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Monday, 06 November 2017


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In Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is 32, is attempting to drag the country into the 21st century with economic reforms and social liberalization. This include fighting government corruption, and thus the recent arrests. His efforts are complicated by his having led the kingdom into war in Yemen. Only 53 words!

The Balfour Declaration was a good thing. It paved the way for the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, a region in which they are in very short supply. It also extended help for the Jewish people, which is always to be recommended as they have a massively disproportionate share of humanity and genius.

Bob, "brevity is the soul of wit", well done!

I tend to agree with you, 'W', but it is only a hundred years since the Declaration, and what was that saying of Mao's, in a different context, that such a brief time scale was too soon to draw conclusions?

Bob - it seems to me that banging up in jail most of the senior members of his nation's elite (and I use the term advisedly) without trial or any semblance of due process is an odd way to approach social liberalization, and behaving like the mediaeval despot he is, is a curious move for an avowed modernizer.

But hey. They're our bastards (unfortunately, although in fact they're not, hence 9/11)

Re Balfour, it seems the much maligned British Empire's solution to the "Jewish problem" was rather more humane than later efforts.

Something is underway in Saudi Arabia alright. From Instapundit a while ago:
"THE SAUDI CRACKDOWN WIDENS. “A campaign of mass arrests of Saudi Arabian royals, ministers and businessmen expanded on Monday after a top entrepreneur was reportedly detained in the biggest anti-corruption purge of the kingdom’s affluent elite in its modern history. The reported arrest of Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar followed the detention of dozens of top Saudis including billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in a crackdown that the attorney general described as ‘phase one’.”

It may not be a very "liberal" way of doing things but it is their way. There might be a backlash as the Royal Family is quite large and well connected.

Meandering Middle Eastern ramble follows. Personally, I’d ignore it, but then I’ve written it, so who knows:

I wonder, without answering David’s questions, how many of the readers have actually been to these rather odd spots, and lived and transacted business therein (not as a tourist, that doesn’t count; business is always the best way to get to know a people or culture). I have, to a limited degree, back in the late seventies/very early eighties.

So, just for instance, I remember South Yemen. It is really like the moon. That’s the main thing to remember. There as the sole English-speaking/sort of Spanish interpreting bit of a Cuban delegation (don’t ask, it’s a whole other story!) selling mango juice. Several million dollars’ worth, before you laugh. Flying in from glorious, doomed and utterly bonkers Djibouti across the Red Sea at sunset (to this day Somali women linger in my memory as extraordinarily gorgeous, amazingly elegant and kind, almost in an odd inverse relationship to their noisier and noisome male counterparts). After landing, drenched in overflowing aviation fuel because of reckless incompetence (par for the course). Fourteen checkpoints to go through (as a seasoned African veteran, I counted them out of interest; back in my oddly comfortable, beloved and benighted West Africa a reasonable bribe would have cut through this, but no chance here. Here they actually, seriously, seemed to hate you, presumably thanks to real or imagined memories of Mad Mitch, with diminutive and increasingly angry males jumping up and down yelling unintelligibly at you. The worst toilet in a terminal I had ever seen, and I was well used to stomach-turners. And, further on that subject, the worst toilets on the decrepit Russian built national carrier aeroplane that eventually took us out of there to some other hellhole. Strangely, it’s actually only very recently that I’ve realised that people were standing on the seat mid-flight, in a kind of grisly Darwinian arms race, to seek to avoid the contagion, and losing. I just knew there had to be some sort of reason!

The feast on the beach of goat in palm oil and tomato puree (always felt so terribly sorry for these poor unjustifiably biblically maligned creatures ever since). The saddo marooned at the consulate/embassy who wanted any titbits of gossip, because he couldn’t actually get out of the compound. The magical and lip-loosening powers of Johnny Walker Black (it’s gotta be Black, not the cheapo Red) Label which sparked my retrospectively brilliant and retirement funding investment in their product.

Jordan I only remember for some monk (bum, basically), as we were perched at the birth place of Abraham or whoever (as if anyone apart from me cared or knew) looking over the Dead Sea and at nearby Israel, picking mini tiles (tesserae) out of an irreplaceable ancient mosaic and flogging them as good luck charms for pennies (or dirhams, whatever). Syria was an odd and charmless mixture of concrete blocks, re-bars and unregarded relics of extraordinary antiquity. Saudi Arabia, Jeddah and particularly Riyadh (millions and millions of dollars’ worth of mango juice flogged - I only realised many years later - to Bin Laden’s super wealthy kinfolks) was dull, hypocritical and dispiriting beyond belief. Enlivened only by my well connected, pleasingly amoral Lebanese (part nominally sort of Christian, mostly complete bastard) guide who piratically navigated this quagmire with some aplomb and charm.

Still way more fun than England at the time for a young man with Kipling-esque delusions of grandeur.

Anyway, what was the question? The Middle East? Irredeemably screwed, and worst of all not even that funny with it…

You may recall David, some few weeks ago the "new" guy announced major societal reforms, women being allowed to drive (which in Saudi society bodes ill regarding female autonomy) but probably the most "troubling to the Establishment" was the declaration toward moderating Wahhabism to that pre-1979.

Always, always bear 1979 in mind where Saudi Arabia is concerned.

But in esse brevis you said.

Looks to be a consolidation of power, and/or "coup prevention."

I didn't realize there was a "Jewish problem". Was it their refusal to die?

