For the past couple of weeks we’ve written frequently about the sudden political turmoil in Saudi Arabia that resulted in two Saudi princes being killed in a span of just 24 hours and dozens others being detained on charges of corruption while having their bank accounts frozen. Here are couple of our most recent background posts on the topic: The Saudi Purge: The Middle-East Is On The Verge Of A New War If The Saudi Arabia Situation Doesn’t Worry You, You’re Not Paying Attention Now, per an exclusive report from Reuters, it appears as though the latest casualty of the Saudi shakeup is a financing deal sought by the $8 billion dollar Kingdom Holdings which is owned and run by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal…at least until he was recently arrested that is. Kingdom Holding’s plan to borrow money to fund new investments has stalled because owner Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has been detained in Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption crackdown, according to four banking sources familiar with the matter. Kingdom 4280. SE had approached banks to obtain the loan, but the financing plan has been held up because the lenders are worried about potential repercussions if they lend to the prince’s company, the sources said. One of the sources, who was approached for the loan, said it would have been worth roughly 5 billion riyals ($1.3 billion).
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 20, 2017.
After jailing dozens of members of the royal family, and extorting numerous prominent businessmen, 32-year-old Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman has widened his so-called ‘corruption’ probe further still. The Wall Street Journal reports that at least two dozen military officers, including multiple commanders, recently have been rounded up in connection to the Saudi government’s sweeping corruption investigation, according to two senior advisers to the Saudi government. Additionally, several prominent businessmen also were taken in by Saudi authorities in recent days. A number of businessmen including Loai Nasser, Mansour al-Balawi, Zuhair Fayez and Abdulrahman Fakieh also were rounded up in recent days, the people said. Attempts to reach the businessmen or their associates were unsuccessful. It isn’t clear if those people are all accused of wrongdoing, or whether some of them have been called in as witnesses. But their detainment signals an intensifying high-stakes campaign spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. There appear to be three scenarios behind MbS’ decision to go after the military:
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 17, 2017.
As we noted shortly after the Crown Prince’s purge of potential rivals within Saudi Arabia’s sprawling ruling family, while the dozens of arrests were made under the pretext of an “anti-corruption crackdown”, Mohammed bin Salman’s ulterior motive was something else entirely: Replenishing the Kingdom’s depleted foreign reserves, which have been hammered for the past three years by low oil prices, with some estimating that the current purge could potentially bring in up to $800 billion in proceeds. Furthermore, the geopolitical turmoil unleashed by the unprecedented crackdown helped push oil prices higher, creating an ancillary benefit for both the kingdom’s rulers and the upcoming IPO of Aramco. *** And, in the latest confirmation that the crackdown was all about cash, the Financial Times reports today that the Saudi government has offered the new occupants of the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton a way out…. and it’s going to cost them: In some cases, as much as 70% of their net worth.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 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.
Amid all of the chaos, coups, and corruption crackdowns in Saudi Arabia, and with declarations of war being dropped like confetti, the Tadawul All-Share Index is barely lower… We first pointed out the ‘odd’ appearance of a panic-buyer in Saudi stocks just two days after the chaos erupted. But it has now been a week and it seems someone is extremely keen to keep up appearances that all is well in the ‘market’ for Saudi stocks….
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 12, 2017.
The turmoil in the Middle East has been instigated in part by fiscal mismanagement. When the money was rolling in with high oil prices, it was assumed, as always, that whatever trend is in motion will remain in motion. Consequently, the government expanded their spending assuming money would continue to flow in. When oil broke, the fiscal mismanagement has been exposed for all to see if they care to look. Falling oil prices have decimated revenues and trade in the region. Security worries about terrorism, particularly in the US, have led to cuts in airline routes. Then there has also been a long-running diplomatic and trade impasse between Saudi Arabia and its allies on the one hand, and Qatar on the other. Now the good-old-days of easy money and rapid growth has led to concerns about over-capacity, waste, and corruption that nobody cared about when money flowed like oil. We are witnessing the beginning of a Middle East War between the Suni and Shite where the latter opposes kings and the state should be ruled by religious leaders. Iran and its Lebanese ally, the militant Shia group Hezbollah, claim the Saudis detained Mr. Saad El-Din Rafik Al-Hariri is a Lebanese-Saudi politician who has been the Prime Minister of Lebanon since December 2016. They allege that Saudi Arabia forced his resignation. Rex Tillerson said he had received assurances that Mr. Hariri was free to leave anytime.
