Saudi Arabia intercepts ballistic missile over capital.
November 4, 2017 2:06 PM   Subscribe

 


Do we trust this? Anyway, shit is going down: Saudi National Guard Head, Economy Minister Out in Reshuffle - Separately, a number of Saudi princes and former ministers were arrested by authorities hours after the announcement of a new anti-corruption committee, with sweeping powers and headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news service reported.
posted by Artw at 2:32 PM on November 4 [3 favorites]


The US should be treating the Saudis more like how they treat Iran. And then it should try to improve relations with Iran.
posted by Bee'sWing at 2:38 PM on November 4 [13 favorites]


I think if the Houthis wanted to cripple the opposition, they'd go after the Saudi's oil facilities. That would hurt far more than rockets fired on the capital. Isn't just about everything on the Persian Gulf coast? Or have they tried that already?
posted by Ber at 2:48 PM on November 4


Apparently private flights in Saudi Arabia are grounded and there have been many high-profile arrests, suggesting a purge .. follow @lrozen
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:49 PM on November 4 [3 favorites]


It's true that with the current Houthi flag, it would be difficult for America to improve relations with them..
posted by minus273 at 2:54 PM on November 4 [6 favorites]


Note also that Lebanon's PM resigned today *while traveling in Saudi Arabia*, fearing of a plot on his life, and with some strong words towards Iran.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:56 PM on November 4


Presumably the deputy crown prince is moving to consolidate his power. One imagines that Lebanese PM Hariri was told that his patrons in the Kingdom are being shuffled out and his leadership was no longer supported. Or something!

Wish we knew more.

Hope this doesn't also signal an escalation against Iran.
posted by grobstein at 3:16 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


The US should be treating the Saudis more like how they treat Iran. And then it should try to improve relations with Iran.

Agreed but tbh if the US wanted it wouldn't need to "try," it could just unilaterally change its policy on Iran and relations would be vastly improved.
posted by grobstein at 3:18 PM on November 4 [4 favorites]


It's true that with the current Houthi flag, it would be difficult for America to improve relations with them..

well they certainly seem like a bunch of fun, friendly people.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:19 PM on November 4 [8 favorites]


Ber, I believe Yemen attempting to cripple Saudi oil infrastructure would be seen by most developed nations as an act of war on their own economies, and would invite total annihilation from not just American client states but all of the first world and maybe BRIC too.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:35 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


If only we hadn't spent our way into needing the Petrodollar to prop up our economy, none of this stuff would be happening.
posted by MikeWarot at 4:11 PM on November 4


They appear to be having a full on coup right now.
posted by Artw at 4:49 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


> It's true that with the current Houthi flag, it would be difficult for America to improve relations with them..

but on the other hand, it's impossible for relations to get much worse. There's nowhere to go but up!
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:11 PM on November 4 [4 favorites]


Yep, it certainly looks pretty scary in Saudi Arabia at the moment according to this Twitter thread by @Tobiaschneider.

(From unrolled version):
  • Wow lot of big news out of Saudi tonight. Reports of big names being taken into custody (Waleed bin Talal, Khaled Tuwaijri, Waleed Ibrahim).
  • #PT MBS appears to be making move for whatever remaining power wasn't already under his control:
  • #PT Wow, this is really entering unprecedented territory for Saudi.
  • #PT Expanding lists circulating:
  • #PT Saudi @AlArabiya_Brk reports 10 princes and dozens of former ministers arrested:
  • ... Would love be covering this properly, but @Twitter appears to be having a lot of feelings tonight. Off to dinner!
  • #PT Colleagues counting at 11 princes and 38 ex ministers.
  • Saudi royal family has always ruled thru internal consensus. Uncharted waters.
  • #PT MBS orders VIP flights grounded:
  • #PT UAE as expected announcing its unconditional support of Saudi/MBS. "UAE Model" core talking point of MBS plans.
  • #PT See here:
  • #PT Follow and read @jobahout, who has been consistently prescient on this topic:
  • Jamal Khashoggi, who just fled KSA "unbearable repression", supportive: "Many corrupt, few will sleep easy tonight."
posted by ambrosen at 5:21 PM on November 4 [5 favorites]


They appear to be having a full on coup right now.

It's interesting. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (who is running the purge and is widely viewed as running the war in Yemen as well) was already the heir apparent, and has seemed like the leading figure in the Kingdom for a couple years. So this is not a coup in the sense of taking down the top guy; it's more like a Night of Long Knives-type deal.

