4 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi”

  1. Trump made an interesting remark on the subject of MbS and Kushner to the effect that Kushner is not involved in KSA. In the same article, an unnamed White House official briefed that Trump was getting slightly fed up of Kushner (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-post-interview-trump-calls-saudi-crown-prince-mohammed-a-strong-person-who-truly-loves-his-country/2018/10/20/1eda48c0-d4d5-11e8-b2d2-f397227b43f0_story.html). But as Alastair notes, Kushner seems to regard MbS as integral to his Deal of the Century, presumably to fund the (removable) financial improvement Kushner (and Netanyahu) are rumoured to want to foist on the Palestinians in lieu of a state.
    The issue of Yemen may provide further leverage over MbS, given the doctrine of Command Responsibility (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Command_responsibility). While clearly the power behind the throne, as such the Crown Prince has no sovereign immunity.
    I’m not sure I’d go so far as to describe the Huthis as having “close ties” to Tehran: there’s almost as much mistrust for Tehran and the Ja’afaris as there is for Riyadh and the Wahhabis! The country the Huthis first turned to was (America’s enemy) Russia (https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/russia-yemen-terrorism-houthi-diplomacy-saleh-isis.html); only when the Russians didn’t do anything did the Huthis go to Tehran.

  2. Excellent posting on Saudi Arabia. Based on some of my recent discussions, one point that was repeatedly made to me (by even the most cynical of audiences), was that even if most things do end up returning to business as usual, the crucial ‘knowledge economy’ component of the kingdom’s diversification vision is now dead in the water. Too many of the intended high-tech and R&D partners have a very significant CSR image to maintain, and simply can’t afford to still be associated with the MBS regime. From a more personal / theoretical point of view, I think this brutal and tragic affair is the latest in a series of reminders (beginning with the Ritz last year), that is no longer a ‘ traditional monarchy’ or ‘dynastic monarchy’. A new era, and one I think that HMG needs to study carefully to make proper sense of.

  3. Alastair Newton

    Donald Trump has indeed ‘gone quiet’. But he has also achieved his first objective of keeping the oil price down until the midterms are out of the way (with Brent currently below USD74, down from a year-high of USD86 at the start of the month – albeit thanks in significant part to Iran-related waivers. Furthermore, he has, of course, been more or less totally focused on his ‘divide and rule’ midterms campaign where it probably wouldn’t make sense to be defending Wahhabist Arabs (even though he does seem to have backed off his claim that ‘Middle East terrorists’ were approaching the US in the refugee caravan).
    This is not to say that I think we will see a change of tack from Mr Trump after the midterms. But we may. After all, he is nothing if not mercurial and it is not at all clear as yet that Jared Kushner has given up on MBS – who has, after all, been quasi-defended by Bibi, as this article notes.
    It’s not surprising that Jim Mattis – who may be out of the Pentagon after the election according to the buzz inside the Beltway – and Mike Pompeo are keen to shift the dynamic over Qatar. But Yemen is perhaps more so given the Houthis’ close ties with Tehran, US ‘public enemy No 1’ globally now, it seems. I wonder where the domestic pressure, if any, for this is coming from? Or, more likely, what the quid pro quo is for Riyadh in agreeing to a ceasefire in what is, let’s recall, very much MBS’s war of choice (assuming, that is, that it doesn’t just suit King Salman for the US to get Saudi off the hook of a very expensive and seemingly unwinnable conflict).
    Apologies for at least as many questions as answers in this ‘comment’ but I think that is a fair reflection of a significant degree of uncertainty over the likely forward trajectory.

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