The US – Saudi Nexus Part 4 (Of a 6 Part Series): 2016-2018

US-Saudi Nexus (4)

The Rise of Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS)

“Modernizing Saudi Arabia” and the Middle East Geopolitical Chessboard

Saudi Arabia is undergoing a dramatic shift in decades. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammad bin Salman made unexpectedly a gigantic leap into becoming potential successor of Salman bin Abdulaziz. The question that flashes to mind in the context of the recent and rapid developments in the structure of Saudi Arabia’s Government is the role and involvement of Israel and the US.

This question has arisen principally for Mohammad bin Salman’s (widely known as MBS) tough standing against inveterate rivals – Iran and now Qatar – that secure the interests of regional powers. The latest back-to-back events and breakthroughs in Saudi Arabia are not by accident, but by design in chorus with international allies.

Saudi Arabia was in the midst of growing internal turmoil, and along with a restive Shia population, it faced growing financial and external problems. It had just sorted out Egypt. The Yemen problem was becoming a financial burden, and Qatar was added to the list of growing problems. The population of Saudi Arabia was young and restless. The price of oil had declined by more than half, reducing the capacity of Riyadh to solve its many problems. Something had to change for Saudi to be able to solve these growing challenges to its stability and rule.

Then, in 2016 January – Crowds in Tehran set Saudi embassy alight in protest at execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, which also prompted Shia demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon. Saudi Arabia breaks off diplomatic relations with Iran.

2016 April – Egypt promises to hand two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, sparking unrest among Egyptians.

Government approves a plan for far-reaching reforms to diversify the economy away from oil.

King Salman names his son Mohammed bin Salman, as Crown Prince, first in line to the throne.

MBS’s rise to a prominent role within the House of Saud began in earnest in October 2011 when Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz died. The present King, Salman, who had been Governor of Riyadh province, became second deputy prime minister and defense minister in November 2011. Salman made MBS his personal adviser and armed with that wide portfolio, the young prince helped initiate the war in Syria against President Bashar al Assad and the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. MBS also aided his father in helping to crush an uprising in Bahrain.

Two years earlier, in March 2015, MBS was named defence minister.

2016 July – The Islamic State group is accused of a series of bombings, including one close to the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina – the second most sacred site in Islam.

Conflict with Qatar

Since he took power in 1995, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani believed Qatar could find security only by transforming itself from a Saudi appendage to a rival of Saudi Arabia] Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador to Doha from 2002 to 2008 to try to pressure Qatar to curb its individualistic tendencies. This approach broadly failed. The Arab Spring left a power vacuum which both Saudi Arabia and Qatar sought to fill, with Qatar being supportive of the revolutionary wave and Saudi Arabia opposing it; since both states are allies of the United States, they avoid direct conflict with one another. Qatar has allowed the Afghan Taliban to set up a political office inside the country. Qatar is a close ally of the United States, hosting the largest American base in the Middle East, Al Udeid Air Base.

March 2014 GCC Crisis

In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar. This severing of relations was the first of its kind since the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The disagreement that sparked the ambassadors’ withdrawal was among the most serious in recent years, and threatened to seriously undermine relations between the GCC states. Doha’s sponsorship of the Muslim Brotherhood reached a boiling point all throughout 2014.

In late 2013, “rogue” troops from the UN-backed Muslim Brotherhood –allied government who opened fire on Haftar’s forces at an airbase in southern Libya and killed 141 of them. Nearly a week later, Libyan-based Muslim Brotherhood terrorists slaughtered 29 Coptic Christians in Egypt and prompted Cairo to take decisive action by ordering airstrikes against their camps across the border. Taken together, and considering that Qatar is clearly on the losing side of the Libyan Civil War nowadays, the UAE may have found it convenient to pin the blame for both the Libyan and Egyptian terrorist attacks on Qatar (as a prime backer of the Muslim Brotherhood), and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The crisis set the stage for the 2017 GCC crisis.

The exact reasons for the diplomatic break-offs are unclear, but contemporary news coverage primarily attributes this to several events in April and May 2017.

