Claims about Saudi

In a style of government which is unique to the kingdom, they announced the arrests first and then they announced the creation of the committee which had ordered them. This is how the young prince acts, a man who some Middle East experts persist in referring to as a Western-style reformer. He acts with total disregard to habeas corpus, due process and the rule of law. In his eyes, those arrested are guilty before they are proven guilty.

This committee is McCarthyite in its powers and scope. The first thing to note in the decree which set it up, is that it puts itself above and beyond the law. The decree states that the committee (which bin Salman chairs) is “exempt from laws, regulations, instructions, orders and decisions while the committee shall perform the following tasks: … the investigation issuance of arrest warrants, travel ban, disclosure and freezing of accounts and portfolios, tracking of funds, assets, and preventing their remittance or transfer by persons and entities who ever they might be. The committee has the right to take any precautionary measures it sees, until they are referred to the investigating authorities or judicial bodies.”

In other words, the prince can do anything he likes to anyone, seizing their assets in and outside the kingdom. Let’s just remind ourselves of what he now controls. The prince heads all three of Saudi Arabia’s armies; he heads Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company; he heads the committee in charge of all economic affairs which is just about to launch the biggest privatisation the kingdom has seen; and he now controls all of Saudi’s media chains.

This was apparent from the list of businessmen arrested. ART, MBC and Rotana Media group dominate the Arab media. These Saudi media corporations account for most of what is put out on air in the Middle East, apart from the news output of Qatari-owned Al Jazeera.

Their respective owners, Saleh Kamel, Walid al-Ibrahim and Prince Waleed bin Talal are behind bars. Presumably too their wealth has been confiscated. Forbes prices bin Talal, chairman of the Kingdom Holding Corporation, at $18bn. He owns sizeable shares in numerous companies, including Newscorp, Citigroup, 21st Century Fox and Twitter. These shares too are under new management. The head of STC, the biggest mobile operator in Saudi, was also arrested.

If previous moves bin Salman took constituted a power grab, Saturday’s moves were a wealth grab.

Quite apart from the political dangers of stripping so many very rich Saudis of their wealth, this is a bizarre way to encourage foreigners to invest in the kingdom.

Here is the full piece by David Hearst, interesting to me but I don’t feel I can evaluate it.  Via Bruno.


Well, all of the royal families were originally simply the strongest band of thieves - who were eventually legitimated. Not sure where the outrage comes from - how do you think the Saudi royal family originated?

It seems some people aren't aware there remain royals who are still sovereign, as-in with dictatorial powers, not as in preside over the occasional parade.

Next they'll discover slavery still exists and is practiced in some of the countries of their political allies. Can't wait for that one, either...

It's a much better observation than the silly "coup-proof society" article by Quinlavin that Tyler linked to earlier. The Saudi government is perhaps more reliant on relationships among families, tribes, and within a sectarian religion than many other governments are, but we're still looking at a good ol' autocracy and to me the interesting question is the extent to which it's an oligarchy or a dictatorship and if we're seeing it transform right now.

Well, in the nearly three centuries that the al-Sa'ud have been rulers following Wahhabism, there has never been anything remotely like this move. Of course in the past the nation was never nearly this wealthy, and it certainly looks like this move is not just about consolidating power over all branches of the military, but also to indeed seize wealth, as well as control over the media. Again, people like Putin, Xi, Erdogan, and others are role models, not at all anything traditionally Saudi or in accord with practices of the royal family going back centuries. This is unprecedented there.

It is not McCarthyite at all, with McCarthy going against a foreign ideology. This is just pure money and power grabbing, although it is also going along with an apparent move to increase the conflict with Iran. But as near as I can tell none of those arrested have been charged with being pro-Iranian or Iranian spies or agents or whatever. So this is not at all McCarthyite. It is worse.

OTOH, I do think that KSA is having lots of problems internationally, and it does look like MbS is trying to deal with those. The war in Yemen has been a total botch and disaster, with the missile from there a sign of that. The effort against Qatar has also been a disaster and highly embarrassing. There was KSA going to put Qatar in its place, and it has had no effect at all. Qatar is doing fine and thumbing its nose totally at MbS and his pals.

However, this Hariri matter in Lebanon is very worrisome to my mind, and not least because it looks like it could turn into another poorly thought-out botched foreign policy move by MbS driven by his fanatical anti-Iran policy. Maybe Hariri is actually in danger; his father was assassinated. But in fact amazingly enough Lebanon has been somewhat stable the last few years, despite the intense pressures created by the war in Syria. Hezbollah is the most powerful group in the country, but it is currently in a coalition with other parties in ever-so difficult Lebanon, where horrendous all-out ethnic and religious conflict could very easily erupt and has in the past, when it has sometimes gone on for years. Messing with Lebanon is very dangerous, but maybe with the impending defeat of Daesh/ISIS, MbS thinks he can get away with this. But I fear trying to pick a fight in Lebanon could easily end up in just a total disaster there, with it extremely unlikely that MbS is going to succeed in dislodging Hezbollah at all. This looks very stupid and very dangerous, much worse than any of his other foreign escapade failures so far.

