by Yusuf Dhia-Allah (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 46, No. 11, Rabi' al-Thani, 1439)
The word chaos accurately captures the essence of recent events inside the Bani Saud-ruled kingdom. While the Western corporate media fawn over the crown prince’s naked power-grab describing it in breathless headlines as “reforms,” the reality is quite different. Muhammad bin Salman has shaken two of the most important foundations that enabled the medieval kingdom to survive for so long. The twin deals, one with the religious establishment and the other within the ruling family, have been demolished.
The medieval kingdom moves into unchartered territory with an erratic and inexperienced prince at the helm. He may believe that striking deals with imperialist America and Zionist Israel would help him save his hide and keep his hold on power; the deals with the two most evil regimes in the world may in fact prove to be a recipe for disaster. Uncle Sam and nephew Moshe are there for the money; they thrive on sucking the blood of other people. Bin Salman (BS) will also discover this as many others before him are now reviewing in their graves.
The wholesale arrests carried out on November 4 were unprecedented in scale as far as the Bani Saud clan is concerned. It would be too charitable to call the medieval kingdom a regime; Bani Saud act like a mafia that controls the state; its resources are treated as personal fortune. With an army of Saudi “royals” — it is not clear how many there are but a rough guesstimate is 7,000 plus — money was being spread very thinly. This had become even more untenable following the precipitous drop in oil prices starting in 2014, again engineered by Bani Saud to undermine Islamic Iran’s influence in the region. Far from causing harm to Iran, Bani Saud have suffered massive financial losses as a consequence.
This could not have come at a worse time. Bani Saud are in the midst of a succession battle and consequently crisis. King Salman is old (82), suffers from dementia, and numerous other ailments. He wants to make (or is being forced to make) his inexperienced and arrogant son the king. Even though several sons of ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Sa‘ud are still alive, the forced transition to the next generation is not proving easy. The Saudi Constitution, for whatever it is worth, states that the brother next in line (from among the sons of ‘Abd al-‘Aziz) would accede to the throne once the king dies or is incapacitated. Salman however has discarded this and wants his son BS to take over the reins of power.
BS’ cousins — and there are a whole lot of them, some with much greater experience and far smarter than him (this, of course, is relative, as there are no geniuses in this lot) —are not happy with this development. The November 4 arrests were carried out under the guise of fighting corruption but the fact is there is not a single Saudi “royal” who is not up to his neck in corruption including Bin Salman (BS). He recently made some very expensive purchases: $500 million yatch, $300 million mansion in Paris and a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting totalling $1.25 billion in all. Where did the blighter get such fabulous wealth from?
BS wanted to eliminate potential rivals especially Mit‘ab bin ‘Abdillah, who was dismissed from his post as Commander of the National Guard. He was a strong contender for the throne. Another rival, Muhammad bin Nayif had already been sidelined and placed under house arrest.
The other reason for the arrests was to grab their wealth to finance BS’ grandiose but foolish plans. The Kingdom’s revenues have depleted rapidly due to multiple wars, massive arms purchases, and other reckless ventures. The population is also getting restless because essential services have been cut and taxes have been imposed. With high unemployment — it is believed to be around 40% among the youth (ages 20–30) that constitute about 60% of the population — opposition to the ruling family is growing even if the Western media keep talking about how popular Bin Salman is (how do they know?).
The arrests two months ago were preceded in September by the arrest of a number of religious figures. There are believed to be 40,000 political prisoners in the Kingdom. These include academics, lawyers, and civil rights activists. The judicial system is nonexistent; judges deliver verdicts to please the rulers, not Allah (swt) even though the medieval kingdom claims its laws are based on the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah.
It is estimated that at least $100 billion would be recovered from the arrested princes and moneyed class. But even this is not enough to pay for the various projects announced by BS amid much fanfare. Bani Saud have consumed one-third of their reserves in three years; in another six, their reserves would be wiped out.
Some of the detainees were tortured and landed in the hospital. Mit‘ab was one of them and it is reported that in return for paying $1 billion, he secured his release. Similar deals have been struck with other detainees after undergoing what the notorious Donald Rumsfeld would describe as “enhanced interrogation techniques.” What goes around comes around. BS’ cousins, businessmen, and bankers were lured to the Ritz Carlton Hotel for dinner with him. Would anyone accept a dinner invitation from BS in the future?
One prince, however, is fighting back. Al-Walid bin ˇalal has reportedly refused to cough up the $6 billion ransom demand from BS, according to the Wall Street Journal. He has demanded an open and fair trial. This is unlikely because there is no independent judiciary in the primitive kingdom. Judges deliver verdicts based on what the ruler wants. Besides, an open trial would expose the extortion racket BS is running. Bin ˇalal’s challenge, however, has thrown a monkey wrench in BS’ plans. Other princes may be emboldened by his example and mount their own challenges.
On the external front, BS’ policies have been equally disastrous. In both Syria and Iraq, Bani Saud policies have been completely defeated despite their unleashing the takfiri terrorists on innocent people. True, the takfiris have caused havoc in much of the Muslim East (aka the Middle East) and beyond and irreparable damage to the fabric of unity in the Ummah, but the demons have been roundly defeated, at least in the Syria/Iraq theater of war.
Even in Yemen, which is Bin Salman’s pet project, the Ansarullah-led Islamic movement, far from being defeated, has valiantly stood its ground. Instead, Saudi policy has suffered massive blows even if they continue to kill and maim at a horrendous scale. A million are on the verge of starvation. Jamie McGoldrick of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on November 14 that seven million people were already in “famine-like conditions” in Yemen. Millions of others are suffering from cholera. He urged the Saudis for the umpteenth time to lift the blockade of Yemen. McGold-rick’s plea fell on deaf ears.
Unless the Saudis kill all the people of Yemen — an impossible feat — their policy is doomed to failure. They suffered another blow when ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Íalih, the former long-time president and one-time ally of Ansarullah, was killed on December 4. Íalih had betrayed his allies and joined the Saudi camp only to find himself speedily dispatched to the other side never to return.
While BS may temporarily ride out the storm amid much contrived applause from the fawning and paid Western media, the two sets of enemies he has fingered at home will not be easy to contain: the religious establishment and the resentful royals. There are already reports of rumblings of revolt within both. While the Bani Saud clan always lived in fear, fearful even of its own shadows, now the threats are real. Bin Salman seldom ventures out without a massive security detail accompanying him wherever he goes.
How long can he escape death? The daggers (or guns) are out for him and it would come as no surprise if we hear one fine morning on television that his ponderous bulk has been divested of life. It can come none too soon.