"Unprecedented" Saudi Crackdown Targets Regime Loyalists As King Prepares To Abdicate

Are we seeing early signs of an "Arab Spring" coming to Saudi Arabia, or will the next king emerge stronger than ever? The kingdom is now in the midst of an unprecedented crackdown of both dissidents and even loyalists perceived as less than enthusiastic about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's consolidation of power as he prepares to ascend the throne of his aging and increasingly senile father. It was only last June that King Salman shocked the world by suddenly and unexpectedly removing next in line for the crown Muhammad bin Nayef, which made Mohammed bin Salman heir apparent to the throne.

In a rare front page story airing sharp criticism of the kingdom, The Wall Street Journal assessed the scope of the crackdown today:

In the past week, Saudi authorities have detained more than 30 people, roughly half of them clerics, according to activists and people close to those who have been detained. The campaign goes beyond many of the government’s past clampdowns, both in the scope of those targeted and the intense monitoring of social media posts by prominent figures. It is not known if any charges have been filed.

WSJ further mentions that several senior princes have been essentially under house arrest as they are barred from traveling abroad, which even includes a brother of King Salman. The kingdom has been tight lipped amidst the crackdown, refusing to engage with the media since as the story began breaking early this week.

Current Defense Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Image source: Alayham News

King Salman himself has at times appeared barely able to function or speak coherently in public or government addresses, and aides have had to closely assist when he does make such rare appearances. Prince Mohammed has become the de facto ruler on a day-to-day level.

As the WSJ explains, preparations are underway for the king's early abdication:

“Mohammed bin Salman is definitely preparing to become king,” said a Saudi adviser to the government. “He wants to tackle the internal debate about him becoming the king and focus on consolidating his power, rather than doing that while being distracted by dissidents.”


The government has denied an abdication is planned, but several people close to the royal family say preparations have already started. The transfer of power, which several people close to the royal family had expected to occur this month, is likely to take place late this year or early next year, these people say.

Analysts point to the fact that most of the detained in the latest crackdown have large social media followings and have expressed criticism of Saudi Arabia's diplomatic and economic war with Qatar, if not expressing outright support for Qatar. The crown prince is considered a hawk when it comes to the Qatar crisis, and himself had a huge role in the kingdom's policy of strong arm tactics targeting its small oil and gas rich neighbor. Saudi law further makes membership in the Muslim Brotherhood a punishable offense, and has accused many of those detained with ties with the group.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been the favored political proxy backed by Qatar for much of the "Arab Spring" movements in Egypt, Syria, and throughout the region. The Brotherhood has also historically been active in short-lived protests within Saudi Arabia, such as the so-called Islamic Awakening anti-government protests which occurred in the wake of the first Gulf War as the US military was allowed to assemble in Saudi territory. But the Brotherhood now carries the double stigma of being seen as an arm of Qatari foreign subversion. Saudi state media has lately warned of “intelligence activities for the benefit of foreign parties” within the country.

Last weekend Saudi authorities detained prominent clerics which had previously taught and preached from within the heart of the country's Wahhabi establishment, including Salman al-Awdah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omary. Though such recently detained clerics hold religious views which do not depart from the state Wahhabi religion, religiously driven criticisms of the royal family tend to focus on impurity, excess, and compromising relations with Western democracies. And lately it appears that the crown prince may even be quietly opening up to Israel, which we predicted could create dissent and instability among the Saudi domestic population. Various reports hint at calls for protests to take place both within and outside the country this weekend. Al-Qaeda itself called for the overthrow of the ruling monarchy with the message, "How can the grandsons of the Prophet and his Companions become slaves of the Family of Saud and its fool headed tyrants?".

Though most international reporting is playing up the current crackdown as targeting figures that are loosely "oppositionist", it appears the nature of the move is more nuanced. According to Middle East history professor and expert on Saudi affairs, As'ad AbuKhalil, the crackdown is primarily aimed at regime insiders and prominent voices who threaten push-back against the crown prince's vision for Saudi foreign policy:

Unlike what some in the media are writing on social media, this crackdown is not directed against dissidents.  Many of those arrested are loyal propagandists for the Saudi regime.  They are being punished not for what they say but for what they are not saying: they are being punished for not being vocal against Qatar and against the Muslim Brotherhood. 