Why Saudi Arabia Waged War on Qatar?

In the age of oil and gas, the tiny peninsula of Qatar controls the third-largest gas reserves in the world, which made it into one of the richest nations on Earth per capita. Qatar shares vast natural gas resources with Saudi rival Iran.

The Saudi-Qatar feud can be traced back to several decades. In 1996, Qatar launched the Al-Jazeera satellite news channel and brought a new brand of news coverage to the region. Al-Jazeera disquieted Arab leaders with its reporting, in Arabic, on internal and regional controversies that previously went uncovered.

The Machiavellian Plot to Provoke Saudi Arabia and Qatar into a “Blood Border” War

Experts all across the world are trying to figure out what’s really fuelling the Qatari-Saudi Cold War, but the answer is simple – an Iran-Qatar joint venture in building gas pipelines through Syria and into Europe.   The Syria war was all about competing gas lines – an Iran vs a Qatar pipeline running through Syria. Since the Russians stepped into to the Syrian conflict, in September 2014, Qatar decided it was pointless to keep on fighting to overthrow Bashar Assad. They then decided to form a joint venture with Iran and build a single gas pipeline, instead of two pipelines. Both drew their gas from the world’s largest single gas field- called North Dome in Qatar, and South Pars in Iran. Both countries shared the same gas field.

This was Saudi Arabia’s and Abu Dhabi’s worst nightmares come true. Both now had to bring Qatar to heel. This was the final straw for the Gulf Arab states. When one adds the previous issues with Qatar, they said, “Enough is enough!”

April 2017 Hostage Negotiations

In April 2017, Qatar was involved in a deal with both Sunni and Shi’ite militants in Iraq and Syria. The deal had two goals. The immediate goal was to secure the return of 26 Qatari hostages (including Qatari royals) who had been kidnapped by Shi’ite militants while falcon hunting in Southern Iraq and kept in captivity for more than 16 months. The second goal was to get both Sunni and Shi’ite militants in Syria to allow humanitarian aid to pass through and allow the safe evacuation of civilians , this deal allowed the evacuation of at least 2,000 civilians from the Syrian village of Madaya alone What outraged Saudi Arabia and the UAE is the amount of money Qatar had to pay to secure the deal.  Qatar paid $700m to Iranian-backed Shi’a militias in Iraq, $120m–140m to Tahrir al-Sham, and $80m to Ahrar al-Sham. Between the release of the Qatari royals in southern Iraq, and the aid pipeline in Syria, Qatar paid out $1bn to the Shia groups fighting in Syria.

Riyadh Summit

As part of the Riyadh Summit in late May 2017, many world leaders, including US President Donald Trump visited the region. Trump gave strong support for Saudi Arabia’s efforts in fighting against states and groups allied with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to an arms deal between the countries. Trump’s support may have induced other Sunni states to fall in line with Saudi Arabia to take a stance against Qatar. Trump’s public support for Saudi Arabia, emboldened the kingdom and sent a chill through other Gulf States, including Oman and Kuwait that fear that any country that defies the Saudis or the United Arab Emirates could face ostracism as Qatar has.] The Saudi-led move was at once an opportunity for the GCC partners and Egypt to punish their adversaries in Doha, please their allies in Washington, and remove attention from their own shortcomings and challenges.

There were 3 key reasons why the UAE and Saudi Arabia were upset with Qatar. The 2017–19 Qatar diplomatic crises began in June 2017, and these were 1. Support for the Muslim Brotherhood; 2 the hosting of TV station Al Jazeera; and 3 Qatar’s reconciliation with Iran on gas issues, and regional security.

Between 5 and 6 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen, Egypt, the Maldives, and Bahrain all separately announced that they were cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar.

All GCC countries involved in the announcement ordered their citizens out of Qatar.  Three Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain) gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries] The foreign ministries of Bahrain and Egypt gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave their countries.  Qatar was expelled from the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen and Yemen’s government itself has cut ties Kuwait and Oman remained neutral.