>It is not McCarthyite at all, with McCarthy going against a foreign ideology.

Well, Barkley gets it. Will Tyler get it, ever? Literally ever?

Unlikely. To Tyler and the rest of the left, "McCarthyite" simply means that criminals are being exposed as criminals, by a duly-authorized committee of people that was created for the purpose of exposing criminals.


Not only wrong on what leftists or Tyler think, but irrelevant to this conversation. Culture war is bakin your brain, man.

If you're calling Tyler a leftist I assume you are a revanchist Monarchist and therefore in favor of Saudi autocracy

He does say "in its power and scope", not its targets. As with HUAC, the implications for rule of law are not good. Solid points otherwise.

It's not true that the nation was never as wealthy as it is now, in inflation adjusted dollars the Kingdom's per capita GDP peaked in the 1970s, growing slowly from 1985 until the present. But the oil is being depleted and they know it. Meanwhile, with Saudi birthrates the royal family has much expanded over time. This is likely a method of culling the family of excess princes and warning the others to tow the line in the King decides the belts need tightening.


Yes, per capita wealth probably peaked in 1981, not the 70s, but aggregate wealth is much higher now with the much larger population.

I thought that their wealth was all in oil. So unlike in other countries, more people wouldn’t mean more aggregate wealth. Just more mouths to feed.

Oh, they have been doing a lot of building, not just infrastructure, but actual buildings, some big ones too to go along with all that growing population, and even a few other industries, although not enough to get them off relying on oil for export earnings.

Are those buildings factories? Are those other industries competitive without government subsidy? I mean, there is value in housing, but mostly when that housing is located near factors of production like factories or near an industry cluster for some particular service industry. How much would the housing be worth if KSA didn't have oil, or if the value of a barrel of oil was something like $20? How much would the labor of its residents be worth?

And what should that consensus be, "A Truth Seeker"? You want to tell us, or do you think that the frequently poorly informed Thomas Friedman provides it?

Poor Thomas friedman, like the grasshoppers in Africa that roast in desert and their green dint carried in a way that the poor souls in pompei could only wish. Poor thom can never figure out why civilization is crumbling.

Actually, I wanted you, people, to tell me what the consensus is. The NYT always seemed to be a great purveyor of consensus (yeah the evil, elitist, Keynesian, gay, Jewish consensus of New York values, but consensus nevertheless). And I guess Tom Friedmans has as much access to Wikipedia as I have.


If it had happened in Iran, we would be hearing how Iran is a threat to Civilization (i.e. the Saudi and Zionist lobbies). Yet, American leaders have nothing but the highest praises for the Saudi fscist regime, which is the main cause of terrorism in the world today. For much less, Reagan called Andropov's Soviet Union an Evil Empire. How craven, how corrupt must Americans be to support the Saudi totalitarian regime?!

whoops I mean andy,630 is total area of October.

And the US almost certainly gave Salman the go ahead to do this. Luckily, Trump got on the phone with the prince today--to beg him to list Aramco on a US stock exchange.

If you are going to promote conspiracy theories without evidence, why not go all the way and say you are absolutely certain? It's unlikely because the Saudis would not have asked for permission, just as they don't ask for permission for beheading apostates. It's an old deal, in return for their alliance we restrict our human rights proselytizing to other states.

Jared Kushner was just there visiting the prince on an unannounced, last minute trip. Do you seriously doubt the administration knew about this?

The goalposts moved pretty quickly from "green-lighted" to "knew." I wouldn't be surprised if they knew, the American government spies on everyone. What I doubt is that anyone behaved in a way that they could have moral culpability for what the Saudi government did.

Oh, no, I ma saying greenlighted. But you seem to deny they even knew--wouldn't even have been asked for permission. Kushner strategized about this with them.

And one interesting wrinkle is that it is the modernizers doing the arresting and the Wahhabists being marginalized. I could see how that could be viewed by some as a justification for the methods.

Cool I like this version of evidence. So Obama knew about Weinstein's love of rape. Do you seriously doubt it?

Welp, if it's a comment from Sam you know it's irrelevant, false or trolling--this one is the trifecta. I think you've probably reached your quota for today.

Wahhabists may be getting marginalized, but they are not getting arrested. Al Waleed bin Talal's father was the most secular and westernized of all the sons of old Abdulaziz. He was exiled for a long time and lived in Egypt back when it and KSA were enemies, and he always wore western suits as well as making a lot of money. Al Waleed did not start with nothing on his way to becoming an $18 billionaire.

