Wednesday 21st of March 2018

the "rooting" cheer squad...

ivanka saudis

The shameful spinning for the Saudis doesn’t stop. Here’s John Bradley in The Spectator touting Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) as the “real deal”:

We have a Saudi crown prince who is being more frank about Wahhabi-inspired terrorism than the British. Just last year, the UK government saw fit to suppress a report that found a link between Saudi-funded mosques and Isis-inspired terrorist attacks. It was kept quiet because we didn’t want to upset the Saudis. So not only does bin Salman have a thicker skin than his predecessors, he has inadvertently shone a bright light on the cowardice of our own political leaders.

It really doesn’t take much to impress the crown prince’s fan club. Just think about this argument. Bradley tells us that Mohammed bin Salman deserves credit for being more forthcoming about Wahhabi-inspired terrorism than the British government, and he says we know this because the British government suppressed evidence as recently as a year ago (when MbS was already a leading figure in the Saudi government) that showed a link between Saudi-funded mosques and terrorism. Note that Bradley isn’t saying that MbS is actually cracking down on that funding, nor has the prince actually done anything that would make us think that he disapproves of the British government’s efforts to cover for the Saudis. He said some of the right things, and his overeager admirers believe every word of it.

Bradley allows that some skepticism is “absolutely necessary” when dealing with the Saudis, but then proceeds to cast all skepticism aside. This assertion struck me as especially unwise and premature:

Most importantly, Bin Salman is not hated in the way that the Shah and Mubarak were. 

That could be true now, but that doesn’t tell us very much. It is only three years from the start of his father’s reign and less than one year since he was made crown prince. Maybe we should wait until he has been in power more than a few years before we making sweeping assessments of how popular and lasting his future reign will be. It took decades for people to grow to loathe Mubarak to the point where they overthrew him, but eventually they did. It took decades of the Shah’s rule before the revolution occurred, but it happened. There may not be a popular backlash in the near term, but it is far too soon to know. If the crown prince’s reform agenda proves to be much less successful than promised, people in the kingdom might start to tire of him sooner than anyone expects. It is also possible that the crown prince has already made so many internal enemies with his power grabs and purges that he will face a different kind of backlash.

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diversifying from oil and wahhabism...

On receiving the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed ben Salmane, the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, announced that Egypt was joining the Saudi project Neom.

In October 2017, Saudi Arabia announced its wish to build a high-tech mega city, to be called Neom, targeting luxury tourism. The region in which the city would be built would be governed by a specific legal regime geared for a Western lifestyle. This legal regime would be completely insulated from Wahhabism specifically and Islam generally.

The name of the project, “Neom” is derived from two words: the Greek word “neo” which means new and the Arabic word “mostaqbal” which means future.

The zone chosen for this project lies on the coast of the Red Sea, in the Saudi region of Tabuk, on the Jordan border and opposite the Egyptian coast. It covers an area of 26,000 km2, which is almost the size of Belgium.

This project has a provisional budget of around 50 billion dollars. The Project Manager is the German, Klaus Kleinfeld, former boss of the transnational Alcoa-Arconic and administrator of the Bilderberg Group.

The Egyptian President al-Sissi has decided to incorporate into the project part of South Sinai, including the town of Sharm el-Sheikj and part of the continental territory, including the Egyptian city of Hurghada. This involves setting up a system of extra-territoriality in this entire area, in the Saudi region of Tabuk. A common investment fund of 10 billion dollars (funded entirely by Saudi Arabia) has been established.

In April 2016, President al-Sissi transferred to Riyadh the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, which enclose the Gulf of Aqaba between the Egyptian Sinai and Saudi Arabia. While al-Sissi had presented this gesture as a territorial “restitution”, under the 1840 London Convention, which is the only valid document, these islands form part of Egypt’s territory. This transfer allows Saudi Arabia to include them in project Neom and to transform the entire region.

Furthermore, this transfer of sovereignty over the two islands involved a de facto recognition by the Saudis of the Camp David Egyptian-Israeli agreements. [1] These agreements granted freedom of movement to the Israeli navy in the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea. Therefore it is highly likely that Israel is a stakeholder in Plan Neom.

In any event, Neom will no longer be a Saudi mega city but an Egyptian-Saudi archipelago, from which Israel will still be able to control maritime communications.

Anoosha Boralessa


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