Saudi Arabia: Why Biden will leave Mohammed bin Salman in charge

Madawi al-Rasheed

2 July 2021 11:43 UTC 

Despite Biden’s rhetoric, American national interests are allied with those of the authoritarian crown prince in Riyadh

US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (AFP)

In the Middle East in general, and Saudi Arabia in particular, many activists and human right defenders hoped that newly elected US President Joe Biden would turn the page on the Trump era, when rulers in the region had carte blanche to continue their authoritarian practices and repressive measures.

Many hoped that Biden would exert pressure on the US’s most loyal Arab dictators to reverse the tide and respond to calls for democracy, ensure freedom of speech, and halt mass executions. 

It is unlikely that Biden will encourage his removal from office or openly challenge his abuse of human rights domestically

But in Riyadh, among other places, such unrealistic wishful thinking is beginning to be dashed. Realpolitik is settling in, to the demise of Washington’s reputation and its endless rhetoric about promoting democracy. 

American myths about the country’s own historical position as the leader of the free world, promoter of democratic values and protector of individual rights are always exposed in the Arab world at the hands of none other than its most loyal man in Riyadh. Indeed, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues his campaign of detentionsexecutions and surveillance, unchecked by Washington.

Biden slightly embarrassed the crown prince when his intelligence services published a four-page report that held the Saudi ruler responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and placed several suspects on a list of sanctioned operatives. The crown prince himself was untouched by these superficial measures.

Loyal prince

Today, Biden and his advisers remain silent on the future of the Saudi crown prince. But American media and think tanks have been promoting his nemesis, former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who has been placed under house arrest and allegedly suffered ill treatment. Ex-CIA officials want their partner in the war on terror back in the driving seat in Riyadh. 

How can Washington ignore its loyal prince, who allegedly helped save the lives of Americans as he shared intelligence with US security services, they ask. In this view, it’s an American betrayal of bin Nayef, who provided valuable information that helped to foil terrorist attacks on US soil.

Once the darling of the CIA, bin Nayef is now helpless without the US pushing for his release, let alone his rehabilitation, as its man in Riyadh. This sounds like a familiar story: use the man in Riyadh, then dump him when he faces his fate at the hands of his kinsmen.

Mohammed bin Nayef has been promoted by some as an alternative Saudi leader (AFP)
Mohammed bin Nayef has been promoted by some as an alternative Saudi leader (AFP)

In fact, Biden should resist calls to bring back the deposed prince, who never stopped using violence against peaceful activists and put them on trial in the terrorism courts that he established. Mohammed bin Nayef used the pretext of the war on terror to spread fear and torture. His most famous victims included founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association – activists such as Abdullah al-Hamid, who died in prison, and Sulaiman al-Rashoudi. Activist Waleed Abu al-Khair remains in prison, alongside many others. 

Many of the men and women Mohammed bin Nayef put in prison have been subjected to solitary confinement. Perhaps the arrest of the former crown prince by the current crown prince fulfilled the hopes of those who suffered at his hands for years – but unfortunately, they had no power to arrest him, put him on trial or seek justice. 

Perverse revenge

In his own way, Mohammed bin Salman is punishing the deposed prince, but for different reasons. When the mafia fights its own battles within its own rank-and-file, the weakened society may achieve some perverse sense of revenge that is momentary and emotional. 

But both Mohammed bin Nayef and his empowered cousin, the crown prince, need to be put on trial for crimes against their own citizens. US intelligence services obviously want the devil they know, but many Saudis want justice for their lost sons and tortured relatives, who either linger in prison or have already been executed. Many of their corpses have yet to be returned to their relatives for proper burial. Biden must end Trump’s alliance with Mohammed bin Salman

Many of Mohammed bin Nayef’s old cronies and right-hand men are not only free, but have the gall to protest – among them Saad al-Jabri, who escaped to Canada and is now facing a court case for allegedly stealing billions of dollars when he was in charge of purchasing anti-terrorism and surveillance technology. The court case may shed new light on how the opaque and corrupt interior ministry conducted its affairs and plundered billions under the pretext of fighting terrorism. 

The day will come when the prosecutor, Mohammed bin Salman, will himself face a similar fate for his crimes against activists and dissidents. For now, the Biden administration remains silent on the crown prince’s present and future. It is unlikely that Biden will encourage his removal from office or openly challenge his abuse of human rights domestically. 

