Pepe Escobar: The Inside Story Of The Saudi Night Of The Long Knives

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Princes, ministers and a billionaire are 'imprisoned' in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton while the Saudi Arabian Army is said to be in an uproar...

The House of Saud’s King Salman devises a high-powered “anti-corruption” commission and appoints his son, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, as chairman.

Right on cue, the commission detains 11 House of Saud princes, four current ministers and dozens of former princes/cabinet secretaries – all charged with corruption. Hefty bank accounts are frozen, private jets are grounded. The high-profile accused lot is “jailed” at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton.

War breaks out within the House of Saud, as Asia Times had anticipated back in July. Rumors have been swirling for months about a coup against MBS in the making. Instead, what just happened is yet another MBS pre-emptive coup.

A top Middle East business/investment source who has been doing deals for decades with the opaque House of Saud offers much-needed perspective:

This is more serious than it appears. The arrest of the two sons of previous King Abdullah, Princes Miteb and Turki, was a fatal mistake. This now endangers the King himself. It was only the regard for the King that protected MBS. There are many left in the army against MBS and they are enraged at the arrest of their commanders.

To say the Saudi Arabian Army is in uproar is an understatement.

 “He’d have to arrest the whole army before he could feel secure.”

Prince Miteb until recently was a serious contender to the Saudi throne. But the highest profile among the detainees belongs to billionaire Prince al-Waleed Bin Talal, owner of Kingdom Holdings, major shareholder in Twitter, CitiBank, Four Seasons, Lyft and, until recently, Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp.

Al-Waleed’s arrest ties up with a key angle; total information control. There’s no freedom of information in Saudi Arabia. MBS already controls all the internal media (as well as the appointment of governorships). But then there’s Saudi media at large. MBS aims to “hold the keys to all the large media empires and relocate them to Saudi Arabia.”

So how did we get here?

The secrets behind the purge

The story starts with secret deliberations in 2014 about a possible “removal” of then King Abdullah. But “the dissolution of the royal family would lead to the breaking apart of tribal loyalties and the country splitting into three parts. It would be more difficult to secure the oil, and the broken institutions whatever they were should be maintained to avoid chaos.”

Instead, a decision was reached to get rid of Prince Bandar bin Sultan – then actively coddling Salafi-jihadis in Syria – and replace the control of the security apparatus with Mohammed bin Nayef.

The succession of Abdullah proceeded smoothly. Power was shared between three main clans: King Salman (and his beloved son Prince Mohammed); the son of Prince Nayef (the other Prince Mohammed), and finally the son of the dead king (Prince Miteb, commander of the National Guard). In practice, Salman let MBS run the show.

And, in practice, blunders also followed. The House of Saud lost its lethal regime-change drive in Syria and is bogged down in an unwinnable war on Yemen, which on top of it prevents MBS from exploiting the Empty Quarter – the desert straddling both nations.

The Saudi Treasury was forced to borrow on the international markets. Austerity ruled – with news of MBS buying a yacht for almost half a billion dollars while lazing about the Cote d’Azur not going down particularly well. Hardcore political repression is epitomized by the decapitation of Shi’ite leader Sheikh Al-Nimr. Not only the Shi’ites in the Eastern province are rebelling but also Sunni provinces in the west.

As the regime’s popularity radically tumbled down, MBS came up with Vision 2030. Theoretically, it was shift away from oil; selling off part of Aramco; and an attempt to bring in new industries. Cooling off dissatisfaction was covered by royal payoffs to key princes to stay loyal and retroactive payments on back wages to the unruly masses.

Yet Vision 2030 cannot possibly work when the majority of productive jobs in Saudi Arabia are held by expats. Bringing in new jobs raises the question of where are the new (skilled) workers to come from.

Throughout these developments, aversion to MBS never ceased to grow; “There are three major royal family groups aligning against the present rulers: the family of former King Abdullah, the family of former King Fahd, and the family of former Crown Prince Nayef.”

