Updates from November, 2017 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Jack 3:41 pm on November 5, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: king salman, , prince khaled bin ayyaf, reem shamseddine, , saudi law enforcement, saudi politics   

    Saudi Purge 

    RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s future king has tightened his grip on power through an anti-corruption purge by arresting royals, ministers and investors including billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal who is one of the kingdom’s most prominent businessmen.

    Prince Alwaleed, a nephew of the king and owner of investment firm Kingdom Holding 4280.SE, invests in firms such as Citigroup (C.N) and Twitter (TWTR.N). He was among 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers detained, three senior officials told Reuters on Sunday.

    The purge against the kingdom’s political and business elite also targeted the head of the National Guard Prince Miteb bin Abdullah who was detained and replaced as minister of the powerful National Guard by Prince Khaled bin Ayyaf.

    News of the purge came early on Sunday after King Salman decreed the creation of an anti-corruption committee chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his 32-year-old favorite son who has amassed power since rising from obscurity three years ago.

    The new body was given broad powers to investigate cases, issue arrest warrants and travel restrictions, and seize assets.

    “The homeland will not exist unless corruption is uprooted and the corrupt are held accountable,” the royal decree said.

    Analysts say the arrests were another pre-emptive measure by the crown prince to remove powerful figures as he exerts control over the world’s leading oil exporter.

    The round-up recalls the palace coup in June through which he ousted his elder cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as heir to the throne and interior minister.

    MbS, as he is known, was expected to follow at least by removing Prince Miteb from leadership of the National Guard, a pivotal power-base rooted in the kingdom’s tribes.

    Over the past year MbS has become the ultimate decision-maker for the kingdom’s military, foreign, economic and social policies, causing resentment among parts of the Al Saud dynasty frustrated by his meteoric rise.

    Saudi Arabia’s stock index .TASI was dragged down briefly but recovered to close higher as some investors bet the crackdown could bolster reforms in the long run.

    The royal decree said the arrests were in response to “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money.”


    The line between public funds and royal money is not always clear in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy ruled by an Islamic system in which most law is not systematically codified and no elected parliament exists.

    WikiLeaks cables have detailed the huge monthly stipends that every Saudi royal receives as well as various money-making schemes some have used to finance lavish lifestyles.

    Analysts said the purge aimed to go beyond corruption and aimed to remove potential opposition to Prince Mohammed’s ambitious reform agenda which is widely popular with Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning youth population but faces resistance from some of the old guard more comfortable with the kingdom’s traditions of incremental change and rule by consensus.

    In September, the king announced that a ban on women driving would be lifted, while Prince Mohammed is trying to break decades of conservative tradition by promoting public entertainment and visits by foreign tourists.

    The crown prince has also slashed state spending in some areas and plans a big sale of state assets, including floating part of state oil giant Saudi Aramco [IPO-ARMO.SE] on international markets.

    Prince Mohammed also led Saudi Arabia into a two-year-old war in Yemen, where the government says it is fighting Iran-aligned militants, and a row with neighboring Qatar, which it accuses of backing terrorists, a charge Doha denies. Detractors of the crown prince say both moves are dangerous adventurism.

    The most recent crackdown breaks with the tradition of consensus within the ruling family, wrote James Dorsey, a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

    “Prince Mohammed, rather than forging alliances, is extending his iron grip to the ruling family, the military, and the National Guard to counter what appears to be more widespread opposition within the family as well as the military to his reforms and the Yemen war,” he said.

    Scholar Joseph Kechichian said the interests of the Al Saud, however, would remain protected.

    “Both King Salman and heir apparent Mohammed bin Salman are fully committed to them. What they wish to instill, and seem determined to execute, is to modernize the ruling establishment, not just for the 2030 horizon but beyond it too,” he said.

    Many ordinary Saudis praised the crackdown as long-awaited.


    Other detainees include former Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf, a board member of national oil giant Saudi Aramco; ousted Economy Minister Adel Fakieh, who once played a major role in drafting MbS’ reforms; former Riyadh Governor Prince Turki bin Abdullah and Khalid al-Tuwaijiri, who headed the Royal Court under the late King Abdullah.

    People on Twitter applauded the arrests of certain ministers with some comparing them to “the night of the long knives”, a violent purge of political leaders in Nazi Germany in 1934.

    Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the big Saudi Binladin construction group, and Alwaleed al-Ibrahim, owner of the MBC television network, were also detained.

    At least some of the detainees were held at the opulent Ritz-Carlton hotel in the diplomatic quarter of Riyadh, said sources in contact with the government and guests whose plans had been disrupted.

    The hotel’s exterior gate was shuttered on Sunday morning and guards turned away a Reuters reporter, saying it had been closed for security reasons though private cars and ambulances were seen entering through a rear entrance.

    The hotel and an adjacent facility were the site of an international conference promoting Saudi Arabia as an investment destination just 10 days ago attended by at least one of those now being held for questioning.

    The detentions follow a crackdown in September on political opponents of Saudi Arabia’s rulers that saw some 30 clerics, intellectuals and activists detained.

    Prince Alwaleed, a flamboyant character, has sometimes used his prominence as an investor to aim barbs at the kingdom’s rulers.