Shalom TBH

Been a problem for 5775 years my friend. Buggers just won't go away.

Well done, Buster, you started my day with a chortle! I particularly liked "The saddo marooned at the consulate/embassy who wanted any titbits of gossip, because he couldn’t actually get out of the compound". So much for George Smiley and James Bond! Actually, I did spend nearly a year in the Middle East but almost all of it was in a tented camp at the end of Runway #2 at Bahrein airport so it was more like Aldershot with sand but no beer!

JK, looks more like a personal coup to me but 'we shall see what we shall see' - which is probably more than the MI6 operators in Riyadh will see!

For anyone interested in a good and easy to read analysis of the leadership styles of Hitler and Churchill try

Hitler and Churchill. Secrets of Leadership by Andrew Roberts

One to add to the library you are going to give to your father for Christmas SoD

in a tented camp at the end of Runway #2 at Bahrein airport so it was more like Aldershot with sand but no beer!

Should have joined the Navy Duffers. Two cans per man per day perhaps.

AussieD...I'm betting it was one hell of a tent!

Soon to be logging into my email David, put out some feelers yesterday after I'd seen this post's question.

As to that missile's trajectory purportedly to've been launched from Iran - there's some question concerning that - could've repeat could've, been "a test" of the Saudi ABM system. Might even been fired from an Aegis but, that's extreme conjecture at this point.

From NW David,

"Saudi Arabia reported that over the weekend Saudi ballistic missile defenses successfully intercepted a ballistic missile fired from northern Yemen over the capital city of Riyadh. The missile, labeled a Burqan 2H, was apparently aimed at the capital city’s airport.

"The Houthi Defense Ministry confirmed that their forces fired the missile and claimed the attack was a success that “shook the Saudi capital.” Despite the strike, Saudi officials say the airport remains operating normally.

"The missile launched over the weekend was the third missile that targeted facilities around Riyadh. A launch on 6 February and one on 20 March attempted to strike King Salman Airbase southwest of Riyadh.

"NightWatch judged at that time that once the Houthis ranged Riyadh itself, the missile threat changed the security environment significantly. For example, Saudi officials might need to develop and practice air raid drills and other civil defense measures. That time has arrived.

"An act of war. (That's why there's some doubt [JK) On 6 November, Saudi Arabian officials said that the latest missile attack may be considered an act of war by Iran. They said Saudi Arabia will not tolerate any infringement of its national security.

"“The Kingdom reserves the right to respond in a timely manner to the hostile actions of the Iranian regime,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said. “Iranian interventions in the region are detrimental to the security of neighboring countries and affect international peace and security. We will not allow any infringement of our national security.”

"The Saudis did not describe as acts of war the prior two launches against King Khalid Base and the multiple launches against bases and facilities in southwestern Saudi Arabia.

"Saudi Arabia is raising the stakes for Iran to compete for regional leadership. Juberi’s comments do not suggest when the Kingdom will retaliate, but they do indicate the Saudis are escalating their confrontation with Iran. Some form of retaliation is likely.

"In that connection, the Saudis posted wanted rewards for information that leads to the location of the top 40 Houthi leaders. Information on Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi has a $30 million reward."


"Missile debris that (previously [JK) landed in Saudi Arabia has been found to have Iranian markings. In the past two years of fighting, shipments of missiles and missile components occasionally have been intercepted and have had their images posted to the web. The smugglers said the missiles came from Iran."


"[......] has identified Lebanon as a battle ground. Saudi Arabia is in a combative mode against Iranian proxies on two borders and in Lebanon. The remarks directed at Lebanon represent another escalation step in the confrontation with Iran.

"Saudi Arabia has made a strategic decision that it must do more to block the Iranians and to stop the spread of the Shia heresy. The Saudis apparently sense that the Iranians are moving quickly to try to fill a regional leadership vacuum and that the Kingdom most prevent them from consolidating control in Lebanon. This is another ripple effect from the way the Syrian civil war is ending.

"The end of the Syrian civil war with the Assad government intact is not leading to a restoration of conditions before 2011. New power brokers and new power structures have emerged. The underlying issues remain unsettled. The end of the Islamic State and the survival of the Syrian government are bringing no sense of closure.

"Confrontations over pre-existing issues appear to be intensifying first in Syria and Iraq and now in Lebanon and Yemen. One conflict is ending, but a wider regional confrontation is taking shape."

"a wider regional confrontation is taking shape"

You can say that again! Thanks, JK.

And, JK, Zero Hedge is reporting that Israel and Saudi are working together to form an anti-Iranian/anti-Shia campaign - heavens to Betsy, what next?

Israel and Saudi!? It is serious. And necessary.

They've actually been "working together" David, ever since you first began posting about the possibility of Israel launching an air attack on Iran.

Just can't say it "aloud."

Whitewall and I hit the fringes of this over on another site some time ago (albeit from another angle) when it became obvious that, in the "most likely scenario" Iran would launch a missile strike which Israel would almost certainly [attempt] to knock down - And as the old saw goes, "What goes up will come down" - the question then is Where?

Then there is that possible arms deal President Trump may have made with Saudi Arabia back in May when he made his 9 day 5 country mid-east tour. Saudi was his first stop, then on to Israel.

Jared Kushner and other administration officials made a trip to Saudi Arabia in late October.

Yup Ups,

No repeat to that Cairo Apology Tour in evidence.

Qatar-Stuff probably and simply, just distracting from the actual History.

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