21st Century Wire says… The Saudi generated cycle of insanity continues. Reports that are hard to confirm or deny are circulating on social media, spreading a degree of panic and reactionary responses from all concerned. ‘Events in Saudi Arabia are unfolding at a blinding pace, with a radical shift taking place within the upper echelons of government. Last weekend, King Salman announced the set-up of a special anti-corruption force that wasted no time in rounding up more than a dozen government officials – both former and current – five members of the royal family, and several businessmen. Since then, the list has been growing, to more than 60 as of today.’ ~ Oil Price – Kingdom of Fear On fireworks night, Bahrain allegedly put out the following announcement: BREAKING: #Bahrain calls its nationals not to travel to #Lebanon and Bahraini residents there to leave immediately. pic.twitter.com/g5yjMh8Zpa — Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) November 5, 2017
According to a new report by Middle East Eye, Prince Bandar bin Sultan – Saudi Arabia’s most famous arms dealer, longtime former ambassador to the US, and recent head of Saudi intelligence – was among those detained as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) so-called “corruption purge” that started with the initial arrests of up to a dozen princes and other top officials last weekend. If confirmed, the arrest and detention of Bandar would constitute the most significant and high profile figure caught up in the purge – even above that of high profile billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal – given Bandar’s closeness to multiple US administrations and involvement in events ranging from Reagan’s Nicaraguan Contra program (including direct involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal), to making the case for the Iraq War as a trusted friend of Bush and Cheney, to directing US-Saudi covert operations overseeing the arming of jihadists in Syria.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 10, 2017.
Just two weeks ago, the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh took place to international acclaim. Now, investor interest has turned to intense uncertainty, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spearheads an anti-corruption crackdown, and power shifts unfold in the Gulf. But despite the short-term risks, Alex Damianou argues that the long-term impact should be positive. The 4th of November was an historic day in Saudi Arabia. King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), demonstrated their continued, almost Machiavellian determination to execute social and economic reforms under Vision 2030. Their goals – to usher in a new area of transformation, consolidate power, and re-assert themselves on the regional battleground towards Iran. A Strategic Move The day began with the seemingly Saudi-influenced resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, citing Iranian influence and fears of an attempt on his own life. This was followed by a royal decree issued by King Salman, establishing the National Anti-Corruption Committee. Chaired by Crown Prince Salman, the committee has a mandate to identify offenses, persons, crimes, and entities involved in public corruption. The extensive powers of the committee include the ability to issue arrest warrants, restrict travel and freeze accounts. As the King put it in a televised address, ‘Laws will be applied firmly on everyone who touched public money and didn’t protect it or embezzled it, or abuse their power and influence’. In another example of the autocratic liberalization we have come to see over the past year from the King and Crown Prince, the crackdown strategically targeted power players in business and government. This included 11 princes, dozens of businessmen and senior officials, and former and sitting ministers. Notable among them are:
Princes, ministers and a billionaire are ‘imprisoned‘ in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton while the Saudi Arabian Army is said to be in an uproar… The House of Saud’s King Salman devises a high-powered ‘anti-corruption’ commission and appoints his son, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, as chairman. Right on cue, the commission detains 11 House of Saud princes, four current ministers and dozens of former princes/cabinet secretaries – all charged with corruption. Hefty bank accounts are frozen, private jets are grounded. The high-profile accused lot is ‘jailed’ at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton. War breaks out within the House of Saud, as Asia Times had anticipated back in July. Rumors have been swirling for months about a coup against MBS in the making. Instead, what just happened is yet another MBS pre-emptive coup. A top Middle East business/investment source who has been doing deals for decades with the opaque House of Saud offers much-needed perspective:
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 7, 2017.
Having legged higher at the opens of Asia, Europe, and US markets, WTI is extending gains overnight on middle-east tensions… Brent is trading above $62 amid anti-corruption drive led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which may consolidate his control in OPEC’s largest oil producer, and WTI has pushed above $57 as producers such as Nigeria, Saudi Arabia signal they support a potential extension of OPEC output cuts.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 6, 2017.
Two days after the most stunning purge in recent Saudi history, the so-called “anti-corruption probe” – which was really a countercoup – that led to the arrest of dozens of Saudi Arabian royals, ministers and businessmen allowing Mohammed to further cement control over the Kingdom, appeared to be widening on Monday when, as Reuters reports, Saudi banks begun freezing the accounts of those arrested. The Saudi central bank ordered commercial banks to freeze the accounts of people under investigation in the probe, the Reuters sources said, adding that the number of accounts affected could run into the hundreds, although the names of those affected have yet to emerge. ‘The freezing of accounts has already happened,’ said another source. ‘The freezing is a precautionary measure that will end as soon as the suspects are either charged or pronounced innocent.’ Considering that prince Alwaleed alone has over $19 billion in assets, including nearly a billion dollars in jewelry, plans, yachts, furniture and cash…
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 6, 2017.
