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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince just made a big mistake

Precipitate and unexplained decision to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar and impose an air and land blockade of the country bears the hallmarks of the erratic decision making of Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and de facto ruler, Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Alexander Mercouris

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There has been considerable debate about the reasons for the extraordinary diplomatic and economic attack on Qatar organised by Saudi Arabia today.  What makes it baffling is that there is no real explanation for it.

It is well known that the Gulf’s two Wahhabi monarchies don’t get on well with each other.  The Saudis and the Qataris have regularly competed with each for influence, for example by backing different groups of Jihadis in Libya and Syria.  Qatar is also a major supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, opposes the Saudi backed Egyptian government which came to power through a military coup launched against Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s democratically elected President who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and has supported the Palestinian group Hamas, which is affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, and which has also in the past had close connections with Saudi Arabia’s enemies, Syria and Iran.

The Saudis like other Gulf autocracies are also known to have been made extremely angry by some of the reporting of Al-Jazeera, the Qatari based and funded media group, which has become the most internationally known media group in the Arab world, whose displays of independence have incensed the other Gulf monarchies.

Strikingly one of the very first steps taken by Saudi Arabia following the severing of diplomatic ties with Qatar was to close down Al-Jazeera’s Saudi office and revoke its broadcasting licence.  This was explained by the following somewhat bizarre announcement, which implies that Al-Jazeera has been inciting mutiny amongst Saudi troops fighting the Houthis in Yemen

The move came after Al-Jazeera has promoted plots of terrorist groups, supported the Houthi militias in Yemen, and tried to break the Saudi internal ranks by inciting them to leave the country and harm the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Lastly, there have been hints that the Qataris have been unhappy with the ultra hard line Saudi Arabia has recently been following against Iran.

Certainly it is true that the Qataris have maintained a slightly less hostile attitude towards Iran than the other Gulf States.  Qatar’s ruler, emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, even had the temerity to telephone Iran’s President Rouhani recently to congratulate him on his re-election.

However, though the the ruling families of Saudi Arabia and Qatar – the Al-Sauds and the Al-Thanis – are known to dislike each other, and have long had a rivalrous relationship, they have nonetheless more often than not managed to work closely with each other, and were doing so until just hours ago in the war against the Houthis in Yemen.  This is unsurprising since as both are Wahhabi Gulf oil monarchies they have so much in common with each other that it is all but inevitable that they should align with each other on most issues.

In this case what is genuinely extraordinary about the Saudi move is that the Saudis have provided no real explanation for it.  As if to underscore the fact, the Saudi Press Agency has released a multiplicity of statements over the course of the day purporting to explain this decision, none of which however does so to any truly satisfactory degree.

Here is the first statement

An official source stated that the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia emanating from exercising its sovereign rights guaranteed by the international law and protecting its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism has decided to sever diplomatic and consular relations with the State of Qatar, close all land, sea and air ports, prevent crossing into Saudi territories, airspace and territorial waters, and start immediate legal procedures for understanding with fraternal and friendly countries and international companies to implement the same procedure as soon as possible for all means of transport to and from the State of Qatar for reasons relating to Saudi national security.

Here is the second

The Command of Coalition to Support the Legitimacy in Yemen announced that it has decided to end the participation of the State of Qatar in the coalition due to its practices that enhance terrorism, support for its organisations in Yemen including Al-Qaeda and Da’esh (ISIS), and dealing with coup militias in Yemen which is contrary to the coalition’s objectives of which the most important one is fighting terrorism.

Here is the third

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken this decisive decision as a result of grave violations being committed by the authorities in Doha over the past years in secret and public aiming at dividing internal Saudi ranks, instigating against the State, infringing on its sovereignty, adopting various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilising the region including the Muslim Brotherhood Group, Daesh (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, promoting the ethics and plans of these groups through its media permanently, supporting the activities of Iranian-backed terrorist groups in the governorate of Qatif of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Bahrain, financing, adopting and sheltering extremists who seek to undermine the stability and unity of the homeland at home and abroad, and using the media that seek to fuel the strife internally; and it was clear to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the support and backing from the authorities in Doha for coup Al-Houthi militias even after the announcement of the Coalition to Support the Legitimacy in Yemen.

The Kingdom has also taken this decision in solidarity with the Kingdom of Bahrain being subjected to terrorist campaigns and operations supported by the authorities in Doha.

and here is the fourth and last

Since 1995, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its brothers have made strenuous and continued efforts to urge the authorities in Doha to abide by its commitments and agreements, yet, they have repeatedly violated their international obligations and the agreements they signed under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Arab States to cease the hostilities against the Kingdom and stand against terrorist groups and activities of which the latest one was their failure to implement Riyadh Agreement.

In accordance with the decision to cut off diplomatic and consular relations, Saudi citizens are prohibited from traveling to Qatar, residing in or passing through it while they, residents and visitors have to hurry leaving its territories within 14 days.

The decision, for security reasons, unfortunately prevents Qatari citizens’ entry to or transit through the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and those Qatari residents and visitors have to leave Saudi territories within 14 days, confirming the Kingdom’s commitment and keenness to provide all facilities and services for Qatari pilgrims and Umrah performers.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia affirms that it has long been patient despite the fact that the authorities in Doha continue to evade their commitments and conspire against it in the interest of the Qatari people, which is a natural and genuine extension of their brethren in the Kingdom and an integral part of their pillars.  The Kingdom will continue to support the people of Qatar, its security and stability regardless of the hostile practices being carried out by the authorities in Doha.