But it seems like it's still a huge deal in the context of Saudi politics, because normally the royal oligarchs rule somewhat cooperatively. The arrests, which include princes and billionaires (extremely non-exclusive categories), seem to point the way to a more centralized power structure. If the purge leads to a thorough change in the political system of the Kingdom, maybe we will call it a "coup" for that reason even though the top leadership remains constant.

I can't say I know a lot about this but it seems pretty important and I am trying to follow what little news has come out so far. This seems like a good thread.
posted by grobstein at 5:21 PM on November 4 [6 favorites]


Neither a coup (already over), nor anti-corruption sweep (pretext), but good old-fashioned purge. Marks end of consensus-based rule in Saudi
Link.

We'll have to wait till the dust settles of course.
posted by grobstein at 5:24 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


Well, this isn't terrifying at all.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:30 PM on November 4 [8 favorites]


Tinfoil hat time. Jared was in Saudi on an unannounced trip last week and Trump yesterday asked the Saudis to float Aramco on the New York stock exchange.
posted by adamvasco at 5:57 PM on November 4 [11 favorites]


The Yemenis said the missile struck the airport, and was not shot down. They said fires burning on the ground were evidence of this. I just found that interesting.
posted by Oyéah at 6:07 PM on November 4 [5 favorites]


Tinfoil hat time. Jared was in Saudi on an unannounced trip last week and Trump yesterday asked the Saudis to float Aramco on the New York stock exchange.


I mean, these things are connected in that MbS has been leading the push for AramCo to go public.

The Yemenis said the missile struck the airport, and was not shot down. They said fires burning on the ground were evidence of this. I just found that interesting.

It IS interesting! I was wondering if we'd learn any more about the missile and any damage it might or might not have done. The evidence for the effectiveness of missile interceptors is a little fishy imo. I suspect many or most claimed interceptions are false; but it's a comforting thing a regime can say to an alarmed public.
posted by grobstein at 6:13 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]


Saudi Arabia seems so well established that it's weird to think that King Salman is literally the son of the last guy to conquer the place. It's as if England was ruled by Henry VIII and he was rounding up the nobility. I mean yes, the apparent coup is concerning, but it's not like you can say that it contravenes deep social norms.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:22 PM on November 4 [8 favorites]




I'm getting really tired of being offline for a bit, coming home, reading the news, and wondering if THIS is going to be the thing that starts WWIII.
posted by jferg at 7:45 PM on November 4 [17 favorites]


Well, this isn't terrifying at all.

Is it really terrifying? Does it matter which shitbag theocrat runs that country? Serious question! I think sometimes Americans care too much what happens in the Middle East.
posted by great_radio at 8:01 PM on November 4 [5 favorites]


In that it likely has ripple effects to world oil prices and regional stability: yes, it matters.
posted by Archelaus at 8:04 PM on November 4 [7 favorites]


Yeah no one knows what this means long-term yet, but political instability in a major regional power is not good. The Lebanese PM's resignation is difficult to interpret but seems significant. There could be more like that. The shakeup itself could be a leading indicator or a possible cause of another regional war we don't know about yet.

Uncertainty about the assets controlled by various royals could also shock the markets.
posted by grobstein at 8:21 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't have thought Iraq's government was all that important, but it turned out that a power vacuum there let Iran exploit religious and social divisions that have spilled over to Syria, with hundreds of thousands of people killed and many millions made into refugees.

Saudi Arabia is an important regional counterweight to Iran, which is trying to export its theocratic revolution internationally. If Saudi Arabia's government collapsed, or was even significantly weakened, Iran could probably take over Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, and force accommodations on the Gulf states. From Syria it would have free access to Lebanon, which would make it much easier to arm Hezbollah. There would almost certainly be another Israel-Lebanon war. I suspect that Jordan wouldn't be safe either. Oh, and if Iran could operate openly in Yemen they'd control access to the Red Sea as well as the Persian Gulf, and they'd basically have the keys to the most economic route between Europe and the Far East.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:24 PM on November 4 [4 favorites]


This is weird:
Earlier this week, Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan sharply criticized Hezbollah, calling for its “toppling” and promising “astonishing developments” in the coming days during an interview with the Lebanese TV station MTV.

Al-Sabhan met with Hariri in Saudi Arabia when the now resigned prime minister was visiting first earlier this week. Hariri abruptly returned to the kingdom later Friday before his bombshell announcement Saturday.