AbuKhalil, who authored a book which examined internal Saudi regime fault lines called The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power, provides a somewhat comical example of how regime insiders are being publicly humiliated should they not fall in line. In the below case, two pro-Saudi writers with connections to the monarchy battled it out on Tuesday:

AbuKhalil translates and describes the Twitter exchange between the two highly visible pundits as follows: Nasir Salih As-Sirami (above) is commenting on the latest tweet by Jamal Khashoggi who wrote - "You arrest Isam Az-Zamil!! Isam was here in DC serving his country accompanying an official delegation. Those are the best of the sons of my country. What is happening?"  So As-Sirami says: "Don't worry, brother Jamal.  Enjoy America and your spacious home which was bought to you by Saudi Arabia as an adviser to its embassy then.  And don't forget the London home too."

Ironically, Isam Az-Zamil is actually close to the Saudi regime as a prominent economic analyst. His recent arrest did much to increase the general climate of fear now descending on those who previously felt themselves safe as firmly within the loyalist camp. As AbuKhalil notes even those with close government ties are now being accused of harboring sympathies for the kingdom's enemies: "The arrests seem to target those who were accused of Islamist Ikhwan sympathies or Qatar sympathies or Turkish sympathies."

So it seems Prince Mohammed bin Salman's rule may be faltering before it really even begins. Or alternately, his aggressive stance against dissent will induce enough paranoia for everyone to fall in line the moment his father abdicates. Regardless, once imperceptible cracks in the "stable" kingdom are now beginning to show as external geopolitical pressures (such as the Qatar and Iran rivalries) are being brought to bear.


SixIsNinE AntiMatter Sun, 09/17/2017 - 20:52 Permalink

and so he did.listen up Zeros -it's no use trying to fix a 100 year old battle that was lost.the Joooos won so it's time we all became the Jooos.it's a humOngOus GiganTic tell that no German MoneyPower or American MoneyPower comes out and tells us that we need to fix something.Hello.  It's a GERMAN family that is in control of Israel - Hellllo!!!!!! how obvious does it have to be?there are two sides and teh GERMAN-speaking side lost.  Get it?  that's why we benefit here in the ENGLISH speaking domain for now.now you aren't going to change anything of what happened 50 or 75 or 100 years ago.now look down on your non-sexdoll penetrating member and acknowledge the cut !we are the JOOOS !UNITE and let the robots be the goy class from now on ! 

In reply to by AntiMatter

White Devil Thu, 09/14/2017 - 19:30 Permalink

He will just go to Switzerland and act shitty until things die down, and then return to his garbage country and resume a seemingly pious life. Subhuman A-rabs...

mkkby White Devil Sat, 09/16/2017 - 02:35 Permalink

This is a nothing story. All leaders are paranoid and spend most of their time fighting real and imaginary enemies. This includes CEOs.

Calling Qatar a terror sponsor is pretty fucking funny. Everybody has their own set of terrorists. And everybody calls their real or imaginary enemy a terrorist.

Nobody gives a shit who runs Saudi. The only thing that matters is the spice flows and foreign investors are able to export their profits. The US keeps 30k troops there to make sure nobody rocks the boat too hard.

In reply to by White Devil

Dickguzinya Thu, 09/14/2017 - 19:30 Permalink

It's disgusting that we even associate with these third world, throwback, reprobates.  A complete waste of our resources, time, money, and energy.   Holding us hostage, with their crude oil monopoly, for decades.  Pure filth.

CEOoftheSOFA Thu, 09/14/2017 - 19:31 Permalink

Saudi Arabia's oil reserves are over-stated by about 40%.  They will soon be running out of oil.  That's why they want to take over Qatar.  Am I the only one that doesn't see anything urgent in the fight between Saudi Arabia and Qatar?  

