It is becoming more difficult to hide the mess the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman creates. The propaganda about the "liberal reformer" is too inconsistent with his obviously tyrannical behavior.
The clown prince of Saudi Barbaria practically abducted the Prime Minister of Lebanon, blackmailed him to resign and holds him since under house arrest. This is an unprecedented attack on the sovereignty of Lebanon and all other countries. Yet the U.S. and some European leaders cowardly pretend that Saad Hariri is free to go where he wants:
A French official says that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has told foreign ambassadors that he is not a prisoner in Saudi Arabia, where he has been holed up since an unusual resignation announcement.
An official in French President Emmanuel Macron's office said on Friday that the French and U.S. ambassadors in Saudi Arabia met with Hariri, and that Hariri "says he is not a prisoner, the (Saudi crown) prince says he is not a prisoner."
Macron paid a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia on Thursday night and met with the crown prince, notably about rising tensions in Lebanon, a former French protectorate.
Hariri may not be "a prisoner" but he is as free to leave his current residence as Julian Assange in free to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Macron did not even meet with Hariri but slipped over into the United Arab Emirates. There an unexpected sale of two French corvettes was signed. The president of the UAE, Mohammed bin Zayed, is the mentor of the Saudi clown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Macron took the thirty pieces of silver and let Hariri and Lebanon hanging.
It is obvious that Hariri did not travel to Saudi Arabia last Saturday with the intent to resign from his job:
Hariri had scheduled meetings in Beirut on the following Monday – with the IMF, the World Bank and a series of discussions on water quality improvement; not exactly the action of a man who planned to resign his premiership.
The unofficial version of Hariri's meeting with the U.S. and French ambassador is diverging from the one above:
Mr. Hariri, a dual citizen of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, met the ambassadors of Britain and the European Union and the chargé d’affaires from the American Embassy on Wednesday and Thursday at his Riyadh residence. Other Western diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that those envoys, too, came away with the impression that he could not speak freely.
Even the State Department spokesperson lets slip that Harairi is not free to go:
"We have seen him. In terms of the conditions of him being held or the conversations between Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Hariri, I would have to refer you to the government of Saudi Arabia and also to Mr Hariri's office."
Hariri's own political party in Lebanon has united with its enemy Hizbullah and the Christian President Aoun in a call for Hariri to come back and explain himself to the Lebanese people:
“The return of the head of the Lebanese government, the national leader and the head of al-Mustaqbal Movement Saad Hariri is necessary to restore respect for Lebanon's balance at home and abroad, in the framework of full respect for the Lebanese legitimacy represented in the Constitution and the Taef Accord and in respecting the Arab and international legitimacies,” said Mustaqbal in a statement issued after an emergency meeting for its parliamentary bloc and political bureau.
The Saudis have told their citizens in Lebanon to leave the country. Its allies Kuwait, UAE and Bahrain have followed suit. There have been some four such orders during the last five years and the move is in itself not significant. Should the Saudis start to block the Gulf money flow to Lebanon or take other measures the economic damage in Lebanon could be quite larger If the Gulf states expulse Lebanese workers the economic damage to Lebanon would be huge. But these Lebanese workers are the people who actually run the businesses in the Gulf states. Without the 160,000 Lebanese book keepers and managers the Saudi economy would probably collapse.
The similarities with the idiotic Saudi campaign against Qatar is obvious. The Saudi made an impulsive hostile move without having thought through the second or third step. He soon found himself out of ammunition but had left no way out to solve the issue without losing face.
The French and other countries' cowardliness towards the clown prince extends to the starving of Yemen. UN flights with immediately needed medical supplies and food have been blocked by Saudi authorities. The ports for food shipment are blockaded. UN officials warn of an imminent massive famine and are begging everyone to intervene. But nothing has been heard from Macron or any other "western" politician.
Meanwhile the Saudi tyrant's purge of all potential internal competition continues. Some 500 people have been arrested with the higher ups being held in the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh. The hotel has now been "booked" until the end of January. But its 300 rooms are too few to hold the growing pile of rich trash. The Mariott hotel next door has now also been booked by the Saudi authorities. Regular guests were told to leave. A sure sign that the purge campaign will continue.
One important aspect of the purge is the open robbery that is part of it. Everyone arrested is accused of "corruption". This in a country where taking a share of every state contract is seen as an inherited right of the ruling class. The Wall Street Journal reports that the people around MbS expect to steal up to $800 billion in assets from the ultra rich businessmen and princes they have now under their control. They will probably need the money to keep the country afloat:
[E]ven a portion of that amount could help Saudi Arabia’s finances. A prolonged period of low oil prices forced the government to borrow money on the international bond market and to draw extensively from the country’s foreign reserves, which dropped from $730 billion at their peak in 2014 to $487.6 billion in August, the latest available government data....The central bank sent a list of hundreds of names to lenders, asking them to freeze any accounts linked to them, according to people familiar with the matter. ...
As a precautionary measure, authorities have banned a large number of people from traveling outside the country, among them hundreds of royals and people connected to those arrested, according to people familiar with the matter.
Who will be willing to invest even a penny in Saudi Arabia after such a shakedown? There is no rule of law and there are no reliable courts. Everything depends on the whim of one man. The shakedown of the rich might bring some money into MbS coffers but all his huge projects and investment plans will now lack the necessary sponsors.
Trump had voiced full support for the Saudi moves. But it is obvious that such a purge and the external adventurism will not have a happy ending. Secretary of State Tillerson is already rowing back Trump's grandstanding. He cautions MbS about the handling of his prisoners:
“It’s my understanding that they’re characterizing these as not really arrests at this point but they’re presenting people with evidence of what they think the wrongdoing is to see if there’s a willingness to want to make things right.”
“It raises a few concerns until we see more clearly how these particular individuals are dealt with,” Tillerson added.
On Lebanon Tillerson warns Israel of any intervention. He takes the Lebanese side in the Hariri discussion. He does not recognize the compelled "resignation":
The United States was watching the situation [with Hariri] “very carefully,” supporting “the legitimate government of Lebanon” and “asking other outside parties to stay out of it,” he added.
“If he’s going to step down, as I understand it, he needs to go back to Lebanon to make that official. I‘m hopeful that if that is still his intent to leave that he’ll do that so that the government of Lebanon can function properly,” Tillerson said.
The two steps on Lebanon and on the internal purge seem too impulsive to be part of a greater plan. They begin to look like the other "adventures" MbS started in Qatar and Yemen. Aimless campaigns in which the second and third order effects eventually turn against the aggressor. In all these cases the long term damage to Saudi Arabia will be huge.
Any day now the clown prince will become king of Saudi Arabia. In theory he could then rule for 50 years. But his country is unlikely to survive another five years of such impulsive and tyrannic behavior. Chances are that one his guards will be merciful enough to solve the problem with a single bullet.
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