In tweets after meeting Hariri, al-Sabhan described it as “long and fruitful meeting” that resulted in agreements over many issues that concern the Lebanese. “What comes is better, God willing,” al-Sabhan tweeted on Tuesday.
So, what did Al-Sabhan know and what did he mean? And is the other shoe going to drop?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:36 PM on November 4


Generically speaking, domino theories of geopolitics make me nervous.
posted by Rumple at 8:59 PM on November 4 [6 favorites]


Joe in Australia: "Saudi Arabia is an important regional counterweight to Iran, which is trying to export its theocratic revolution internationally."

But doesn't SA itself export their ultra-conservative Wahhabbist brand of Islam?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:18 PM on November 4 [16 favorites]


i call bullshit. patriot missiles don't work. at least several credible sources suggest that. SA may have launched some patriots, but my money says the incoming missile was unmolested and hit something, somewhere.

Gulf I/II analysis
US Army: 40% of scuds fired at isreal
GAO reported success rate: 9%
IDF reported success rate: 2%

also, more than a trivial variety of friendly fire incidents.

of course, these cites are pretty seriously dated. a more recent column from german news agency deutsche welle discusses this and other missile defense systems (nato, yo).

while it's interesting that SA claims a successful ABM intercept, there's something larger to be aware of. missile defense doesn't work.

assuming later generations exist to analyze this - Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is nothing more than a middle-class jobs program, and the biggest military industrial boondoggle in american history.

i think i dropped this in another comment: david willman of the la times has been on this beat for years and has lots of terrific reportage.

wanna be mad about taxes? point to mda.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:28 PM on November 4 [4 favorites]


Conspiracy stuff ahead : Missle attack was faked so that airport could be closed preventing princes from leaving. Making it easier to arrest them and further consolidate power for the young prince. State media is calling this a Crackdown on Corruption.
posted by PHINC at 12:25 AM on November 5 [10 favorites]


Well, who wouldn't want a crackdown on corruption? It's self-evidently a good thing. I think it's pretty clear our concerns were overblown!
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:09 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]


Well, they didn't immediately arrest Jared when he came to town a few days go, so it can't truly be a crackdown on corruption...
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:20 AM on November 5 [4 favorites]


Also, I've tried to have an open mind about KSA. I kinda believed they wanted to liberalized. They drastically limited Muttawa power, women will be allowed to drive, they're opening cinemas, maybe even allowing alcohol in some places, the young crown Prince said the past 30 years were a mistake. But when your changes involve arresting people in mass, it seems like you're probably heading down a bad road.
posted by PHINC at 1:15 AM on November 5 [1 favorite]


The Saudis have been talking about floating Aramco on the stock market for a while now. In order to do that, they would have to have outside auditors certify how much oil they have left. Unless they have much more than rumored, I can't believe they'd want that information made public, because that is basically the expiration date of the royal family.
posted by Bee'sWing at 4:55 AM on November 5 [5 favorites]


Conspiracy stuff ahead : Missle attack was faked so that airport could be closed preventing princes from leaving.

TBH that doesn't sound too cranky at all.
posted by Artw at 7:11 AM on November 5 [4 favorites]


13. Thousands if not tens of thousands of Saudis connected to many of those arrested through patronage networks, familial bonds.

14. These networks, within military, tribal, financial, religious frameworks held Saudi rule together. Same method running back 300 years.

23. What do the optics of turning the Ritz Carlton into a holding pen tell investors? That things can change on a whim?

24. Can’t be reassuring right after finance summit in Riyadh. ‘Davos in the desert’? Ski lodges as jails? Doesn’t seem well thought through.

From here.
posted by grobstein at 8:48 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]


I kinda believed they wanted to liberalized. They drastically limited Muttawa power, women will be allowed to drive, they're opening cinemas, maybe even allowing alcohol in some places, the young crown Prince said the past 30 years were a mistake.

Rulers everywhere learned from Mao about the utility of a brief period of liberalization. The surveillance state and big data have greatly diminished the wait time between a Hundred Flowers Campaign and an inevitable Anti-Rightist/Cultural Revolution analog. This is why it's so important to follow up half-measures like Don't Ask, Don't Tell or state medical marijuana with full legalization or repeal of restrictions. OItherwise the secret police have a ready-made government database of the best doors to knock down at 3 am. We're already seeing this with ICE.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:52 AM on November 5 [15 favorites]


Unconfirmed report: A group of Saudi officials are reportedly killed in a plane crash, among them prince Mansour Bin Megrin

Or maybe it's this missing helicopter, which is being reported by Saudi media.
posted by grobstein at 12:26 PM on November 5 [1 favorite]


OItherwise the secret police have a ready-made government database of the best doors to knock down at 3 am. We're already seeing this with ICE.