So far, Biden has a better record on pushing the crown prince to temper his adventurist foreign policies. It is easier for Biden to force him to seek reconciliation with Qatar, offer a peace treaty to Yemen’s Houthis, flirt with Iran via Iraq, and endear himself to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But when it comes to political reforms, a muted US is neither willing nor able to see the merits of promoting a process that will eventually lead the kingdom on a path to democracy. At the moment, US national interests are allied with those of an authoritarian crown prince, so why rock the boat.  

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

Madawi al-RasheedMadawi al-Rasheed is visiting professor at the Middle East Institute of the London School of Economics. She has written extensively on the Arabian Peninsula, Arab migration, globalisation, religious transnationalism and gender issues. You can follow her on Twitter: @MadawiDr

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Mohammed bin Salman Faces His Biggest Threat to the Throne. US Law Suit against Saudi Crown Prince

Law Suit in US Federal Court

By Steven Sahiounie

Global Research, August 12, 2020

Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, has been able to dodge legal responsibility in the death of Jamal Khashoggi, while US President Trump has defended and supported him.  It appears Mohammed bin Salman is facing a serious legal threat, and it will take personal interference by Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to save him from facing a judge in the federal court at Washington, DC.  Mohammed bin Salman may be praying for Trump to win in November 2020 to be sure he holds a ‘get out of jail’ card. 

Mohammed bin Salman faces US court summons

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been issued a summons by the US District Court in Washington, DC. on August 7, 2020, after Saad al Jabri filed a lawsuit accusing Prince Mohammed bin Salman of sending a Saudi death squad to Canada to kill him.

Saad al Jabri was a former senior Saudi intelligence official working under the former Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was then Minister of the Interior.  Al Jabri was well known as the key link between Saudi intelligence services and their counterparts in the US and Europe.

Jabri’s lawyers filed a recent lawsuit in a federal court in Washington, DC. against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, alleging he had sent a Saudi death squad to kill him in Canada on October 15, 2018, less than two weeks after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Jamal Khashoggi

Al Jabri owes his life to the Canadian border officials who were suspicious of the Saudi death squad after they were caught lying at the Ontario International Airport while carrying forensic equipment and traveling on tourist visas, which resulted in denied entry to all but one member who carried diplomatic credentials.

The lawsuit reads:

“Dr. Saad was privy to sensitive information about Defendant bin Salman’s covert political scheming within the Royal Court, corrupt business dealings, and creation of a team of personal mercenaries that Defendant bin Salman would later use to carry out the extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi, among others.”

The FBI became aware of the threats to al Jabri and his family in January 2018, when his son, Khalid al Jabri, was prevented from boarding a flight departing from Boston’s Logan International Airport by FBI agents, who informed the young man his life and that of his family were under threat.

Al Jabri’s legal team maintains that the threat to his life remains, and the Saudi death squad was planning to enter Canada by land, thus avoiding any airport security.

Mohammed bin Salman’s death squad on trial in IstanbulIs CIA Leak of Bin Salman’s Guilt in Khashoggi Murder Aimed at Kushner, or Trump Himself?

Last month the trial in Istanbul began against 20 Saudi Arabians accused of killing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate at Istanbul on October 2, 2018, even though none of the accused were present. His body was dismembered while his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, had waited outside the consulate, and his remains have never been found.

Saudi Arabia’s former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri is accused of planning the murder and assembling a team to carry out the murder of Khashoggi at the behest of their boss, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  Saud al-Qahtani, a close adviser to Mohammed bin Salman, is similarly charged with having “instigated premeditated murder with monstrous intent.”  Qahtani continues to work closely with the crown prince, and according to a Saudi Arabian activist, who had been in prison, Qahtani told her, “I’ll do whatever I like to you, and then I’ll dissolve you and flush you down the toilet.”

Agnès Callamard said the Turkish trial is an “important judicial process. Here we have a space where the victims are heard in a way they have never been heard before. We have a space where witnesses are asked to speak under oath.”

UN report names Mohammed bin Salman in Khashoggi’s death

In June 2019, Agnes Callamard, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, published the results of her investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

The report concluded that Khashoggi’s death “constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible”. The report also said there is “credible evidence” warranting further investigation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The full UN report can be read here.

