What has been an open secret across the Arab world is not a secret anymore even in the US: What happened last month in the deep recesses of the House of Saud with the ascension of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, aka MBS, was in fact a white coup.
Nearly a month ago, as I’ve written elsewhere, a top Middle East source close to the House of Saud told me: “The CIA is very displeased with the firing of [former Crown Prince] Mohammad bin Nayef. Mohammad bin Salman is regarded as sponsoring terrorism. In April 2014 the entire royal families of the UAE and Saudi Arabia were to be ousted by the US over terrorism. A compromise was worked out that Nayef would take over running the kingdom to stop it.”
The source also referred to an insistent narrative then pervading selected Middle East geopolitical circles, according to which US intel, “indirectly”, had stopped another coup against the young Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim al-Thani, orchestrated by Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, with help from Blackwater/Academi’s army of mercenaries in the United Arab Emirates. Zayed, crucially, happens to be MBS’s mentor.
But instead of a coup in Doha, what happened was actually a coup in Riyadh. According to the source, “the CIA blocked the coup in Qatar and the Saudis reacted by dumping the CIA-selected Mohammed bin Nayef, who was to be the next king. The Saudis are scared. The monarchy is in trouble, as the CIA can move the army in Saudi Arabia against the king. This was a defensive move by MBS.”
Now, almost a month later, confirmation of the white coup/regime change in Riyadh has been splashed on the front page of The New York Times, attributed mainly to the proverbial “current and former United States officials”.
That, in essence, is code for the US deep state, and confirms how the Central Intelligence Agency is extremely annoyed by the ouster of Nayef, a trusted partner and former counterterrorism czar. The CIA on the other hand simply does not trust arrogant, inexperienced and hubristic MBS.
Warrior Prince MBS has been responsible for conducting the war on Yemen – which not only killed thousands of civilians but also spawned a tragic famine/humanitarian crisis. If that was not enough, MBS was the architect of the blockade of Qatar, followed by the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, and now totally discredited as Doha has refused to concede to outlandish “demands” in essence concocted in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
Nayef, crucially, was opposed to the blockade of Qatar.
It’s no wonder the House of Saud and the UAE are already backtracking on Qatar, not so much because of pressure recently applied by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the ground, but mostly because of shadow play: the US deep state making sure its interests in the Gulf – starting with the Al-Udeid base in Qatar – should not be messed with.
A reckless ‘gambler’
MBS, although treated with (velvet) kid gloves across the Beltway because of the same old “Saudi Arabia is our ally” meme, is for all practical purposes the most dangerous man in the Middle East.
That’s exactly what the famous December 2015 memo by the BND – German intelligence – was already stating: The young “gambler” was poised to cause a lot of trouble. Financial circles in the European Union are absolutely terrified that his geopolitical gambles may end up sending millions of retirement accounts into the dust.
The BND memo crucially detailed how the House of Saud, in Syria, had bankrolled the creation of the Army of Conquest – basically a revamp of Jabhat al-Nusra, aka al-Qaeda in Syria – as well as ideological sister outfit Ahrar al-Sham.
That amounted to the House of Saud aiding, abetting and weaponizing Salafi-jihadi terrorism. And this from a regime that, after seducing US President Donald Trump to star in an embarrassing sword dance, felt it was free to accuse Qatar of being a terrorist nation.
MBS’s blockade of Qatar has nothing to do with silencing al-Jazeera; it relates to the Saudi defeat in Syria, and the fact that Doha abandoned the “Assad must go” dead-ender to the benefit of allying itself with Tehran to sell liquefied natural gas to Europe out of their jointly owned North Dome/South Pars giant gas field.
MBS – as well as his ailing dad – skipped the Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg; the Qatar embarrassment was too much of a burden, considering for instance Doha’s position as a powerful investor in both France and the UK. Still, all eyes are on him; MBS has promised to turbocharge the vicious Sunni/Shiite confrontation, taking the war “inside Iran”.
And further on down the road, there’s the question of how MBS is going to handle the fraught-with-risk Aramco initial public offering.
Categories: Asia-Middle East Relations