The Weimar eras are getting shorter.
posted by acb at 12:47 PM on November 5 [1 favorite]


Pepe Escobar over at Asian Times online wrote about this back in September."http://www.atimes.com/article/wheels-deals-trouble-brewing-house-saud/"

One of his more recent reports talks about the Saudi king's visit to Putin.

Pepe is sometimes ahead of the curve.
posted by Mesaverdian at 1:26 PM on November 5 [1 favorite]


Pepe Escobar

Is that a nom de guerre? If so, I have my concerns.
posted by acb at 1:37 PM on November 5 [3 favorites]




Is that a nom de guerre? If so, I have my concerns.
He's a Brazilian journalist who provides analysis for RT, Sputnik News, and Al Jazeera in addition to his work at Asia Times Online.

Apparently he wrote an article on August 30, 2001 with the title "Get Osama! Now! Or else!" Published at ATO, it was basically his case that protecting OBL wasn't worth the extra US attention he was drawing to the region, and that as a figure whose importance to the region had diminished due to illness and fractiousness within Al-Qaeda, it would be a good idea to get rid of him now before it's US soldiers buying OBL t-shirts in Peshawar.
posted by xyzzy at 2:05 PM on November 5 [1 favorite]


RT and Sputnik? Hard pass.
posted by smoke at 5:29 PM on November 5 [2 favorites]


RT and Sputnik? Hard pass.
Heh, I wasn't advocating for his reliability, just saying that his name's been Pepe Escobar since at least 2001 and providing some context for the "he's been prescient before" comment.
posted by xyzzy at 5:58 PM on November 5 [2 favorites]


It's true that with the current Houthi flag, it would be difficult for America to improve relations with them..

Oh come now. "Death to America" and "A curse upon the Jews" are already broadly in line with Trump administration policy. And I'm sure the rest of those principles would be negotiable.
posted by flabdablet at 8:24 PM on November 5 [4 favorites]


There’s been a lot of talk recently about the imminent collapse of the petrodollar. This could be a purge of old guard Saudis who are heavily invested in the US and therefore reluctant to throw their lot in with China and Russia. A consolidation of power suggests a big move in the near future, such as uh, abandoning the petrodollar and bringing about the collapse of American global hegemony and/or starting world war 3.... not a gold bug, but it’s probably a good time to buy gold...
posted by thedamnbees at 5:13 AM on November 6 [1 favorite]


The Saudis have been talking about floating Aramco on the stock market for a while now. In order to do that, they would have to have outside auditors certify how much oil they have left. Unless they have much more than rumored, I can't believe they'd want that information made public, because that is basically the expiration date of the royal family.

It's well-known among people who do drilling services there that the EASY oil is nearly gone. There's still a massive amount of unconventionals there which could still be developed, albeit at higher cost per bbl.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:37 AM on November 6 [2 favorites]




Anyone know what attacks they're talking about? This doesn't really make sense to me. I know there was a Hezbollah-associated group active in the Peninsula a while back, but I had the impression it was no longer active. And although Hezbollah has been helping Iran in Syria, that's a pretty indirect thing to call an attack.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:16 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


I think they mean the alleged Scud missile attack which shut down the airport at a convenient time.
posted by Artw at 2:24 PM on November 6


That's sort of plausible in the absence of a better candidate, but it's pretty piss-weak for a Reichstag fire. One (alleged) missile, that didn't cause any damage, and was allegedly fired from a place that as far as I know doesn't even have a Hezbollah presence?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:04 PM on November 6


Saudi Arabia's anti-corruption purge has widened after one of the country's top businessmen was reportedly detained, accounts were frozen and a no-fly list was drawn up.
By dawn on Sunday, more than 30 of Saudi Arabia’s most senior figures, among them blood relatives of senior rulers, were locked inside the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh accused of corruption.
posted by adamvasco at 3:23 PM on November 6


Could be worse, they could have stuck them in the Holiday Inn Express.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:00 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


Juan Cole
The Christian-owned Beirut daily al-Nahar reports that the Saudi minister for Gulf Affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, said Monday that Saudi Arabia would not accept that Lebanon should join in the war on his country.
He added, “We will treat the government of Lebanon like a state that has declared war on us, because of the Hizbullah militias.” He pointed out that Hizbullah influences all the decisions made by the Lebanese government.
posted by adamvasco at 5:25 AM on November 7


The Saudi royal family's occasional liberalization drives are pure PR to make their vicious dictatorship more palatable to its Western allies. Their government represses liberal dissenters, gays, Shiites with the misfortune to live on good oil land, and anyone else who might make a problem for their rule. Moreover, since the seizure of the Great Mosque in 1979, their kingdom has dealt with opposition to its right by exporting that opposition's reactionary theology all over the world, with disastrous consequences, not only for the very Western governments which support Saudi Arabia to better oppose Iran, but also for the poor countries which have to deal with a new and hostile strain of fanaticism. The latest upheaval is as good a reason as any for Americans to re-evaluate their government's unconscionable alliance with these tyrants.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:22 AM on November 7 [7 favorites]


In other news, KSA's sovereign wealth fund has declined by 1/3 over the past 3 years.

