Yesterday the ruling Salman clan in Saudi Arabia executed a Night of the Long Knives cleansing the state of all potential competition. The Saudi King Salman and his son Clown Prince Mohammad bin Salman initiated a large arrest wave and purge of high ranking princes and officials. Part of this internal coup was the confiscation of huge financial estates to the advantage of the Salman clan.
The earlier forced resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is probably related to the last night’s events. The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahou endorsed the resignation. This guarantees that Hariri will never again be accepted in a leading role in Lebanon.
In Saudi Arabia eleven princes, including sons of the deceased King Abdullah, more than thirty former and acting ministers as well as the heads of three major TV stations were taken into custody or put under house arrest. The National Guard Commander Prince Mitieb Bin Abdullah was relieved from his post and replaced with Prince Khalid Bin Abdulaziz al Muqrin. The National Guard was the last intelligence and security power center held by the Abdullah branch of the al-Saud family.
An earlier purge in July had dethroned the former Crown Prince Nayaf and replaced him with the young Mohammad Bin-Salman. Then the Nayef branch of the al-Saud family was removed from all power centers. The Abdullah branch followed yesterday. The purged officials were replaced with stooges of the ruling Salman clan.
The Salman branch of the current king and clown prince has now eliminated all of potential internal competition. This goes against the consensus model that had been the foundation of the Saudi family rule over the last century. Tens of thousands of clans and people depended on the patronage of the removed princes and officials. They will not just sit back as their fortunes evaporate.
One effect of the purges will be the concentration of Saudi wealth in the hands of the Salmans.
One of the arrested persons is the allegedly sixth richest man of the world, Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal (video). He has (had?) an estimated net-worth between $18 and $32 billion. Al-Waleed had publicly clashed with U.S. President Donald Trump. (Al-Waleed is (was?) the largest shareholder of Citygroup which selected Barack Obama’s cabinet before receiving a huge government bailout.) Another casualty is Bakr bin Laden, brother of Osama Bin Laden, chairman of the Saudi Binladin Group and fifth richest man of the country.
Official pretext for the purge are corruption allegations going back to 2009. This financial subterfuge will allow the ruling Salmans to confiscate the wealth of the accused. The total haul of this raid will amount to dozens of billions of dollars. A new anti-corruption committee was installed under Clown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. It has dictatorial powers and can freeze and confiscate whatever financial assets it deems worth its attention:
It may take whatever measures it deems necessary to deal with those involved in public corruption cases and take what it considers to be the right of persons, entities, funds, fixed and movable assets, at home and abroad, return funds to the state treasury and register property and assets in the name of state property.
The events in Lebanon and Riyadh would have been impossible without U.S. approval and support. In late October Trump’s son in law and senior adviser Jared Kushner made an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia. In a tweet yesterday Donald Trump, sworn to the Wahhabi orb, named the price for his consent and cooperation:
A primary listing of Aramco oil conglomerate at the NYSE will give the U.S. government regulatory and legal authority over the most valuable company of the world.
Also last night Yemeni forces fired a medium range missile from north Yemen towards Riyadh airport. The well targeted 1,000 kilometer (660 miles) shot is impressive and unprecedented. The Saudi air-defense near the airport, U.S. Patriot systems manned by contractors, launched four interceptor missiles (video) towards the incoming Yemeni projectile. The Saudis claim that one of the interceptors hit the target. A uprising smoke column was seen from the airport (video). It is not possible to say if it was the result of the original missile or of an interception.
That the Saudi capital can be hit will come as another shock to many Saudis. It discourages investment in Saudi Arabia.
The Yemeni missiles, fired by the original Yemen army under former president Saleh, may have their origin in Iran. But they could also be older ones Yemen had purchased elsewhere decades ago. The Saudis will surely blame Iran without explaining how such missiles could be smuggled through their tight blockade cordon around the resistance held country.
The missile launch is unlikely to be related to the Hariri resignation or to the purge in Riyadh. It takes days for the Yemenis to prepare such a missile and its launch. It is presumably in retaliation for Wednesday’s devastating Saudi air attack on an open market in the northern Saada province of Yemen. According to Yemeni sources more than 60 people were killed. After the missile launch on Riyadh Saudi jets again bombed the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
Since the incapacitated King Salman took the throne in Riyadh his ruthless 32 year old son Mohammad bin Salman has taken control of all branches of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi launched a war on a defenseless Yemen and supported al-Qaeda, ISIS and other “rebels” against the Iraqi and Syrian governments. He split the Gulf Cooperation Council by attacking Qatar. After a stalemate in Yemen and Qatar and losing in Iraq and Syria he has now initiated a war against Hizbullah in Lebanon. None of these bloody initiatives has achieved its aim of weakening the influence of the perceived enemy Iran. All of them helped Iran to consolidate its position.
The financial position of the Saudi state is in disarray. To the applause of the western claque Bin Salman announced the economic, social and religious liberation of Saudi Arabia. But little, if any, of the grand promises have been delivered.
Yesterday’s purge can be perceived as a panic-fueled move. All of Bin Salman’s endeavors have failed. The successful targeting of Riyadh’s airport only underscores this. He is under pressure but unable to deliver. The internal resistance to him is growing.
When Hitler initiated the Night of Long Knives against the socialist part of his party he was on an upward trend of his political power. The country was at peace, its international standing was growing, the economy surged and the majority of the people endorsed him. Bin Salman’s remake of that night comes while his initiatives fail. It is doubtful that the consolidation he seeks will be equally successful.