Nayef – who replaced Bandar – is close to Washington and extremely popular in Langley due to his counter-terrorism activities. His arrest earlier this year angered the CIA and quite a few factions of the House of Saud – as it was interpreted as MBS forcing his hand in the power struggle.

According to the source, “he might have gotten away with the arrest of CIA favorite Mohammed bin Nayef if he smoothed it over but MBS has now crossed the Rubicon though he is no Caesar. The CIA regards him as totally worthless.”

Some sort of stability could eventually be found in a return to the previous power sharing between the Sudairis (without MBS) and the Chamars (the tribe of deceased King Abdullah). After the death of King Salman, the source would see it as “MBS isolated from power, which would be entrusted to the other Prince Mohammed (the son of Nayef). And Prince Miteb would conserve his position.”

MBS acted exactly to prevent this outcome. The source, though, is adamant;There will be regime change in the near future, and the only reason that it has not happened already is because the old King is liked among his family. It is possible that there may be a struggle emanating from the military as during the days of King Farouk, and we may have a ruler arise that is not friendly to the United States.”

‘Moderate’ Salafi-jihadis, anyone?

Before the purge, the House of Saud’s incessant spin centered on a $500 billion zone straddling Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, on the Red Sea coast, a sort of Dubai replica to be theoretically completed by 2025, powered by wind and solar energy, and financed by its sovereign wealth fund and proceeds from the Aramco IPO.

In parallel, MBS pulled another rabbit from his hat swearing the future of Saudi Arabia is a matter of “simply reverting to what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions.”

In a nutshell: a state that happens to be the private property of a royal family inimical to all principles of freedom of expression and religion, as well as the ideological matrix of all forms of Salafi-jihadism simply cannot metastasize into a “moderate” state just because MBS says so.

Meanwhile, a pile-up of purges, coups and countercoups shall be the norm.


GUS100CORRINA Tue, 11/07/2017 - 11:11 Permalink

Pepe Escobar: The Inside Story Of The Saudi Night Of The Long KnivesMy response: Interesting article ... look forward to more facts that tell the REAL STORY.History regarding "Night of the Long Knives"The Night of the Long Knives was Adolf Hitler's great purge, ridding the Nazi Party of those he distrusted, together with anti-Nazi figures within Germany and members of his paramilitary wing, the SA. Its most notorious victim was Ernst Rohm, once his loyal friend and devotee.

Manthong IH8OBAMA Tue, 11/07/2017 - 12:08 Permalink

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I hope common sense prevails and they don’t lose their heads over this.

In reply to by IH8OBAMA

RAT005 BaBaBouy Tue, 11/07/2017 - 12:23 Permalink

Don't know if it's because it's there and not here, them and not me, family business vs. real business, mideast culture vs. western culture, names that are too hard to follow or remember, or not much knowledge of their geography but I just don't give a shit.....The comments will be more interesting to me than the article.

In reply to by BaBaBouy

Occident Mortal max2205 Tue, 11/07/2017 - 11:50 Permalink

All this "Incredibly powerful 32 year old Prince" mumbo jumbo doesn't fool me.This guy is not Colnel Gaddafi, or Saddam Hussein he didn't grow up shoeless in a filthy hut in the desert and murder his way up to seize an entire country of 20 million people, he just happens to be the Kings favourite son FFS. There is zero evidence that his particularly smart when it comes to Machiavellian power games.He is just poking about in the wiring a lot more than any of the previous Saudi Royals mainly because they have all been so tediously conservative that the country still has tons of backward medieval laws in place.I think he is finally going to get zapped after this because he has made too many enemies here, even Putin himself (who has 90% approval ratings) is extremely careful when it comes to locking up billionaire neo-rivals.ALWAYS ISOLATE THE TARGET BEFORE THE SWOOP. NEVER ARREST MULTIPLE BILLIONAIRES AT ONCE. Now every one of the competing factions will collaborate to oppose him because he burnt everyones fingers at the same time. A school boy mistake.You rule by dividing them, which means crushing one group at a time. The last thing you should do is unite everyone in opposition against your agenda.