 “The operation involved multiple flights, including two private jets, one under diplomatic clearance. It entailed training, with two Saudi attaches from Istanbul flying to Riyadh for ‘top secret’, ‘urgent’ training and preparation, and it required planning and execution in Istanbul,” wrote Agnes Callamard in the report for the UN.

Callamard concluded that the decision to murder Khashoggi was taken before two of the most important members of the Saudi death squad Maher Mutreb, and Salah Tubaigy, the forensic pathologist who cut the body up, flew from Riyadh to Istanbul.

CIA concluded Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi murder

In November 2018, the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi,

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and senior adviser have remained close to Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Trump and Kushner have defended and supported the strong relationship with Mohammed bin Salman, despite the various important reports placing the responsibility of the murder of Khashoggi on him.

US arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Democrat and Republican lawmakers in the US Congress had held up a Trump administration request to sell 22 batches of munitions worth $8.1 billion to Saudi Arabia, because the US-made weapons were being used to kill thousands of civilians in Yemen, including the targeting of school buses full of children.

Marik String was acting chief of the US State Department’s political-military affairs bureau in early 2019, and he helped Secretary of State Mike Pompeo bypass a congressional freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE by using a declared state of emergency in May 2019 to dodge the congressional hold.

The State Department’s inspector general, Steve A. Linick, had opened two investigations; one into the arms sale beginning in June 2019 and one into possible misuse of agency employees for the benefit of Mr. Pompeo and his wife. Pompeo asked Trump to fire Linick in May 2020, who was investigating whether the declared state of emergency was legal. Pompeo promoted String to acting legal advisor the very same day as he had declared the state of emergency.

Congressional officials have been told that the Trump administration plans to sell yet another package of weapons to Saudi Arabia worth $478 million.  With Linick gone, there will be no investigations.

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This article was originally published on Mideast Discourse.

Steven Sahiounie is an award-winning journalist. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Steven Sahiounie, Global Research, 2020

MbS condition will get worse after Salman death: Paul Pillar

March 13, 2020 – 12:42

TEHRAN – Professor Paul Pillar, who was CIA intelligence analyst for 28 years, tells that the death of Salman and the need to select a new king will bring to a head the competition between MBS and those members of the royal family who oppose his acquisition of absolute power.

Pillar says “But he has been able to do what he has done because his father, King Salman, has permitted him to grab power.”  

He also adds that “Once Salman is gone, other family members may feel better able to challenge MBS.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: What were the reasons for the arrest of the Saudi princes, including the brother of King Salman, by the Saudi government?

A: The arrests were another step in Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) consolidation of power.  The announced charges against the arrested individuals probably are contrived.  Two of those arrested–Prince Ahmed and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef–are along those who would have the greatest claim to power themselves, and evidently MBS considered it necessary to eliminate them as competitors.     

Q: The physical condition of King Salman seems to be inadequate and this has led to a power struggle in Saudi Arabia. How do you foresee the power equations after King Salman’s eventual death?

A: The death of Salman and the need to select a new king will bring to a head the competition between MBS and those members of the royal family who oppose his acquisition of absolute power.  MBS clearly has the insight track for becoming king.  But he has been able to do what he has done because his father, King Salman, has permitted him to grab power.  Once Salman is gone, other family members may feel better able to challenge MBS.

Q: Is Muhammad bin Salman also an American and Western option for the kingdom in Saudi Arabia?

A: The Trump administration seems to be satisfied with having a close relationship with MBS, even though this has meant largely looking the other way regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. This policy risks associating the United States with controversial policies of MBS, and antagonizing elements in Saudi Arabia that may yet successfully oppose him. 

Q: Given Mohammed bin Salman’s actions in domestic politics, including music concerts and sidelines on social and cultural reforms, will the clergy and traditionalists tolerate his actions?

A: Whoever is the ruler in Saudi Arabia will face competing demands from the conservative religious establishment and from other Saudis, especially younger ones, who favor a more liberal society.  There is no reason to believe that MBS will be any better at striking this balance than another ruler would be.  Probably MBS will follow he example of earlier Saudi rulers and grant concessions to the religious establishment over matters most important to them, such as education, in exchange for MBS getting some more flexibility in making changes in other areas.    