Among the numerous high-profile figures arrested overnight in Saudi Arabia on ‘anti-corruption’ charges, in addition to the shocking detention of prince Alwalaleed bin-Talal another unexpected name has emerged: that of Bakr bin Laden, chairman of Saudi Binladin Group and brother of Osama bin Laden. The Binladin Group is one of the biggest construction companies, with an annual turnover of $30 billion. It was carrying out the expansion of the Kaaba complex. *** Bakr bin Laden The family rejected al-Qaeda’s former leader, Osama Bin Ladin, because he was involved in terrorist activities in the 1990s. A quick primer on the Binladin Group from the WSJ: Based in Jeddah and [ZH: formerly] favored by Saudi Arabia’s royal family, Saudi Binladin Group derives billions in annual revenue from a wide range of enterprises, including mosque construction, telecommunications and selling Snapple soft drinks in Saudi Arabia. Although the family’s U. S. spokesman says Saudi Binladin Group is wholly owned by the extended bin Laden family, not including Osama, he said he could provide no information on exactly which members have an equity interest in the company. British paging company Multitone Electronics PLC said it was shocked to learn that its reseller in Saudi Arabia, Baud Telecommunications Ltd., is owned by the Binladin Group. “You’re joking,” Chief Executive Michael Walker said. “Oh bloody! I didn’t know. I thought it was just Baud Telecom.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 5, 2017.
In a desperate bid to survive its economic meltdown, Venezuela is lobbying other OPEC members to agree to steeper oil production cuts, a move that would likely lead to higher oil prices. Venezuelan officials have reached out to their counterparts in Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia to press them on more collective action, according to Argus Media. If there was enough interest, the next step would be an ‘extraordinary meeting,’ which would weigh the option of cutting deeper. The rumors about deeper OPEC cuts have been floating around since June, when oil prices collapsed into the low-$40s. The markets have grown deeply pessimistic about the health of the oil market, and doubt the OPEC cuts will balance the market by the end of the compliance period in March 2018. But the behind-the-scenes effort from Venezuelan officials is notable, if only because the South American OPEC members was one of the earliest and most aggressive supporters of the original deal to reduce output. In 2016, for months the more powerful members of the cartel rebuffed Venezuelan pleas, but in the end they agreed to reductions in November after oil prices continued to wallow below $50 per barrel.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 19, 2017.
U. S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently admitted that America’s official foreign policy includes a regime-change operation in Iran. The CIA has created an office for this sole purpose, tasking Michael D’Andrea – also known as the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike – with leading this operation. Iran just had an election in May, and voter turnout was as high as 70 percent. Even prisoners were allowed to vote, something so-called moderate democratic countries like New Zealand disallow. In contrast, voter turnout in the 2016 U. S. elections was around 58 percent, and support for Donald Trump’s impeachment is now higher than support for his presidency. Though Iran is hardly democratic by Western standards given the stringent requirements for becoming a political candidate in the first place, it is still vastly more democratic than most of America’s closest allies in the region. According to a U. S. State Department document: ‘The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the Al Saud family… The following significant human rights problems were reported: no right to change the government peacefully; torture and physical abuse; poor prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention; denial of fair and public trials and lack of due process in the judicial system; political prisoners; restrictions on civil liberties such as freedoms of speech (including the Internet), assembly, association, movement, and severe restrictions on religious freedom; and corruption and lack of government transparency. Violence against women and a lack of equal rights for women, violations of the rights of children, trafficking in persons, and discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sect, and ethnicity were common. The lack of workers’ rights, including the employment sponsorship system, remained a severe problem.’ [emphasis added]
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 21, 2017.
Goldman, which has been pushing for higher oil prices with seemingly daily bullish research reports for the past month, and which underwrote the last Saudi Arabian bond issue and is expected to also manage the Aramco IPO (explaining the bank’s conflict of interest), released a note commeting on the latest development in the oil market, which sent the price of crude higher by 3% after Saudi and Russia oil minister agreed to extend the OPEC production cuts by another 9 months through the end of Q1 2018. Specifically, Goldman writes that “today’s announcement will likely further extend the oil price rebound started last week on decent stock draws and low positioning, although the rally so far today has remained modest compared to the move that occurred last year when the OPEC cuts were first announced.” Even so, Goldman’s oil analyst Damien Courvalin had some caveats. Specifically, he said that for the strategy to work, however, two things have to take place: compliance needs to remain high and long-term oil prices need to remain low to prevent shale producers from ramping up investment significantly more. In fact, an extension of the cuts should go hand in hand with guidance of future production increases by low cost producers, in our view, with an already notable emphasis by Saudi and others that oil prices will likely remain in a $45-55/bbl long-term range, in line with our forecasts. This leaves us reiterating our 3Q17 $57/bbl Brent price forecast and, with an increasingly likely extension of the cuts, raises our confidence that the oil market will shift into backwardation in 3Q17. His full note below: Saudi and Russia commit to a 9-month extension of oil production cuts Saudi Arabia and Russia announced today, May 15, that they had reached an agreement to extend their oil output cuts for another nine months, through Mar-18. This announcement comes ahead of the scheduled May 25 meeting of OPEC members. Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih and his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak further pledged in a joint statement “to do whatever it takes” to reduce global inventories to their five-year average. In our view, this commitment to a longer than expected cut by the two largest participants of the output deal significantly increases the likelihood that all participants will agree to such an extension, with the longer duration likely helping to achieve high compliance through 2017.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 15, 2017.