In reply to by max2205

RAT005 loebster Tue, 11/07/2017 - 12:26 Permalink

Pretending to be your future enemy's friend is the best way to destroy your current enemy and then in due time move on to the next one.  I'm a few years older than all of my younger brothers and I always out maneuvered them at this in the game Risk.  Sometimes the game even started out with the group of them proclaiming, this time for sure we beat RAT first.....I always got their aliances rearranged before they knew what hit them :-)

In reply to by loebster

E5 Occident Mortal Tue, 11/07/2017 - 13:23 Permalink

WRONGPower comes from the bank account that pays the military. And in this case he is doing a great job starving the opposition bank accounts.  All he needs to do is distribute that wealth he seized and ask for the heads of ALL foreign spys by bounty.  He can spin this as the loyal king of the people.  Don't be fooled.  half of the country is secretly whispering in the ears of their husbands that this is good.... because they want freedom.

In reply to by Occident Mortal

ebear E5 Tue, 11/07/2017 - 15:19 Permalink

"half of the country is secretly whispering in the ears of their husbands that this is good.... because they want freedom."Seriously, who the fuck wants to go grocery shopping with their wives, not to mention having to drive them there and back?  I mean, duh.

In reply to by E5

MEFOBILLS Occident Mortal Tue, 11/07/2017 - 14:58 Permalink

THE 1973 AGREEMENT IS THE CENTRAL AXIS OF POWER FOR THE KINGDOM.  Pepe does not analyze this - and hence falls short of the mark.  ZH'S are also ignoring this.  The Kissinger Saudi agreement sanctioned Wahabi Islam, the Saud Coup, OPEC cartel.  IN RETURN:  Saudis price oil in dollars, thus creating the Petrodollar system.Also, Saudi's get fifth fleet protection in Bahrain to allow transhipment of oil.  Saudi's get front line U.S. military gear, and defacto military protection from Uncle Sam.Saudi's are to vector their petrodollars into western dollar markets.  Saudi's tend to buy TBills with their excess petrodollars, and these TBills tend to be held in Panama (A dollar zone) and also in Delaware type banks.  OK!Without understanding that Saudi's totally march to the tune of Washington, which in turn is key part of ZOG (Zion World Government), then any analysis is off the mark.Saudi's were induced by ZOG to fund Takfiri Salafist, especially starting with Ronald Reagan.  It worked in Afghanistan and became the template.  Saudis' were also important players in the destruction of Soviet Union, especially their willingness to pump oil at cheap prices to deny Soviet Union hard currency.  Even recently, Saudi's saluted and went along with uncle sam, and pumped oil cheaply to force Russia to lose dollar FX.  This was done in concert with the sanctions on Russia. The 73 agreement was AFTER Nixon closed the gold window, and CFR agent Kissinger went to Saud and gave them a deal they could not pass up.  MI5 Saud induced coup was legally sanctioned with 73 agreement.This close relationship with Zion is why Saudi and Israel are friendlies, despite Salafi Islam being hostile to Jews.  So, there are two rails that Sauds will not allowed to be touched.  ONE:  Their security arrangement by way of 73 agreement.  TWO: Their status as a holy land, and further a religion that conflates Saudi king with also being religious leader.Making a more mild form of Wahabbism is now necessary given the failures of Salafi Takfiris in Chechnia and now Syria.  The former Reagan "Mujahadeen" template is not working.  Meantime Hezbollah and Iran are strengthened, so the external situation for Saudi is not as secure as it once was.   Saudi needs to replenish their TBill savings, which they have lost in recent years.   Trump is supporting MBS, so this coup is sanctioned at a high level.  The Saudi military are also  boyeez of U.S. MIC.  Funneling money through the CIA, to then buy MIC weapons, to then have war ... these are the people that are being rounded up.  This also means that the CIA is coming under scrutiny in the U.S.  Trump warned the CIA, no "Columns,"  meaning fifth columns against him.There were a couple of times the CIA went against the air force in Syria.  The internal coup that is going on in the U.S. is elements of the U.S. military who are loyal to America and who lined up with Trump before the elections.  What is happening in Saudi cannot be divorced from the U.S.