Q: In your opinion, what economic and social impacts of a fall in oil prices will have on a country such as Saudi Arabia, whose economy is dependent on oil?

A: The negative impact is substantial, and it is likely to get worse for Saudi Arabia before it gets better. Russia has indicated it does not intend to cut oil production to boost prices, and that it would be happy to see low prices for a while to try to hurt U.S. oil producers using fracking technology. 

Saudi-Initiated All-Out Oil War Could Lead To Collapse Of Kingdom Itself

South Front

Saudi Arabia launched an all-out oil war offering unprecedented discounts and flooding the market in an attempt to capture a larger share and defeat other oil producers. This “scorched earth” approach caused the biggest oil price fall since the war in the Persian Gulf in 1991.

It all began on March 8 when Riyadh cut its April pricing for crude sales to Asia by $4-$6 a barrel and to the U.S. by $7 a barrel. The Kingdom expanded the discount for its flagship Arab Light crude to refiners in northwest Europe by $8 a barrel offering it at $10.25 a barrel under the Brent benchmark. In comparison, Russia’s Urals crude trades at a discount of about $2 a barrel under Brent. These actions became an attack at the ability of Russia to sell crude in Europe. The Russian ruble immediately plummeted almost 10% falling to its lowest level in more than four years.

Another side that suffered from Saudi actions is Iran. The Islamic country is facing a strong US sanctions pressure and often selling its oil via complex schemes and with notable discounts already.

Saudi Arabia is planning to increase its output above 10 million barrel per day. Currently, it pumps 9.7 million barrels per day, but has the capacity to ramp up to 12.5 million barrels per day. According to OPEC and Saudi sources of The Wall Street Journal, Riyadh’s actions are part of an “aggressive campaign” against Moscow.

The formal pretext of this campaign became the inability of the OPEC+ (a meeting of representatives of member states of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC members) to extend output agreements.

Saudi Arabia was seeking up to 1.5 million b/d in further oil production cuts, but this proposal was rejected by Russia. After the inability to reach the new OPEC+ deal, Saudi Arabia became the frist and only power that took aggressive actions on the market. However, it is hard to imagine that Saudi Arabia would go for such an escalation without at least an order or approval from Washington.

This came amid the detention of two senior members of the Saudi royal family – Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, and Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew – on March 7. This development took place just ahead of the Saudi offensive on the oil market, and was likely a tip of the ongoing undercover struggle between the pro-US and pro-national factions of the Saudi elites; and the pro-US bloc seems to have the upper hand in this conflict.

In this case, the real goal of the Saudi campaign is not only to secure larger share of the oil market and punish Moscow for its unwillingness to accept the proposed OPEC+ deal, but to deliver a powerful blow to Washington’s geopolitical opponents: Russia and Iran. Pro-Western and anti-government forces existing in both Russia and Iran would try to exploit this situation to destabilize the internal situation in the countries.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia may soon find out that its actions have backfired. Such economic and geopolitical games amid the acute conflict with Iran, military setbacks in Yemen and the increasing regional standoff with the UAE could cost too much for the Kingdom itself.

If the oil prices fall any further and reach $20 per barrel, this will lead to unacceptable economic losses for Russia and Iran, and they could and will likely opt to use nonmarket tools of influencing the Saudi behavior. These options include the increasing support to Yemen’s Houthis with intelligence, weapons, money, and even military advisers, that will lead to the resumption of Houthi strikes on Saudi oil infrastructure.

On top of these, the Saudi leadership may suddenly find that the internal situation in the Kingdom is being worsened by large-scale protests rapidly turning into an open civil conflict.

Such a scenario is no secret for international financial analysts. On March 8, shares of Saudi state oil company Aramco slumped below their initial public offering (IPO) and closed 9.1% lower. On March 9, it continued the fall plunging another 10%.  There appears to be a lack of buyers. The risks are too obvious.

At the same time, the range of possible US actions in support of Saudi Arabia in the event of such an escalation is limited by the ongoing presidential campaign. Earlier, President Donald Trump demonstrated that a US military base could become a target of direct missile strike and Washington will not order a direct military action in response. Taking into account other examples of the US current approach towards non-Israeli allies, Riyadh should not expect any real support from its American allies in this standoff.

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