Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Ascent of Mohammed bin Salman

With the ascendance of the relatively young Mohammed bin Salman as heir to the throne of Saudi Arabia the history of the Middle East has turned more positive. Welcoming the American president to Riyadh and allying us with Sunni Arabs in the war against terrorism was a momentous event. Since King Salman’s son, Mohammed was generally credited with the shift in Saudi policy, his ascent was foretold.

You have doubtless read the stories in the American press, both news reports and commentaries. To my mind those in the Wall Street Journal were the best. Following after the convocation in Riyadh, the move was a constructive step, one that has been welcomed by the Journal and the American administration.

For a slightly different take we turn to Debkafile, a website run by Israeli intelligence officers. Being as its writers have skin in the game and boots on the ground, their information is usually trustworthy. One notes that the Debkafile analysis is consistent with views I have expressed variously on this blog.

Regarding the naming of Mohammed bin Salman heir to the Saudi throne, Debkafile opens:

debkafile’s analysts see it as the outcome of a global and regional process initiated by Donald Trump soon after he settled in the White House in January. With his appointment as de facto ruler of the oil kingdom, the Saudi king’s son is ready to step into his allotted place in a new US-Arab-Israeli alliance that will seek to dominate Middle East affairs. Israel will be accepted in a regional lineup for the first time alongside the strongest Sunni Arab nations who all share similar objectives, especially the aim to stop Iran.

Trump’s trip to Riyadh and Jerusalem in early May laid the cornerstone for the new US-Sunni Arab bloc versus Iran’s Shiite grouping and also cemented Israel’s co-option.

Surely, it is early for optimism, but the alliance between America and Sunni Arab nations is beginning to form. Debkafile analysts add that the new blog has been engaging with Israel:

This bloc is in its infancy and has yet to display staying power and prove the wisdom of its policies. But its contours have taken shape. US President Trump is taking the lead role along with Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, another crown prince, Egypt’s President Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi, and Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Three of those leaders already maintain strong direct – albeit discreet - ties with Israel’s prime minister, its security establishment, military and various intelligence agencies.

And also:

In a lecture on Tuesday, June 20, Israel’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott, spoke of the covert relations between the IDF and certain Arab nations, which he did not name. There is clearly a lot going on under the surface in various political, economic, financial, intelligence and military fields.

Interestingly, President Trump has overruled cabinet officials who are more hesitant about joining with the Saudis:

Recent events in the region already point to President Trump acting on important matters, such as the confrontation with Iran, the war on terror, the Syrian conflict and US intervention in the Yemen conflict, on the advice of the two Arab crown princes rather than Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

And also:

This was strikingly demonstrated when Trump overrode Tillerson’s recommendation to apply diplomacy for resolving the dispute that led to four Arab nations boycotting Qatar, with the Saudis in the lead, whereas the president then demanded strong action to stop Qatar’s funding of terrorists. He therefore opted for the aggressive Saudi and UAE stance against Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Will this lead to a resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? The best we can say is that without the influence of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, there will be no solution. Thus, current administration optimism for the prospects for peace seem well-grounded:

The evolving bonds between the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Israel are the source of President Trump’s optimism about the prospects of pulling off an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, a vision which eluded all his predecessors in the White House, while knocking over the decades-old barriers between the moderate Arab nations and the Jewish State.

How will this happen?

The first steps towards this goal are in the making. They will include exposing parts of their hidden interaction to the light of day, as well as such important symbolic actions, as opening Arab skies to the passage of Israeli commercial flights, or direct telephone links.

Debkafile concludes:

But the process switched on by Trump in Riyadh took a large stride forward on June 21, with the formalization by King Salman of his young son’s role as the top mover and shaker in the Saudi kingdom. King Salman obtained the support of 31 out of 34 members of Saudi Arabia’s Allegiance Council for confirming Prince Muhammad Bin Salman as crown prince as well as deputy prime minister and minister of defense.


trigger warning said...

It is never too early for guarded optimism, but joy, of course, needs to wait. I concur with your assessment of Debkafile.

Meanwhile, the Progressive press navel-gazes about Flynn. They should take a refreshing Russian Golden Shower.

Sam L. said...

Trump doing good things! Film at...not gonna happen.