History shows how the United States has staged dozens of violent coups worldwide since the end of WWII. Here the CIA will simply install its own compliant puppet leader in order to better streamline US interests with those of the target nation. This practice was not only confined to nation states, however, as we can see with the out-going UN Secretary General. The whole basis of the UN charter was to avoid the kind of undeclared wars of aggression suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany. Back in October, 21WIRE’s Vanessa Beeleyexplained: ‘To compare Saudi Arabia’s belligerent actions in Yemen to Nazi Germany’s undeclared wars of aggression prior to WWII is no exaggeration. In fact, one could make the argument that this Saudi-US joint venture is much worse, and a far more dangerous precedent. Likewise, the failure of a corrupt UN (who effectively sold Saudi Arabia its seat on at the head of the UN Human Rights Council ), led by an impotent Secretary General in Ban-ki Moon, to censure Saudi Arabia for its flagrant violation of international law, the Nuremberg Principles and the entire Geneva Convention content and implied framework – leaves the UN in the exact same position as the League of Nations in 1938.’ Now that US puppet Ban-Ki Moon is finally on his way out, we can see the true scope of the corruption he’s presided over – and the irreparable damage he’s inflicted on this international institution…
Back in October, Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank Group Corp., announced the creation of the SoftBank Vision Fund, a UK-based technology fund, with a $45 billion capital commitment form the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The initial press release for the Vision Fund announced the company expected to invest at least $25 billion over the next 5 years and said that overall funding could reach $100 billion. Since Donald Trump won the US presidential election in November, Mr. Son has been actively courting the president-elect, by vowing to invest as much as $50bn in American start-ups…something the pair happily announced in the lobby of Trump tower back in December. Masa (SoftBank) of Japan has agreed to invest $50 billion in the U. S. toward businesses and 50,000 new jobs…. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2016
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 5, 2017.
Following last week’s report that Saudi Arabia is starting to apply pressure on the Trump administration by hinting it could move the Aramco IPO away from New York to some still undeteremined venue due to concerns the recently passed Sept 11 law could make business in the US problematic, on Sunday Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said he has been lobbying US legislators to change a law allowing victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to sue the kingdom. According to AFP, Adel al-Jubeir told reporters he had returned from an extended stay in the United States, which was partly “to try to persuade them that there needs to be an amendment of the law”, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). In September, the US Congress voted overwhelmingly to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the JASTA. While 15 of the 19 Al-Qaeda hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudi, Riyadh continues to deny any ties to the plotters who killed nearly 3,000 people, and is worried disclosures in court could lead to material complications about conducting business in America. “We believe the law, that curtails sovereign immunities, represents a grave danger to the international system,” Jubeir said at a joint press conference with visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2016.
One day after Julian Assange officially revealed for the first time that the source of hacked Podesta and DNC emails in Wikileaks’ possession is not Russia, in the second excerpt from the John Pilger Special, to be broadcast by RT on Saturday Julian Assange accuses Hillary Clinton of misleading Americans about the true scope of Islamic State’s support from Washington’s Middle East allies. As previously reported, in an August 17, 2014 email made public WikiLeaks last month, Hillary Clinton, who had served as secretary of state until the year before, urges John Podesta, then an advisor to Barack Obama, to ‘bring pressure’ on Qatar and Saudi Arabia, ‘which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIS and other radical Sunni groups.’ “I think this is the most significant email in the whole collection,’ Assange, whose whistleblowing site released three tranches of Clinton-related emails over the past year, told Pilger in the interview. ‘All serious analysts know, and even the US government has agreed, that some Saudi figures have been supporting ISIS and funding ISIS, but the dodge has always been that it is some ‘rogue’ princes using their oil money to do whatever they like, but actually the government disapproves. But that email says that it is the government of Saudi Arabia, and the government of Qatar that have been funding ISIS.’ As recounted by RT, Assange and Pilger, who sat down for their 25-minute interview at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where the whistleblower has been a refugee since 2012, also talked about the conflict of interest between Clinton’s official post, her husband’s nonprofit, and the Middle East officials, whose stated desire to fight terrorism may not have been sincere.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 4, 2016.