There are two divergent views on the crackdown on corruption by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), which led to the arrest and detention of 200 princes, ministers and former ministers. On one hand, it was a masterstroke which will earn political capital with the Saudi people and catalyse an Arab Spring in which MBS is a modernizing reformer who will liberalise Islam. On the other, it was nothing other than a cynical and desperate attempt to tighten his grip on power and weaken competing clans within the ruling family (especially sons of former King Abdullah) as the nation risks splitting apart due to political and economic fissures. Last week, we noted that former head of the National Guard and senior member of the Abdullah clan, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, purchased his freedom for a cool $1 billion. If you put yourself in the position of being a Saudi prince or wealthy Saudi official, whatever your opinion of MBS’s motivation, you would be forgiven for taking additional measures to make it harder for his henchmen to seize your wealth if you found yourself in the crosshairs.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 5, 2017.
One day you were the billionaire head of the National Guard in one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships. Although that carries some risk, you were probably reassured by your position as a senior prince in the ruling family, never mind your strong ties to the US military… oh and of course the many zeros in your bank account. The next day, in a turn of events akin to Shakespearian drama, you were imprisoned (kind of) with ten of your fellow princes and a bunch of ministers and former ministers in a 5 star hotel on charges of money laundering, bribery and general corruption. Despite being a cousin of the Kingdom’s uber-autocratic crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Prince Miteb bin Abdullah was a son of former King Abdullah and got caught up in a clan war in the ruling family. Former Riyadh governor and another of King Abdullah’s sons, Turki bin Abdullah, was also arrested in the crackdown. Miteb was accused of conducting normal business practices in Saudi Arabia, such as embezzlement, hiring ‘ghost’ employees and awarding his own companies a $10 billion contract for walkie-talkies and bullet proof protection. However, after what must have been the worst three and a half weeks of his life in the Ritz Carlton ‘prison’, Miteb has purchased his freedom for a cool $1 billion.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 29, 2017.
If the crown prince of Saudi Arabia has in mind a war with Iran, President Trump should disabuse his royal highness of any notion that America would be doing his fighting for him. Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, the 32-year-old son of the aging and ailing King Salman, is making too many enemies for his own good, or for ours. Pledging to Westernize Saudi Arabia, he has antagonized the clerical establishment. Among the 200 Saudis he just had arrested for criminal corruption are 11 princes, the head of the National Guard, the governor of Riyadh, and the famed investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The Saudi tradition of consensus collective rule is being trashed. MBS is said to be pushing for an abdication by his father and his early assumption of the throne.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 14, 2017.
Events this week serve to remind us that Ukraine is very much still the epicentre of the New Cold War. Batchelor lists the fall of Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Yatsenyuk, a death threat to President Poroshenko by a Right Sector sympathizing member in the Rada, while in Europe, a Dutch referendum sunders the chances for Ukraine ever becoming a member of the E.U. But this week even more disasters are enveloping Poroshenko’s presidency. Saakashvili, ‘imported’ governor of Odessa Oblast, threatened to resign and also, according to Cohen (as seen on facebook), ‘take measures into his own hands’ if Poroshenko does not address reforms for corruption in government. This is pure sedition, Cohen points out. (And this writer finds it is most curious behaviour for ‘Washington’s man’ in Ukraine to heap more instability on the Kiev government.) Cohen, speculates that Saakasvili has personal designs on the presidency. The Panama papers scandal hi-light all these problems. The IMF will not bail out the government because of them, and Poroshenko is facing a potential loss of support by Washington and Europe. Cohen feels that a failure of this government would complete the failure for the whole country. Cohen begins an extensive discussion about how that government declined over the years due to its own ineptness, corruption and a hate based civil war against its own people -’the worst seen in Europe since the Second World War’. Somewhat more worrisome is the news of U.S. troops, elements of the California National Guard and air components, going to Ukraine. Officially this is a cooperative program between governments called the U.S. European Command State Partnership Program (SPP), and is one of 65 such programs worldwide. The Ukrainian relationship began in 1993. The danger in this New Cold War environment is that infrastructure sharing, and training with different weaponry between these two military groups allows a quick reaction force ability to be deployed to Ukraine. This can easily be expanded into a ‘Vietnam scenario’, and this American military presence in Ukraine may be that reality in process. On the face of it the U.S. sending units of its military to Ukraine for training does not make sense when the national army of Ukraine is in drastic decline – essentially in step with the economy there; it does not want to fight and has a serious desertion rate. But does Washington have a plan? There appears to be so much chaos that on the surface this only seems to be another Washington failure.
The year is 2055… Mutant fish-pigs have taken over the planet and hoarded the world’s food supply. Entire cities have been taken over. Lady Liberty has been replaced by an even bigger effigy… It’s an unspeakably ridiculous downfall of humanity. And we have one company to thank. Take a wild guess. Yep. You got it. Monsanto. Like most man-made disasters, good intentions and a heavy helping of stupidity were at the genesis. The goal, you see, was to create a ‘super fish-pig.’ (It sounds dumb even saying it.) In 2033, you see, Monsanto publicly merged with the United States government. Now, with billions of dollars at their disposal, the experiments got real weird. Though GMOs were completely out of favor by this time (but eaten because that’s all that was left), Monsanto kept on its relentless path. It kept trying to show the world how innovative GMOs were. Maybe it was guilt. Maybe it was a need to be loved. But Monsanto should’ve known that it was time to throw in the towel. The Great Food Crisis was still fresh in everyone’s minds. No one would dare publicly support them. Aside from the crooks and cronies within the government, of course. Oh, you haven’t heard of the Great Food Crisis? Jeez… Well, here’s how it played out. First, all the bees died. And then all the small farmers were sued or forced out of existence. Yep. All of them. Then, the superbugs started to get out of control. These little steely-eyed bastards could handle all the pesticides we threw at them. They’d adapted beyond anything Monsanto even thought possible. In only a few years, the superbugs ravaged through 75% of the United States’ crops before the National Guard could contain them. Meanwhile, while we devoted all our resources to killing the bugs, the super weeds gained traction. And just like that… food was scarce. And the rationing began.
Resurrection, reinvention and linguistics. Barack Obama did the lot. And now he’s taking America to war in Syria as well as Iraq. Oh yes, and he’s going to defeat Isis, its “barbarism”, “genocide”, its “warped ideology” – until the bad guys are “vanquished from the earth”. What happened to George W. Bush? But let’s go through this with a linguistic comb. First, Obama is going to resurrect the Sunni “Awakening Council” militias – a creature invented by a certain General David Petraeus – who were paid to fight al-Qaeda by the Americans during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, but who then got blasted by al-Qaeda and betrayed by the Shia-dominated Iraqi government. Obama has even invented a new name for these militias: he called them “National Guard Units” who will “help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from Isil”. National Guard indeed! Then there’s the reinvention of the “moderate” Syrian opposition which was once called the Free Syrian Army – a force of deserters corrupted and betrayed by both the West and its Islamic allies – and which no longer exists. This ghost army is now going to be called the “Syrian National Coalition” and be trained – of all places – in Saudi Arabia, whose citizens have given zillions of dollars to al-Qaeda in Iraq, Isis, Isil, IS (you decide on the acronym), Jabhat al-Nusra and sundry other bad guys whom Obama now wants to “vanquish from the earth”.