HamSandwich (not verified) CEOoftheSOFA Thu, 09/14/2017 - 19:57 Permalink

It's quite the opposite; they want to crack down on stated reserves and production. Their newest gen of geologists and geophysicists were all trained for Red Sea coastal extraction (different rock units). Oh...and they were trained here (for free) at institutions like University of Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. The Tethys still have billions and billions of barrels in its grave.

In reply to by CEOoftheSOFA

LA_Goldbug samsara Fri, 09/15/2017 - 04:32 Permalink

I'm with you on this one. US would have left Iraq, Libya etc. alone if it wasn't for the serious issue of reserves loss and no replenishment from exploration. Shale is expensive, highly risky and not capable of giving long term production levels that were available from convention sources of oil and gas.

In reply to by samsara

LA_Goldbug bluskyes Fri, 09/15/2017 - 04:27 Permalink

Why don't they make available the production data so as to publicly make it known how things stand ?

I can only come up with one explanation that makes most sense to me. They don't want the Public to know how close we are to the "EMPTY" mark on the tank.

In reply to by bluskyes

smacker CEOoftheSOFA Thu, 09/14/2017 - 20:10 Permalink

Can't speak to the overstated oil reserves except to say that most MENA countries overstated them for years since the 1980s. But I do believe Ghawar has peaked and this explains not only why the Saudi "Royal" family want to IPO a large part of  Aramco but also why they have their sights on Qatar gas.Best thing to do to Saudi Arabia is to blitzkreig bomb the place. The world would be a better place. The whole place is a world centre of evil.

In reply to by CEOoftheSOFA

earleflorida Withdrawn Sanction Thu, 09/14/2017 - 21:35 Permalink

"Leaked UAE e-mails (could have been intercepted and changed via compromised security/decoded`encryption link/paste-over): : Saudi arabia came close to 'conquering' Qatar'    *{(Abrams actually thought that Jordan[?] should [could as a favour?] conquer Qatar)(easy pickings)}http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/saudi-arabia-came-close-conquering-qatar-new-leaked-emails-show-1491607860  

In reply to by Withdrawn Sanction

Omen IV CEOoftheSOFA Thu, 09/14/2017 - 20:23 Permalink

The Kid goes tho Israel to defend his new regime against a local insurrection of the elites - Isreal will prove a cancer for this young guy who has never been tested - never in his life has he been at riskHe will lose - the smell of revolution is palpable -  The promote of Trump three months ago and the sword dance - was a Hail Mary Pass for saving the kingdom then to Russia for visit / then to Israel reminds me of Meyer Lansky going from Israel back thru countless countries seeking "asylum" at each airport  - he was led back on board each plane -   until he was let out in .....Miami and was arrested --- he said: I am merely  - a retiree on a pension this guy will seek asylum in Switzerland

In reply to by CEOoftheSOFA

King of Ruperts Land Rebelrebel7 (not verified) Thu, 09/14/2017 - 21:42 Permalink

Decentralization? What is that a move for the creation of City States? Like all those mayors who want to be sanctuary cities and generally defy the State and Federal governments?

I am against that if it is yet another satanic plan to destroy America and bring in Satan's one world government tyranny. America is infested with evil like that Seattle Mayor.

As a general concept decentralization has its applications. For instance, the Bitcoin blockchain network is decentralized

In reply to by Rebelrebel7 (not verified)

Faeriedust Thu, 09/14/2017 - 20:44 Permalink

And so it begins.  The breakdown of Saudi Arabia commences when old Salman "abdicates".  The pre-emptive arrests and purges will terrify fence-sitters into resistance, and harden opposition. Civil war will erupt within three months of Muhammed bin Salman's coronation. And even though the oil will probably keep flowing (mostly), and the Saudi fields are running dry anyway and being superceded by Russian and Kazakh production, the price of oil in the U.S. will skyrocket.  Because excuse.

johnnycanuck Thu, 09/14/2017 - 21:07 Permalink

Shot themselves in the cock and balls when they started pumping big volumes of oil to beggar Russia, Iran and Venezuela on Uncle Sams command.  All the speculators who drove the bubble and weren't high enough on the ponzi chain, and were not given advance notice,  recoiled in horror.   Oil price subsequently cut in half.