Violating the human rights of people with little political power is signfiicantly different from imprisoning a large number of wealthy and influential people.

I've never understood why the Koch brothers are demonized but the Saudis get a free pass, even though the Saudis fund Sunni terrorists. It's not as though the Koch brothers fund terrorists. Of course, the Saudis are not unlike the Russians, which may help explain our current president's favoritism for both.

The coming of wisdom is a slow process. You might ask why the Koch brothers are demonized but Soros is not. After all Soros does fund terrorists. Even the FBI thinks so.

Nothing unique to Trump will explain the last 70 years of pro-Saudi US foreign policy. But the fact that the alternatives are all much worse probably will.

No, at this point listing in the US would help ICE but letting Saudi burn would generate trillions revitalizing the US oil industry. Trump is trying to negotiate a bad deal, but if they don't go for it he will let the royal family be killed. As one of the few countries that won't even grant American's tourists visas, it is about time the US government switches sides.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is Australia's only enemy.

The Koch brothers are demonized for a (legal) form of electoral corruption that they practice within the U.S.

The Saudis are demonized by EVERYONE EXCEPT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT for all of the incredibly obvious reasons that their demonic regime ought to be demonized. Do you seriously not understand that the U.S. gov has made a literal deal with the devil here? I thought this was such common knowledge as to be beneath mentioning on a site like this but apparently you're a dumb-ass who needs it spelled out.

tisch fish tchuss, Massachusetts, loess stuffed ditch, mother is a fish my thick-nosed smooth, thick pale green furious from hades' plea.

This committee is McCarthyite in its powers and scope.

So not quite like Robert Mueller then?

The problem for politics in the Arab world is that everyone thinks they could be, and perhaps should be, ruler. Islam is very egalitarian that way. With so many offspring there are going to be a lot of princes who think they should rule.

Is this a sign that the solidarity of the Saud family is breaking down? We can hope so. Of course that means that the only commentator worth reading is Ibn Khaldun.

I wonder what the summary trials are doing for Asabiyah?

"In a style of government which is unique to the kingdom, they announced the arrests first and then they announced the creation of the committee which had ordered them."

That actually seems like a pretty common style of government. More unusual was the previous style of passing the kingship sideway among brothers so that every faction gets its chance at a piece of the pie (although that reminds me of Mexico under the PRI). What's unusual about the Gulf states before now has been that they have been surprisingly adept at keeping their internal power struggles muted and not too bloodthirsty.

Sultanistic Oligarchies (where means of coercion are concentrated in one person who then provides income & property defence for the elite) have one rule: Eliminate your rivals & monopolize control over the apparatus of the state. MBS just showed us a real-time sultanistic revolution in action. Interestingly, he is allied with a bunch of transnational oligarchic networks. Witness, the sequence of events:
Invasion of Yemen allowed him to monopolize Military apparatus (with significant US/UK rearmaments)
Construction of Vision 2030 economic reform program with help from US/UK consultancies (McKinsey, BCG, PWC ) etc: Allowed him to cut deals with NY/London Banks
Spat with Qatar: Allowed him to concentrate ideological apparatus in the Arab world by eliminating Qatar's independent foreign policy
IPO'ing Aramco & privatization of set assets: Allowed him to run Ministry of Finance

Sultanistic Oligarchies (where means of coercion are concentrated in one person who then provides income & property defence for the elite) have one rule: Eliminate your rivals & monopolize control over the apparatus of the state. MBS just showed us a real-time sultanistic revolution in action. Interestingly, he is allied with a bunch of transnational oligarchic networks. Witness, the alliances embedded in the sequence of events since 2011:

Invasion of Yemen allowed him to monopolize Military apparatus (with significant US/UK rearmaments)

Construction of Vision 2030 economic reform program with help from US/UK consultancies (McKinsey, BCG, PWC ) etc: Allowed him to cut deals with NY/London Banks

Spat with Qatar: Allowed him to concentrate ideological apparatus in the Arab world by eliminating Qatar’s independent foreign policy

IPO’ing Aramco & privatization of state assets: Allowed him to monopolize Ministry of Finance

Deep insights into the modern understanding of McCarthy. Don't know about the rest.

"He acts with total disregard to habeas corpus": it's rather sweet to think that English Common Law would apply to the desert kingdom. Perhaps you are overrating the importance of Lawrence of Arabia?

If it hadn't been for those judicious souls who held their noses and voted for Trump you guys could have had a Saudi-type government by now.


Huh? "you guys" as in commentators here? Hillary was going to impose a Saudi-type government here? What makes you think that? Most likely a Hillary government would have been mostly a continuation of the Obama presidency with some minor wiggles here and there. Was Obama heading us towards a Saudi-type government? Was that due to his being a secret Muslim actually born in Kenya as our current president long claimed?

LOL. You need the nurses to increase the dosage back to where it should be.

