Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Fulcrum Crumbles In Riyadh

Saudi Arabia's King Salman just cleaned house, in this case pretty much the entire House of Saud, the most notable arrest in Salman's purge is billionaire Prince Alaweed Bin Talal.

Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a prominent member of the county's royal family and a wealthy investor, was arrested on Saturday in connection with a wide-ranging anti-corruption initiative, according to local reports.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman removed a host of prominent officials in a sweeping crackdown, in which dozens of princes and former ministers were detained. News outlets, including Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, and The Wall Street Journal, reported Bin Talal was among those arrested. CNBC could not immediately confirm Bin Talal's status.

Bin Talal is considered one of the most prominent members of the Saudi royal family, and has been the subject of numerous profiles in U.S. and international publications. He has made numerous appearances on CNBC dispensing investment advice — such as last month, when he predicted bitcoin was little more than a speculative bubble that would soon "implode"

The billionaire is an American-educated philanthropist and investor who is heavily invested in U.S. corporate giants like Citigroup, Apple, 21st Century Fox and Twitter, just to name a few. Between 1991 and 1995, bin Talal came to the rescue of President Donald Trump, whose real estate empire was under strain. Bin Talal purchased a yacht, and invested in Trump's Plaza Hotel.

It's that last part that I think is a big part of the puzzle. Don't forget that this action is coming on the heels of last week's announcement of a massive new half-trillion dollar Saudi mega-city project.  That level of grandeur would almost certainly attract massive corruption, but King Salman got his house in order.


And later Saturday a missile attack from Yemen was intercepted.

Saudi Arabia says it has intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen, after a loud explosion was heard near Riyadh airport on Saturday evening.

The missile was destroyed over the capital and fragments landed in the airport area, officials quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency said.

A TV channel linked to Houthi rebels in Yemen said the missile was fired at the King Khalid International Airport.

The civil aviation authority said that air traffic was not disrupted.

Saudi forces have reported shooting down Houthi missiles in the past , though none has come so close to a major population centre.

Not to mention Lebanese PM Saad al-Hariri resigning out of fear of assassination.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has resigned, saying in a televised broadcast from Saudi Arabia that he feared for his life, while also fiercely criticising Iran.

He accused Iran of sowing "fear and destruction" in several countries, including Lebanon.

Mr Hariri's father, former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.

The Hariri family is close to Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional competitor.

Mr Hariri has been prime minister since December 2016, after previously holding the position between 2009 and 2011.

"We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik al-Hariri," he said in the broadcast from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

"I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life."

Mr Hariri also attacked the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah, which wields considerable power in Lebanon.

Addressing "Iran and its followers" he said Lebanon would "cut off the hands that wickedly extend into it".

Iran said the resignation would create regional tensions and rejected Mr Hariri's accusations as "unfounded".

As a good friend has reminded me, all this is connected.  The shadow war between Riyadh and Tehran is old and ugly, and just because it's the 21st century doesn't mean it's any less dangerous.  The Saudis have been making moves all throughout 2017 in order to consolidate power and shut out Iran.  That mega-city project is the future as oil dies in the sands, and King Salman isn't taking any chances that his family is going to try to screw him over on it.

Everyone left is 100% on board, or soon will be.  The House of Saud is moving forward because they're running out of time.  Trump may be taking America back to a fossil fuel nightmare, but the Saudis aren't as stupid.

Let's not kid ourselves though, as the Saudis remain a brutally oppressive theocratic monarchy with deadly authoritarian tendencies.  They are not our buddies, or anyone's buddies for that matter, they are part and parcel of the problem in the Middle East for the last several decades, and that power they wield comes from oil.

But what this really comes down to is the fact that Jared Kushner was in Saudi Arabia last week.  The last time Kushner was in Saudi Arabia, we got the whole Qatar mess.  Now, days after his latest visit to Riyadh, we have a massive purge including a Saudi business billionaire who has a long-running feud with one Donald Trump.

Prince Alwaleed was giving interviews to the Western news media as recently as late last month about subjects like so-called crypto currencies and Saudi Arabia’s plans for a public offering of shares in its state oil company, Aramco. 
He has also recently sparred publicly with President Donald J. Trump. The prince was part of a group of investors who bought control of the Plaza Hotel in New York from Mr. Trump, and he also bought an expensive yacht from him as well. But in a twitter message in 2015 the prince called Mr. Trump “a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.” 
Mr. Trump fired back, also on Twitter, that “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money.”

And Trump tweeted today about a new IPO by Aramco here in the US.  Out of the blue.

You do the math.

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