Due to low oil prices, they're draining their coffers to keep their social welfare programs going and minimize unrest, which is not sustainable.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:09 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]




the ruling Saudi royal family has realized that not only can it crush any potential dissent by arresting dozens of potential coup-plotters, it can also replenish the country's foreign reserves, which in the past 3 years have declined by over $250 billion, by confiscating some or all of their generous wealth, which is in the tens if not hundreds of billions.
Would that the electorate of the world's richest democracy had understood the same thing some years ago.
posted by flabdablet at 4:34 AM on November 9 [1 favorite]


How much was the Saudi Coup assisted by the UAE and Washington?
Dec 12, 2015
Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected. #Trump2016

Washington’s foreign policy establishment, struck a bargain of sorts with Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, and Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S. who has been MBS’s leading advocate in Washington. The unspoken arrangement was clear: The UAE and Saudi Arabia would pump millions into Washington’s political ecosystem while mouthing a belief in “reform,” and Washington would pretend to believe that they meant it. MBS has won praise for some policies, like an openness to reconsidering Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers.
So MBS is a project of the UAE .
To go further down the rabbit Hole:- Princelings at Play
There is the blockade against Qatar stoked by Trump after his family failed to raise money there.
A plan for United Arab Emirates to wage financial war against its Gulf rival Qatar was found in the task folder of an email account belonging to UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef al-Otaiba .
posted by adamvasco at 7:54 AM on November 9 [1 favorite]


Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have advised their citizens not to travel to Lebanon and urged those who are in the country to leave as soon as possible.

Robert Fisk: Saad Hariri’s resignation as Prime Minister of Lebanon is not all it seems.
He certainly did not anticipate what happened to him. Indeed, Hariri had scheduled meetings in Beirut on the following Monday – with the IMF, the World Bank and a series of discussions on water quality improvement; not exactly the action of a man who planned to resign his premiership
posted by adamvasco at 1:33 PM on November 9 [1 favorite]


2017. I'm agreeing with Robert Fisk. Lord help me.

My theory: King Salman and/or his son has the grasping heart of a toddler who Wants All The Cake. This is why the Trump Family has been so engaged with Saudi Arabia: the first stage of the plan is to roll up all Saudi-related assets with the cooperation of the USA, and with the Trump Family getting a percentage somehow. As part of the deal they're pressuring Iran, partly for geopolitical reasons but (on the USA side) mostly for financial ones. A lot of people made money when the sanctions against Iran were lifted; the Trump Family probably figure they can do the same by threatening to reimpose them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:47 PM on November 9


So, a backroom Saudi-Russia-US economic partnership?
posted by rhizome at 2:49 PM on November 9


More like Trump/Putin/al-Saud, but yes.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:13 PM on November 9


And some, I assume, are good people.
posted by flabdablet at 3:42 AM on November 10 [2 favorites]


Huffington Post: "Millions In Yemen Will Die Unless Saudi Aid Blockade Is Lifted, UN Warns"
A Saudi-led blockade of desperately-needed aid supplies in Yemen has pushed the war-torn country to the brink of “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades,” the United Nations said this week, forecasting millions of casualties if the siege is not lifted.

Saudi Arabia announced Monday that it had decided to “temporarily close” all ports in Yemen, where 7 million people are at risk of starvation. Nearly 70 percent of the population relies on foreign assistance brought in via land, sea and air for survival.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, Yemen has been engulfed by a raging conflict that has spiraled into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Its staggering deterioration has come amid an ongoing Saudi-led intervention there, under the direction of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:12 AM on November 10 [2 favorites]




So, I posted this on the politics thread, that sort of sketched the storm clouds in the Middle East that I see, and in a later comment talking about Hariri, I said that I just couldn't figure out *WHY* the perfect storm was forming. But, I think Joe in Australia is probably pointing in the right direction.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 1:52 PM on November 10 [2 favorites]


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