In reply to by Occident Mortal

veritas semper… Occident Mortal Tue, 11/07/2017 - 17:09 Permalink

And he's the first prince trying to rule without any coalition inside SA. Israhell and US support are,nowadays,not so relevant as we have seen on multiple occasions in the ME( see the Kurd debacle).Even if he paid the Don 1 Billion $l extortion fee for US support ,during the Don's last trip to SA(the one with the Wahhabi orb and sword dance). This  is vehiculated in the Arab media/twitterAnd he pissed the big neighboring countries,especially  Iran.And he involved SA in multiple wars(lost for now):Syria,Iraq,Yemen,now trying his hand with Iran and Hezbollah/Lebanon.Laughable!I give him a few months.

In reply to by Occident Mortal

Rubicon727 GUS100CORRINA Tue, 11/07/2017 - 11:58 Permalink

Indeed, Escobar's articles often reveal what is really happening in Eurasia Land and in the Middle East. Meantime, the Western media is hopelessly worthless. Thank God for ZH and Pepe Escobar.There's every sort of upcoming reverberations when you balance China/Russia/Brics motives with those of Israel and the US. Another words, this story could change the geo-political strategy of those very countries. 

In reply to by GUS100CORRINA

mkkby Theta_Burn Wed, 11/08/2017 - 01:11 Permalink

Fake news story.

Love how these arm chair quarterbacks CLAIM to know what's happening in the most secretive nation on earth. Make up some click baity james bond story and sell it to the rubes.

Nobody has a clue, so anybody claiming to know anything is full of horse manure.

In reply to by Theta_Burn

Blankone RumpleShitzkin Tue, 11/07/2017 - 13:39 Permalink

From Pepe and the article:

According to the source, “he might have gotten away with the arrest of CIA favorite Mohammed bin Nayef if he smoothed it over but MBS has now crossed the Rubicon though he is no Caesar. The CIA regards him as totally worthless.”

Pepe could be completely wrong. MBS is breaking the very fabric of SA. Women's rights, selling off parts of the oil company, bringing in foreign corps into the base economy and changing the economic direction of SA to lure in those outside corps with profits (money taken out of SA), moving in a "progressive" direction for the young (thus making them more like western youth) etc. All of this also will break the traditional hard line fallowing/interpretation of the Islamic hold and law of SA.

Once the shell fractures the concept of a "royal family" and their holy rights also suffers and becomes more unpopular.

ALL of which opens up SA to being plundered. Slowly at first.

Add to that how SA is being led to spearhead war with Iran, although Lebanon appears first in the que. Most likely Israel and CIA are behind this move by SA. More wasted riches, resources and human capital for SA making them weaker, and going into debt and thus less able to give free money to the masses as in the past to placate them.

The fool is trying for some form of progressive image with his women's rights push. The damage to the middle and older Saudi males psyche and to the Islamic policing of SA will be huge. Something about a camels nose in the tent. The women will flaunt their new rights and push 10 times harder to expand them. The progressive youth will see it as their time to come forth. Feminism will naturally attack the traditional social/religious structure.

In reply to by RumpleShitzkin

Ghordius Tue, 11/07/2017 - 11:15 Permalink

Pepe Escobar is here, as often, excellent (and usually quite Russia-phile)but here I disagree:"In a nutshell: a state that happens to be the private property of a royal family inimical to all principles of freedom of expression and religion, as well as the ideological matrix of all forms of Salafi-jihadism simply cannot metastasize into a “moderate” state just because MBS says so. "it is precisely such a state that can "turn on a dime", in regard to the official doctrineand... MBS is still making the young Saudis hope. that's... 70% of them. oh, and women, too. so make that nearly everybody except the...... enemies of New Saudi Doctrine, of courseif the official doctrine is that of freedom of expression and religion, you better applaud and say it is so. or... else

cheech_wizard Ghordius Tue, 11/07/2017 - 11:33 Permalink

I have to disagree as well with this...“This is more serious than it appears. The arrest of the two sons of previous King Abdullah, Princes Miteb and Turki, was afatal mistake. This now endangers the King himself. It was only the regard for the King that protected MBS. There are many left in the army against MBS and they are enraged at the arrest of their commanders.” Oh for fuck's sake, do you really leave the previous king's children alive when you stage a coup?Pepe Escobar needs to review the following: 