Oppose Trump, support the workers, overthrow Saudi, criticize Lin Biao.

"Quite apart from the political dangers of stripping so many very rich Saudis of their wealth, this is a bizarre way to encourage foreigners to invest in the kingdom."

The Saudis don't need foreign investment. In fact, they're investing in foreign kingdoms.

Funny. MBS is talking about selling a 10% stake in Aramco for ~$200 billion. That, of course, would be foreign investment in Saudi Arabia. Also the rest of the Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy would require some foreign investment.

Not necessarily. This may be a deal for high level Saudi royals to get a piece of the national oil money action personally.

they don't need foreign capital, they're overflowing with their own. they do need foreign investment in literally everything else that makes a functioning society. They need scientists and engineers. They need teachers trained in things besides camel fucking and Wahabism. They need Westerners to run the oil fields for them. They need actual human beings that can produce meaningful gains in society because the only thing they produce natively are camel fuckers, closeted homosexual princelings, and terrorists.

If a foreign dictator imprisons someone for political reasons, how would this imply that the dictator then has stock holding rights to whatever any other person might own overseas?

If Trump throws Bill Gates in prison, can he then expect to receive financial wealth from selling Bill Gates' shares in other international foreign jurisdictions?

The companies involved should declare such shares null and void long before they recognize ownership on the basis of political imprisonment.

Gates is protected by the 4th amendment. Rich Saudis are not.

Its not like any of the new political prisoners did much to earn their assets beyond being born into the right branch of the Saudi royal family. The line out of Riyadh seems to be that this is an anti-corruption drive, so doubt they'll dress up the assets seizures as being the return of stolen funds or some such. Which will have the advantage of being true, since the Saudi economic system is nepotism.

That article was a really good read that ran 3 sentences too long. Yes, the governments of the region are brutal, repressive regimes but we found out during the Arab Spring who these regimes were brutally repressing.

Now imagine the missile (probably a cruise missile) had a nuclear payload... and people wonder why we shouldn't take out North Korea? If North Korea with such a puny GDP can build ICBMs, so can Yemen (with or without help from Iran).

We see today with the Sutherland Springs, Texas church massacre that arming everybody is not the answer. Gun control / nuclear weapons control is the answer.

A massacre that was stopped by a good civilian with a gun is somehow proof that arming everyone is not the answer? I disagree.

So arming everyone is the answer? The list of countries who could arm themselves with nukes within a few years includes Iran, South Korea, Japan. The Saudis couldn't build one but they could buy one. Taiwan and Turkey would probably be a few years behind. Sounds peachy.

I'm impressed that you managed to shoehorn in comments about domestic gun control on an article about Saudi politics.

The Saudis probably have equivalents to the US asset forfeiture law, life imprisonment for tax resistance like was used on Irving Schiff, enforcement efforts like the Branch Davidian episode, and many others. The prince himself can't possibly keep track of all the bad guys in the kingdom so he must have an apparatus that does and makes recommendations that he may or may not follow. Kind of like Castro did for many years and any number of other autocrats. The Arabs are used to that sort of thing.

The US has more individuals involved in repression, government attorneys, for instance, who decide if a criminal will be prosecuted and make plea deals.

What is this leading to? Does this explain the Qatar quasi-blockade?

Clearly Prince Salman has grand ambitions, and those ambitions will not be sated within the confines of the desert kingdom. He's clearly setting himself up for a major saudi power projection into arabia and the muslim world far more than the previous regime dared. Ergo -- major conflict with Iran coming up quite soon. And restructuring of relationship with Egypt, Turkey and other sunni majors. Further enslavement of pakistan for secondary objectives. Further destabilization of the entire islamic world (if you thought that was possible) and more worries for nations with large sunni populations (india). The semi-redeemable muslim nations (malaysia, indonesia) are probably in trouble as well. One can finally understand the saudi aramco IPO, which made little financial sense. He's loading up on cash to finance a major saudi power grab across the muslim crescent. More wars!! great.. Ghosts of 20th century are returning.

A week or two ago, he was talking about how the clerics advancing an extreme version of Islam need to be dialed back. I doubt that the timing is a coincidence.

Right now, there are two big obstacles to his power base: (1) the religious establishment, and (2) rival princely factions. The classic move is for the king to ally with the masses to wipe out the intermediate sources of power in society. He threatened number (1) and then to show that he was serious while (2) thought that they weren't in his sights, took out (2).

See "The Origins of Political Order", in particular the bits about kings strengthening the state by going after competitive patrimonial elites. The awkward bit here is just that Salman happens to be closely related to most of them.

Is this in line with the Koran? Or at least not out of line? Then it's all fair by the Saudi system yes?

Per the quote, why would someone start blathering about McCarthy when one is going to get to watch a real life Game of Thrones from a safe distance?

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