Monday, December 25, 2017

Is Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman More Dangerous Than Kim Jong Un?

President Trump doesn't like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which probably puts some kind of check on him. However, on the other side of the globe, we have Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, heir to the Saudi throne.

He is extremely ambitious, impulsive, vicious and apparently a global BF of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

If there are two people that could get the world into a major shooting war, it is
these two, Kushner and MBS.

From Newsweek in October:
Jared Kushner made a secret visit to Saudi Arabia last week with other officials from President Donald Trump’s administration for talks on peace in the Middle East.
The president’s son-in-law and senior adviser made what was his third trip to the Gulf kingdom this year alone, Politico reported, citing a White House official.
Kushner traveled commercially on Wednesday and was in the country with Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell. It remains unclear whom they met with on their trip.
Additional reports indicate that Kushner and MBS stayed up into the wee hours discussing policy.

Shortly after Kushner left  after the third visit, MBS forced the Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, to resign. He then arrested his cousins. The billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal was among the arrested. It has been reported he was tortured by being hung upside down. It has now been reported that Saudi Major General Ali Alqahtani died December 12 after being tortured with electric shocks, and his family struggled to recognize him after receiving his body.

In a Christmas Eve story,  The New York Times reports what went down between MBS and the Lebanese prime minister that resulted in his resignation:
Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, was summoned at 8:30 a.m [last month]. to the Saudi royal offices — unseemly early, by the kingdom’s standards — on the second day of a visit that was already far from what he had expected.

Mr. Hariri, long an ally of the Saudis, dressed that morning in jeans and a T-shirt, thinking he was going camping in the desert with the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

But instead he was stripped of his cellphones, separated from all but one of his usual cluster of bodyguards, and shoved and insulted by Saudi security officers. Then came the ultimate indignity: He was handed a prewritten resignation speech and forced to read it on Saudi television.

This, it seemed, was the real reason he had been beckoned to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, a day earlier: to resign under pressure and publicly blame Iran, as if he were an employee and not a sovereign leader. Before going on TV, he was not even allowed to go to the house he owns there; he had to ask guards to bring him a suit.

As bizarre as the episode was, it was just one chapter in the story of Prince Mohammed, the ambitious young heir apparent determined to shake up the power structure not just of his own country but of the entire region. At home, he has jailed hundreds of fellow princes and businessmen in what he casts as an anticorruption drive. Abroad, he has waged war in Yemen and confronted Qatar....

Western and Arab officials say they are still puzzling over what the Saudis hoped to accomplish with all this intrigue. Several do not rule out the possibility that they aimed to foment internal unrest in Lebanon, or even war...

What is clear, they say, is that Saudi Arabia sought to instigate a broad realignment of Lebanese politics to reduce Hezbollah’s power by forcing the collapse of Mr. Hariri’s coalition government, which includes Hezbollah and its allies.

But crafting the nimble and activist foreign policy that Prince Mohammed wants requires “a depth of understanding of political dynamics in other countries and an investment in diplomatic ties that can’t be created overnight,” said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington.

“The competition for power and influence in today’s Middle East has changed significantly,“ he said, “and the Saudis are playing catch-up, with very mixed results.”

This risks miscalculations and escalations in a region rived by wars and tensions, he said...

[W]hen he landed in Riyadh, Saudi officials took Mr. Hariri to his house and told him to wait — not for the king, but for the prince. He waited, from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. No one came.

The next morning, he was summoned to meet the prince. There was no customary royal convoy, so Mr. Hariri took his own car. And instead of meeting the prince, officials said, he was manhandled by Saudi officials.

Lebanese officials described the long hours between the arrival and the resignation as a “black box.” They said they were reluctant to press Mr. Hariri for details. When asked, one of them said, Mr. Hariri just looked down at the table and said it was worse than they knew...

The prime minister was handed a resignation speech to read, which he did at 2:30 p.m. from a room an official said was down the hall from the prince’s office. The text blamed Hezbollah and claimed his life was in danger; it used words that associates said did not sound like him...

In Lebanon, Western diplomats and Lebanese officials said, the Saudis expected the resignation would be taken at face value and bring about a mass outpouring of popular support from Hezbollah’s opponents. Instead, Lebanon reacted with mass suspicion. No one took to the streets. And Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, refused to accept the resignation unless Mr. Hariri delivered it in person.

After disappearing for hours, Mr. Hariri made his first known call to Mr. Aoun, who realized that the prime minister was not speaking freely. Lebanese officials began making the rounds to puzzled Western diplomats with an unusual message: We have reason to believe our prime minister has been detained.

Mr. Hariri, the officials said, was eventually placed with Saudi guards in a guesthouse on his own property, forbidden to see his wife and children. Within days, several Western ambassadors visited him there. They came away with conflicting impressions of how free he was. There were two Saudi guards in the room, officials said, and when the diplomats asked if the guards could leave, Mr. Hariri said no, they could stay...

Intense diplomacy followed by France, the United States, Egypt and other countries, producing a deal that allowed Mr. Hariri to leave Saudi Arabia.

But Prince Mohammed sent him home with a task: to get Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Yemen, Lebanese officials and Western and Arab diplomats involved in the deal said. That demand proved, the Western and Arab diplomats said, that the prince was not well-informed on Yemen, sometimes called “Riyadh’s Vietnam.” Hezbollah, a Western diplomat said, had only about 50 fighters in Yemen, with Iran playing a much larger role in training and aiding the Houthi insurgents there.
Meanwhile, as these events took place, President Trump heaped praise on Saudi Arabia.

 From The New York Times:
 President Donald J. Trump has spoken with the king of Saudi Arabia to offer a wholehearted endorsement of a drive to modernize the kingdom, as the Saudi authorities arrested scores of prominent business people and ministers in a sweeping anti-corruption crackdown.

In an unusually lengthy and detailed readout of the call made on Saturday, the White House said that Mr. Trump had thanked King Salman for Saudi Arabia’s support in fighting terrorism and for its purchase of military equipment from the United States. And he praised the king’s favorite son and top adviser, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for his recent calls for tolerance and moderation in Saudi society.

“The king and crown prince’s recent public statements regarding the need to build a moderate, peaceful and tolerant region are essential to ensuring a hopeful future for the Saudi people, to curtailing terrorist funding, and to defeating radical ideology — once and for all — so the world can be safe from its evil,” the White House said in the statement.
And Trump sent out these tweets:

MBS appears to be getting support and encouragement in his vicious reckless ways from Trump. This could be a serious problem down the road in the hot spot that is the Middle East. In many ways, it makes MBS more dangerous than Kim. However, it os possible under Trump we could see serious escalations in North Korea and the Middle East.


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