By Pepe Escobar
It’s fascinating to watch the vast, well-rewarded western army of Saudi lobbyists/stenographers singing the praises of a “traditional and conservative institution”, a.k.a. the House of Saud, now embarking on a new, “assertive foreign policy.”
As this concerns the ideological matrix of all Salafi-jihadi variations in the demented galaxy of Wahhabi extremism, I’d rather call it a Mob rule update. Not nearly as entertaining as Coppola’s Godfather saga, but certainly more sinister.
Imagine the outrage, broadcasted to distant galaxies, if this was taking place in certified opponents of the Empire of Chaos such as Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador, Russia or China. But as the House of Saud are “our bastards”, complete with a minister, Ali al-Naimi, capable of saying that Allah should set oil prices, they can get away with literally anything.
New House of Saud capo di tutti I capi, King Salman, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, must have been brushing up on his Al Pacino to learn how to be swift as a dagger. Lesson learned; with a single move, he achieved the following:
He got rid of his half-brother and sitting Crown Prince, Muqrin. Muqrin duly pledged allegiance to the new boss.
He promoted his nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, from No. 3 to No. 2 in the House of Saud succession line.
He promoted his own son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to No. 3.
He got rid of the former, eternal, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, and placed a Washington darling, the non-royal Adel al-Jubeir, who as ambassador to the U.S. has been the voice, in English, not lost in translation, of the (illegal) Saudi war on Yemen.
He gave the entire military and security forces a bonus of one-month’s pay.
He separated the Saudi Oil Ministry from ARAMCO, the state-owned oil company. Gotta try to balance the books — especially with the Saudi-instigated oil price war going nowhere; the ridiculously expensive war on Yemen; and all those huge bonuses to content the subjects; after all, virtually everyone in the oil hacienda works for the House of Saud. It was Salman’s son, Mohammed bin Salman, who came up with the oil ministry/ARAMCO scheme.
Married to the Mob, remixed
Here’s what the world needs to know about the Mob rule update.
Let’s start with the “youthful” Prince Mohammed bin Salman (What’s not to like? Fawning western hagiographers gleefully speculate over his age like he’s a precious damsel in distress, not a black-bearded hunk. Anything goes, but not upwards of 35.)
The Royal Youthful “wields enormous power” and as defense minister has been prosecuting the (illegal) bombing/war/”kinetic operation” on Yemen. The king himself vaunted his “massive capabilities”. Saudi sources tell me he’s been a (incompetent) cross of Dr. Evil and Mini-Me, with no Austin Powers to save his day. Although he’s a pop star and a TV celebrity inside the Mob hacienda, he’s convinced absolutely no one – from Egypt to Pakistan – to send troops to “his” war.
For his new No. 3 role, according to the official spin, he gained “support from the vast majority of members of the Council of Allegiance.” The operative word here is “vast majority.” This implies Muqrin’s people were a tad uncomfortable. The Council of Allegiance is a group of 35 descendants of the Mob founder, King Abdul Aziz bin Saud.
The Royal Youthful, according to his official biography, had a murky “professional career of 10 years” but then — miraculously — became a special adviser to his father, then governor of Riyadh. He was appointed defense minister and chief of the royal court the same day, Jan. 23, when Salman became king, after the death of former king Abdullah, whose entire family has been completely erased politically.
Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, the new crown prince, is very much loved in the Beltway as a sort of top Saudi cop and a counterterrorism tough guy. He allegedly defeated al-Qaeda inside Saudi Arabia just for it to regroup in Yemen and now, for all practical purposes, enjoy indirect Mob help, adding new meaning to the concept of married to the Mob. His father, the ultra-right winger late Crown Prince Nayef, was colorfully known as the Black Prince.
As the new number two, Nayef will be a busy fellow — as he remains head of the economic and development council, and was also named second deputy prime minister. For all practical purposes, he’s the new go-to guy in the Mob.
As for al-Jubeir, he’s being lauded by the usual suspects for his “expertise” in U.S. politics. Nonsense; al-Jubeir was directly appointed by Washington.
Within this ballet, it’s Muqrin’s silence that speaks volumes. He’s the son of a Yemeni slave girl; was a key protégé of late King Abdullah; and is not exactly close to Salman’s branch of the Mob, the Sudairis. Bets are off on when he’ll finally spill the beans, if ever, about what walks and talks like a palace coup.
What’s the strategy today?
Whatever the scope of the shake-up, the “new” House of Saud – with the Obama administration “leading from behind” — will keep selling the fiction that it’s freeing Yemen from a bunch of terrorists, when it’s actually empowering al-Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula (AQAP). It’s AQAP’s fierce enemies — the Houthis — which have been bombed under the orders of the Royal Youthful.
Not to mention the fact the revamped Mob — with a little help from Qatari and Turkish friends — is making sure the Nusra Front (al-Qaeda’s Syrian spinoff) and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh (which originally split from al-Qaeda) are advancing on all fronts across “Syraq”.
And beyond the scope of the shake-up, as wily Israelis have already identified it, the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration will keep duly following convoluted Mob mantras. Sort of. As if there’s any coherence in support for hardcore jihadis in Syria but bombing of hardcore jihadis in Iraq; support for hardcore jihadis in Yemen; support for hardcore jihadis in Libya and then repression of hardcore jihadis in Libya, and so it goes.
What makes it even more absurd is that the “new” House of Saud absolutely detests Washington’s “strategy” in Iraq and doesn’t believe for a second there’s a “strategy” for Syria. As for its own convoluted war on Yemen, it’s much less about Wahhabis hating “apostate” Shi’ites than Wahhabis impermeable to any whiff of Arab Spring near their borders.
Mob rule is in effect since 1902, enforced either by founder Ibn Saud Abdul-Aziz, or his sons. King Salman will be the last of his sons in power. The Royal Youthful is already sharpening his daggers. Expect western corporate media to make him more popular than Justin Bieber.
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