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Friday, January 8

Saudi Sitrep

  • Gregory Copley's extensive Saudi sitrep, published at Oil Price on January 6 and discussed in part during John Batchelor's radio show on January 7. (Podcast)  One of the points made by Copley is that the Shia cleric executed by the Saudis was important; the Western press downplayed or ignored this key fact.    
  • The Economist has published online an in-depth analysis from their January 9 print issue that focuses on the troubled economy in Saudi Arabia and the vaunted Saudi plan for getting through the troubles. The Saudi blueprint: "The desert kingdom is striving to dominate its region and modernise its economy at the same time."  The analysis has important implications for all nations that have slid by for decades on their oil wealth.
  • RT shrewdly noted on Jan 5 that the Saudis didn't carry out the executions, including the one of the Shia cleric, until after they'd sealed a huge arms deal with the USA. I guess that left them free to refuse a phone call from U.S. SecState John Kerry in the wake of the executions.
Prominent Saudi Journalist: Extremism, Takfir Are Everywhere In Saudi Arabia, And The Authorities Are Doing Little To Stop This
December 23, 2015
MEMRI

In a two-part article in the Saudi government daily Al-Watan, journalist Qenan Al-Ghamdi, the former editor of Al-Watanand of the government daily Al-Sharq, harshly criticized the extremism in Saudi Arabia, which he said is present in every mosque and school and is constantly being spread by preachers, clerics, teachers and parents. 

The authorities, he added, do almost nothing to fight this extremism that is constantly seeping into Saudi society; on the contrary, they even give it a platform and help to promote it. This extremism is what makes Saudi youths especially susceptible to the extremist ideology of organizations, such as ISIS, he said. He wondered why, despite its awareness of the dangers of terrorist ideology, Saudi Arabia still has no law that criminalizes it.

The following are translated excerpts from both parts of the article:[1]

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To return to Gregory Copley's analysis, I want to pull some discussion from the Oil Price article:

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4. Rash Actions: Saudi Arabia’s very real concerns that the Yemen war was dragging on far longer than it could realistically sustain has made it undertake rash actions, such as the steps, in concert with the United Arab Emirates, in 2015 to cut relations with Djibouti and bolster Eritrea and potentially Somaliland.5 
The way in which this occurred de facto caused a threat to Ethiopia, which depends vitally on Djibouti for its exports. Despite Saudi Arabia’s feelings of distrust for the U.S. at present, the U.S. had, in fact, supported Saudi Arabia and the UAE over its rift with Djibouti, at potentially significant strategic cost to the United States’ ability to sustain power projection in the Red Sea. This, too, jeopardizes Ethiopia’s security, and the polarization of Saudi-Ethiopian feelings seems likely to impact on Saudi Arabia’s and the UAE’s military support for Eritrea, reviving the belief by Pres. Isayas Afewerke in Asmara that he could (with help from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi) resume his proxy war against Ethiopia.
It was not insignificant that Ethiopia was jarred on January 2, 2015, to learn that the U.S. had unilaterally withdrawn from its use of the Ethiopian Air Base at Arba Minch, from where it had conducted UAV strike and reconnaissance operations against Somalia’s al-Shabaab and other jihadist rebel groups. The Ethiopian leadership had pinned all its strategic hopes on the protective umbrella of the U.S., but that was now being gradually eroded. 
Rash Saudi actions have continued elsewhere, and the least obvious of these, the construction of Wahhabist mosques around the world, may finally face opposition, not just in Western countries, but even in Pakistan and Ethiopia. But Saudi Arabia’s financial support for anti-Chinese jihadist groups, such as the “East Turkistan Independence Movement” has alienated PRC support for Saudi Arabia. Russia, by September 2015, had become the primary oil supplier to the PRC, a situation which seemed likely to continue. There is little doubt that, as U.S./Western strategies persist, and Saudi-Qatari-Turkish support for jihadism continues, Russia and the PRC have found growing identity of strategic interests.
5. Egypt and Others: Where does the Saudi direction leave Egypt? Saudi Arabia and the UAE were vital economic supporters of Egypt when popular dissent drove then-Pres. Mohammed Morsi from office in mid-2013. They remain the most critical investment partners of incumbent Pres. Abdul Fatah al-Sisi. As a result, Egypt has been compelled to support the Saudi-UAE drive into Yemen, and to remain silent on Saudi actions — in concert, often, with Qatar and Turkey — in Syria, even though Cairo has grave concerns about Saudi actions. 
The Egyptian Government has also remained notably quiet on issues such as the Saudi and UAE rift with Djibouti and Riyadh’s and Abu Dhabi’s move to create military bases into (and provide military and economic support for) Eritrea. Saudi Arabia’s and the UAE’s actions with regard to Yemen, Eritrea, and Djibouti profoundly affect Egypt’s most vital trade route: the Suez/Red Sea sea-line of communication (SLOC). But Saudi Arabia’s seemingly messianic war against Shi’ism in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and domestically within the Kingdom has made some of its historical allies, such as Pakistan (where some 20 percent of the population is Shi’a), nervous.
Not surprisingly, Pakistan’s National Assembly voted unanimously on April 10, 2015, to reject Saudi Arabia’s request to join the anti-Houthi military coalition, despite the extremely close ties which Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has had with the Kingdom. Even for Egypt, which has no Shi’a population of any significance, Saudi Arabia’s marriage with intra-Sunni rivals Turkey and Qatar causes concern. Clearly, Egypt is seeking cultural and strategic leadership within the Arabic-speaking world, but has not sought the kind of religious leadership of the Sunni community which has been sought by the Saudis, Qatar, and Turkey. 
As if to reinforce his secular credentials over the religious, Egyptian Pres. al-Sisi on December 26, 2015, met with Iraqi citizen Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman who had been kidnapped and assaulted by DI’ISH fighters when they took control of Sinjar city in August 2014. The Yazidi religion of Sharfadin is pre-Islamic and linked to ancient Mesopotamian religions.
Unspoken in all media reporting is the position of Israel, which has significant, close intelligence ties with Saudi Arabia, but which is concerned over Turkish, Qatari, and Saudi (and U.S.) attempts to replace Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad. The latest Saudi moves seem likely to consolidate consultations between Egypt, Israel, and Jordan, in particular.
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I'll note that although Pakistan managed to patch up the little disagreement with Al Saud about its refusal to participate in the Saudi operation in Yemen, Islamabad sent a new ambassador to Damascus a few weeks ago; President Assad received his credentials at the same time he received those of the new Indian and Cuban ambassadors to Syria.

I consider that an interesting development. As to how to read it, tentatively that Gen. Raheel Sharif is thinking these days it would be better to stay on Iran's good side than Al Saud's if the choice is either-or. And of course stay on China's good side.  
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