This multiplicity of statements, which make accusations against Qatar which are so vague and general as to be all but meaningless, and which accuse Qatar of things like supporting Jihadi terrorism of which Saudi Arabia is universally known to be equally guilty, suggest that the Saudis themselves are unable to pinpoint any single action of Qatar’s that explains or justifies their decision.

There have been some suggestions that the Saudis were angered by statements carried by Qatar’s news agency on 23rd May 2017 which had Qatar’s ruler emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani criticising recent tensions with Iran and calling Hamas and Hezbollah ‘resistance organisations’.

The Qataris claim these statements were false, and were inserted on their news agency’s website as a result of a hack.  I have no doubt they are right, and moreover I strongly suspect that the hackers were the Saudis, looking to manufacture pretexts for the action against Qatar which they took today.

The second and the third of the series of statements published by the Saudi Press Agency refer to the conflict in Yemen, in which Qatari troops have been fighting the Houthi militia alongside the Saudis and under Saudi command.  These statements, echoing the accusations the Saudis are making against Al-Jazeera, suggest that the Saudis may have been angered by contacts between the Qataris and the Houthi militia, as well as by some of Al-Jazeera’s reporting of the Yemen war.

It is no secret that the Saudi led war against the Houthis in Yemen is not going well, and it could be that in their anger the Saudis have turned on the Qataris, who they have long resented as difficult and unruly allies, and are blaming them for the failures of the war.

Whilst this makes a kind of sense, going so far as to sever diplomatic relations and impose a land and air blockade seems a wildly precipitate and disproportionate way to express this anger.

It is also counterproductive.  It suggests that Saudi Arabia is no longer willing to tolerate any show of independence by any of its allies, and take extreme action to impose its will on them.

This is bound to create resentment, with Saudi Arabia’s fellow Gulf monarchies now aware that they too may face the crack of the whip if they step out of line at any time.

In international relations it is always better to try to keep the mailed fist concealed as much as possible inside a velvet glove.  The Saudis have always known this in the past, and their conduct of diplomacy has always been based on it.  On this occasion they have heedlessly and pointlessly cast the glove off.  Though their Gulf allies and Egypt have done as ordered, they will be quietly seething, and their populations will be even more.

There is also the question of whether this move makes any sense in geo-strategic terms.  However angry Saudi Arabia may be with Qatar, whether about its failures in Yemen or over any other issue, acting in this way against Qatar is not going to solve Saudi Arabia’s problems whether in Yemen or anywhere else.  Instead what Saudi Arabia has done has been to break the ranks of the Saudi led regional alliance, the Gulf Cooperation Council, handing an unlooked for diplomatic victory to Iran, which is bound to try to capitalise on the development by seeking to forge quietly closer links with a now otherwise isolated Qatar.

 

Qatar is also a vital ally of the US, which has a major air base in Qatar.  There have been some suggestions that Saudi Arabia’s action against Qatar was cleared with Donald Trump during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia.

This is actually extremely unlikely, and though the US is unlikely to intervene directly in the quarrel on Qatar’s side, it will not be happy at a Saudi action that puts a key US ally under pressure, which threatens instability across the whole region, and which provides a potential opening for Iran.

As to the question of instability, what is so strange about the Saudi action is that the last of the four statements issued by the Saudi Press Agency today shows that the Saudis themselves are worried by the potential for instability their own action today has caused.  How else to explain the following words in this statement?

The Kingdom will continue to support the people of Qatar, its security and stability regardless of the hostile practices being carried out by the authorities in Doha.

(bold italics added)

These words, saying that Saudi Arabia will continue to support Qatar’s “security and stability”, sound very strange when it is Saudi Arabia itself which by severing relations and imposing a land and air blockade is putting Qatar’s “security and stability” at risk.

If the action Saudi Arabia has taken against Qatar today is precipitate and counterproductive, then why was it taken?

It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that we are seeing yet another example of the wild and reckless decision making that Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, the 31 year old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is prone to.

I have already written of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s wildly overambitious plans for Saudi Arabia’s economic development, and of his paranoid plans for a pre-emptive war against Iran.

The decision to sever diplomatic relations with Qatar and to impose a land and air blockade on the country looks like another of these impulsive and ill-though-out decisions Prince Mohammed bin Salman seems prone to making.

Another example is of course the decision to invade Yemen, which is widely known to have been made by Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself, overruling the advice of more experienced Saudi Princes, and which may be the ultimate cause of the current crisis in Saudi Arabia’s relations with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia is a notoriously closed and secretive society, whose inner counsels are very difficult for outsiders to read or penetrate.  However there must be people within Saudi Arabia who must be becoming increasingly worried at the erratic and increasingly reckless way in which the affairs of the Kingdom are being managed.

Not so long ago Saudi Arabia was famous throughout the region for always acting quietly and with discretion.  Today under the leadership of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman it acts brazenly and irresponsibly.

One wonders for how long this will continue before opposition to Prince Mohammed bin Salman crystallises.

The Saudi Princes have in the past shown a ruthless ability to act decisively in order to preserve their positions, and it is not unknown for a Saudi King to be removed from the throne if his behaviour comes to be seen as destabilising.

Perhaps it is time for Prince Mohammed bin Salman – who is not even King yet – to start watching his back.

Better still, he needs – urgently – to start listening to some advice.

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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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