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Monday, November 6

Sturm und Drang in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

1.  Absolutely nobody outside the kingdom's inner circle has any idea of what's really going on Saudi Arabia beyond a lot of arrests of princes (their jail has been the ritzy Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh), travel bans, and freezing of assets.

2. Reuters is still trying to reassure readers that many Saudis support Crown Prince MbS and his alleged crackdown on his fellow princes -- as if any Saudis had a choice.

3. A second Saudi prince has been killed resisting arrest  -- the first one in an alleged helicopter crash while fleeing, the second in an alleged shoot-out with Saudi security forces while resisting arrest.

4. President Trump has expressed in a November 4 Tweet his desire to see the Saudi Aramco IPO made on the New York Stock Exchange.

5. Oil price bulls are going bananas about reports of chaos in Saudi Arabia. It looks like a zoo at feeding time over there at oilprice.com

6. The Saudi inner circle has been ticked off at Lebanon's Saudi-born Prime Minister Hariri because he's been more-or-less getting along with Hezbollah chief Nasrallah, which had brought some desperately needed stabilization to Lebanon. The result of the cooperation is that on Saturday Hariri resigned (under threat of assassination) and was 'recalled' to Saudi Arabia. (Update 11/7 - reportedly he's now 'visiting' in UAE.) 

7. Today Reuters reported that the Saudi regime has declared that Lebanon has declared war on the kingdom because of "aggression by Hezbollah." Lebanon's declaration of war on KSA is complete news to Hezbollah and everybody else except the Israeli defense establishment and the Saudi inner circle and their go-fers in Washington, DC.

8. Thierry Meyssan has been chewing peyote again. Voltaire Network reported on October 31 that a trilateral agreement (which was actually signed in May 2016 not 2017 as VN reports) to transship Indian wheat to Afghanistan through an Iranian port is "proof of US support to President Rohani [sic] and their common struggle against China, Iran’s former partner."

I think it would be news to China that Iran is a former partner given the trade relationship between the two countries, which is crucially important to Tehran.

But it is fun to consider the coincidence that the most overt phase of the MbS crackdown in Saudi Arabia launched practically within hours of the first wheat transshipment, which was on October 29. And yet I've seen no indication that PM Modi signed the agreement under prodding from President Obama, although there's been plenty of speculation about the implications of the agreement, none of which mentions Saudi Arabia. 

However, the Saudis would of course be very concerned about closer relations between Afghanistan, Iran, and India and the strategic implications of India having access to Chabahar Port -- especially because it's surprising that Modi didn't choose another Iranian port, Bandar Abbas, for the wheat shipments. See this November 6 report, Iran's Chabahar Port: India's foray into regional power politicsfrom a Pakistani analyst writing for the Asia Sentinel for details of the discussion.  

As to what MbS would think of any backchannel discussions between the Trump administration and Tehran about China, I think he'd be positively livid, and so would Israel's war cabinet. Pass the peyote. 

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