senate testimony, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines warned of efforts by China and Russia to “to try to make inroads with partners of ours across the world,” mentioning Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as examples.

What is not publicly known, however, is that the Saudi government is planning to import ballistic missiles later this month from China under a secret program code-named “Crocodile,” the source close to U.S. intelligence said. (The other source with ties to U.S. intelligence confirmed that the discussion pertained to arms sales with China.)

Burns also requested the release of numerous high-profile Saudi royals whom MBS has detained, including MBS’s cousin, former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the sources said. MBN, as he is known, was heir to the throne before his ouster by Crown Prince Mohammed in 2017. Because MBN is a close partner to U.S. intelligence, the Biden administration has reportedly pressured for his release amid allegations of torture.

Relying on a CIA director to conduct high-level diplomatic engagement of this sort is extremely unusual, although it does offer at least one big advantage: discretion. Burns’s presence also served as a means of attempting to mend the fraught relationship between MBS and other top Biden administration officials, the source close to U.S. intelligence said. Last year, when Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan brought up the Khashoggi murder, MBS shouted at him, remarking that the U.S. could forget about its request to increase oil production, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

Burns’s meeting with MBS was one of several with leaders in the region, including in Qatar, the UAE, and Oman, the source also said. (A prominent think tank official close to the Biden administration confirmed that Burns had been traveling throughout the Middle East.) Burns’s meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed echoed the theme of his meeting with MBS, urging him to stop warming up to China, specifically referring to the construction of a Chinese military base in the UAE. Last year, the Biden administration reportedly warned the UAE that China had been building a military facility at an Emirati port and that its construction could imperil their relations. In the case of Saudi Arabia, U.S. intelligence has assessed that the country has been working with China to manufacture its own ballistic missiles domestically — raising concerns about touching off a regional arms race.

“What’s different about this is the Saudis are now looking to import completed missiles,” the source close to U.S. intelligence said.

Burns has come under criticism for conducting diplomacy for the administration, which is supposed to be handled by diplomats at the State Department. Last year, as Kabul fell to the Taliban, Burns was reportedly in the Middle East, meeting with top Israeli and Palestinian government officials. Shortly thereafter, Burns secretly met in Kabul with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar. Just last week, Burns met with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, urging him not to interfere with his country’s elections.

“Burns has been doing a lot of the diplomatic heavy lifting, which is terrible,” a U.S. intelligence official close to the administration told The Intercept, decrying what he called the “further castration of the Department of State.” This has rankled diplomats at Foggy Bottom, who had hoped that Biden would make good on his campaign pledge to empower diplomacy after years of neglect by the Trump administration.

Concerns about Burns’s role in diplomacy and sidelining the State Department have even come from figures like Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “Intelligence professionals can coerce and threaten unencumbered by the restraints of diplomacy,” Rubin wrote in a recent article for the Washington Examiner. “They are not there to debate and formulate foreign policy.” The Biden administration is currently without an ambassador to Saudi Arabia, having only last month announced its intent to nominate diplomat Michael Ratney for the position.

Riyadh Court Upholds Death Sentence of Two Bahraini Youths

May 21, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

A top Saudi court upheld death sentences of two young Bahraini nationals over trumped-up terror charges.

The Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia issues a final ruling to execute Bahraini prisoners of conscience, Sadiq Thamer and Jaafar Sultan

The Riyadh-based supreme court of appeals sentenced Sadiq Majid Thamer and Jaafar Mohammed Sultan to death after alleging that they have been found guilty of “smuggling explosives” into the kingdom and “involved in terrorist activities.”

Human rights organizations and an opposition protest movement described the rulings as “unfair and arbitrary,” saying they were issued based on confessions extracted under torture.

This come as social media activists have launched campaigns in solidarity with the two Bahraini youths, with human rights organizations and campaigners calling for an end to the “unjust” ruling and their immediate release.

Bahrain’s February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition held the Saudi regime fully responsible for the youths’ safety, calling on the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to take on his duties and intervene urgently to stop the crime.

The Bahraini opposition movement also called on the international community to stand up against Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and prevent the death sentences from being carried out.

The Coalition demanded swift action to save the lives of the two young Bahraini nationals before it gets too late, considering Bahrain’s ruling Khalifah regime as a partner in any criminal action against the Arab nation.

Sultan and Thamer were arrested in May 2015 along the King Fahd Causeway, which connects Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

They were held incommunicado for months after their arrest. The Bahraini youths were subjected to systematic and fatal torture with the aim of extracting false confessions from them.

Ever since bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

Muslim scholars have been executed and women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured as freedom of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

Bahrain’s most prominent cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim has said that drawing up a new constitution is the only way out of the political crisis in the protest-hit tiny Gulf kingdom, urging the regime in Manama to pursue an agreement with the Bahraini opposition instead of increasingly suppressing dissent.

Demonstrations have been held in Bahrain on a regular basis ever since a popular uprising began in mid-February 2011.

The participants demand that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama, however, has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent.

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