In reply to by Ghordius

Ghordius cheech_wizard Tue, 11/07/2017 - 11:47 Permalink

"... do you really leave the previous king's children alive when you stage a coup?"that depends on the "rules of succession" to that throne. they are a bit special, in Saudi Arabia. it's a kind of matrix between seniority of lineage and age, with usually brothers passing the throne to younger brothers until the senior line is estinguished, and then starting back on the next line (of cousins, by then)the "question" used to be: how more directly related are you to King Saud? of course, MBS looks like he is throwing "the book" away

In reply to by cheech_wizard

falak pema Ghordius Tue, 11/07/2017 - 15:56 Permalink

I have no firm view on this. You and I don't agree on what makes the Euro construction a "one legged stool".Without the Fiscal harmony in EU,  all that Delors did to ensure monetary harmony, is now under the Oligarchy tax haven gun and the concomitant collusion of EU members (think Ireland and Juncker's Lux laundry) to eat on all tables... now bursting out in the open-- with the Panama and Paradise Papers type whistle blowing-- huge recall of past scamming worth trillions owned by the 0.01% stashed in tax havens, now all fed on runaway debt. Its a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, hidden in a mystery.TO come back to the Saud-Pax Americana handshake and the subsequent behaviour of Obama as the Pax Americana Gorbachev, who walked away from his OWN red line in Syrac; after having decapitated Q-daffy in Libya; thus proving to Putin that it was "now or never" time from him to call the bluff of a reluctant and zugzwanged Potus caught between past criminality and present runaway QE fed "debt madness" and geopolitical "no horizon" karma blowback.Putin has risen to the occasion to defy Pax Americana panicking in its own financial meltdown, which has as consequence the meltdown of surrogate EU Euro; I don't believe that a money created to COUNTER $ hegemony will survive the demise of $'s own fall; as the Euro has all the historical fault lines as its original rival. A surrogate, to not be a surrogate, has to have firm foundations...On the geopolitical front,  the Eu did not understand the fall out of globalisation and the rise of China and Russia...since the crisis started.Now in the winter of Pax Americana's discontent under a Nerotic Potus; the Duck can't tell shit from shinehole; and will bring down the whole shooting match from the perspective of the West. The Duck is now morphed into the Western Elstine, drunk as hell on his visit to China, whose boss is laffing his head off...So Putin is looking in the back mirror and seeing the US play the same descent into incoherence that Gorby and Elstine enacted for his own mother Russia. The man has learnt the hard lessons from his own past! When the most powerful man thinks he is Batman vs Rocketman Joker, you know the world stands on its head.So anything can happen. But the most probable scenario is the decline of US power and ... the rest is still up in the air. Too bad for the Sauds as they are collateral damage who reneged during 9/11 and are now feeling the blowbck from their Oil patch's TRUE owners... all the while they think, they the creation of Sykes Picot, they truly own it. Some delusion based on Wahhabist obscurantist hubris and a feudal mindset.US Power in hard terms is now held by the Fang and its rival construct of Statist power, to COUNTER it,  is now held by the Silk road combine. Its Asia rising.We are now in a global standoff between Oligarchy capitalism ad Statist "social" reset. Eu is now caught between two power constructs at loggerheads...How this plays out is like a Renaissance conundrum : a match between Charles V, Francois I and the Ottoman who ran Stamboul train! We live and learn. But my guess is that reactionary forces never win. That is History's timeline.But who is truly progressive today?The Renaissance was one hellva mad train ride until Westphalia treaty changed the rules and politics never looked back on "God wills it" logic to define its future 

In reply to by Ghordius