Kuwaiti mediators in Riyadh were presented with a list of Saudi demands of Qatar. These included cutting off all links with Iran and expelling resident members of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the Al-Jazeera network, to stop “interfering” in foreign countries’ affairs and to cease any funding or support for terrorist organisations ,  and banned Qatari airplanes and ships from utilising their airspace and sea routes along with Saudi Arabia blocking the only land crossing.

Initial supply disruptions were mitigated by additional imports from Iran and Turkey, and Qatar did not agree to any of the Saudi-led coalition’s demands.

The long-term purpose behind all of this is to usher in Ralph Peters’ 2006 “Blood Borders” blueprint for the “New Middle East”, wherein the Gulf eventually undergoes a geopolitical reengineering just like “Syraq”, Turkey, and the Balkans are slated to do as well. All in all, the fracturing of the region into a myriad of internationally recognized and de-facto statelets is expected to facilitate the prolongation of American hegemony in the broad interconnected space that the late Brzezinski described as the “Eurasian Balkans,” while simultaneously creating major complications for its European,  Russian and especially Chinese rivals’ access to this geostrategic pivot space at the heart of Afro-Eurasia.

Abu Dhabi has been in a fierce rivalry with Doha since the turn of the century as the two ultra-rich Gulf States compete with one another to court the largest amount of foreign investment and become the ultimate “to-go” destinations in the Mideast. Moreover, the two countries are also engaged in a proxy war in Libya, where the UAE backs General Haftar’s Tobruk government whereas Qatar is behind Muslim Brotherhood factions in Tripoli.

The Trump Factor

US President Trump visited Riyadh in the time between both attacks and urged the 50+ Muslim leader attendees to “drive out” the terrorists among their ranks. Apparently, Qatari Emir al-Thani had earlier given an unpublicized speech at the event where he spoke out against the “Arab NATO’s” increasingly obvious anti-Iranian agenda, but this allegedly was supposed to have been kept under wraps in order to avoid debunking the myth of Gulf unity.

The UAE already had an axe to grind with Qatar because of Libya. Egypt totally despites the peninsular country for supporting former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, and the Saudis will never forgive Emir Thani for speaking the way that he did about Iran while being hosted by the Kingdom.

Target: Iran

The UAE was able to get regional  heavyweight Saudi Arabia to take the lead in marshalling some of the “Arab NATO’s” countries against Qatar in order to pin the blame for years of  terrorism in the Mideast right on its leadership’s doorstep, obviously intending to initiate a game for keeps whereby the Kingdom either turns Thani into a puppet or outright deposes of him by prompting either a Color Revolution, Hybrid War, and/or royal coup against him.

The days of an LNG-rich Qatar thumbing its nose at the rest of the GCC and subsequently pioneering a somewhat independent foreign policy by patronizing the hated Muslim Brotherhood and pragmatically interacting with Saudi archenemy Iran could become history.

Just a few days later, another CIA unit, ISIS or Daesh carried out an unprecedented series of terrorist attacks against the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum, which the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps blamed on its Saudi rival.

Evidently, Riyadh wanted to prevent a Qatari-Iranian Strategic Partnership from forming and potentially coalescing around a “gas OPEC”, but the Kingdom might have unintentionally made this an accelerated fait accompli so long as Emir Thani can hold onto power and doesn’t back down.

Following this, Turkey’s leader, Erdogan (a close supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood), was granted a military base in Qatar-which was rapidly supplied with troops and equipment. Now, both Iran and Turkey were backing Qatar against the Gulf Arab states.

King Salman’s Visit to China

In the first week of March, 2017, King Salman paid an official visit to China, where he signed 21 deals worth about $65bn, as the world’s largest oil exporter looks to cement ties with the world’s second-largest economy.

This visit upset Washington to no end. The Rockefellers were determined to put a spike in this budding relationship between the two countries. It was time to send a message to Saudi Arabia, and especially to King Salman and his son, the Crown Prince, MBS. Within 6 weeks of this visit, the CIA had put into motion a plan to kill both King Salman and his son, the Crown Prince, MBS.

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