    In December 2015, he called then-U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump a “disgrace to all America” and demanded on Twitter that he withdraw from the election.

    Trump responded by tweeting: “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected.”

    His father, Prince Talal, is considered one of the most vocal supporters of reform in the ruling Al Saud family, having pressed for a constitutional monarchy decades ago.


  • Jack 3:28 pm on October 31, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: Binyamin Netanyahu, debkafile, Gaza, hamas, IDF, , israeli defence, , , Jihad Islami, , , , , , Terror, , tunnel, ,   


    To ward off demands from Washington, Cairo and Riyadh to back the Palestinian unity effort, Netanyahu chose to show them what was really going on in Gaza.

    The IDF and Israeli intelligence certainly knew a terrorist tunnel was being dug in the Gaza Strip near Khan Younes some weeks ago. But they waited until it crossed over and had snaked almost a kilometer inside Israel up to a point near Kissufim before blowing it up on Monday, Oct. 30. The IDF must also have known that Jihad Islami, which Iran established as its Palestinian arm, was building it, rather than Hamas.

    The Jihadis threatened retaliation after reporting 11 of their men killed, including two top commanders, and two Hamas operatives, and 15 were injured – most of them mortally. Israel and Hamas are both on high alert for potential escalation. Ahead of the operation, Israel positioned an Iron Dome battery outside the Gaza Strip in case it prompted rocket fire in reprisal. The army also closed off parts of the border region to entry.

    The timing of the operation entailed a number of complicated considerations, DEBKAfile reports.

    The IDF waited for a government go-ahead, while watching two landmark events go forward without an Israeli response: (a) The Egyptian-brokered Hamas reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and (b) Steps by Hamas to deepen the foothold of Iran and Hizballah in the Gaza Strip. Thus far, Hamas had been able to keep both tracks afloat without a collision or running into Israeli interference.

    A decision was awaited as to whether to hit the still-unfinished tunnel when it was deserted, or to wait for high terrorist officers to be trapped inside. The latter was seen as tantamount to hitting an Iranian/Hizballah target in Syria. The opportunity came up Monday, when a group of senior Jihad officers entered the tunnel, led by their central Gaza regional commander Arafat Abu Marshad and his lieutenant Hassan Abu Hasnin. Both were killed, along with a third jihadist Ahmed Khalil, and eight others, as well as two members of the Hamas naval commando unit, who tried to rescue the group that was trapped in the falling debris.

    There was more than one way to destroy the terror tunnel using the “innovative technology” cited by Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu. It was decided to target the eastern section that crossed into Israel by air. The Israeli Air Force has never before struck an enemy target on Israeli soil. However the government wanted to show the Americans and Egyptians that the IDF’s operation was not a wanton attack on Gaza but an act of national defense.

    Tuesday, Oct. 31, was the day set by Hamas for Palestinian Authority officials to move in and start taking over the border crossings to Israel and Egypt. After that date, Israel would have found it hard to destroy the tunnel, without laying itself open to the charge of endangering PA officials.

    An entire legion of Trump Administration envoys has been crisscrossing the Middle East these days on various errands. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner left Riyadh Saturday after a visit in which he was accompanied by deputy national security adviser Dina Powell and special peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who stayed on and arrived in Jerusalem Monday, Oct. 29 to brief Netanyahu on the talks the US envoys held in Riyadh as well as Cairo. Another American visitor to the Saudi capital was Treasury Secretary Seven Mnuchin. He landed in Jerusalem a day before Greenblatt and he too met Netanyahu.

    Neither American nor Israeli officials are prepared to reveal the subjects of the US diplomatic shuttle. However, DEBKAfile’s sources have learned that Israel was asked not just to express public approval of the reconciliation process underway between the rival Palestinian factions under Egyptian auspices, but to embark on practical steps to this end.

    Netanyahu tried to ward of the demand coming at him from Washington, Cairo and Riyadh, by showing them what was really going on in Gaza, under cover of their Palestinian peace effort. New terror tunnels were hardly compatible with peace diplomacy, he wanted them to see and he believed that rocket fire in reprisal was worth that risk.

    Monday night, after counting their dead, the heads of the Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip held an emergency meeting to decide on their response to the tunnel attack. Jihad Islami pushed hard for a declaration of war on Israel, while Hamas advised against giving Israel a chance to “blow up its reconciliation accord with the Palestinian Authority.” Its leaders were reluctant to jeopardize the landmark events due on Tuesday: A large Egyptian delegation was coming to the Gaza Strip to oversee the transfer of border crossings to the Palestinian Authority and also announce the establishment of an Egyptian consulate in Gaza City. A military clash could blow these events sky high.


  • Jack 12:09 pm on September 11, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , egyptian terrorism, ,   


    At least 18 policemen have been killed in an attack on a convoy in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula claimed by so-called Islamic State, security sources say.

    Militants detonated a roadside bomb near the town of el-Arish, reportedly destroying three armoured vehicles and a fourth with signal-jamming equipment.

    They then opened fire with machine guns at survivors of the blast.

    The interior ministry confirmed there had been an attack and that several policemen had been killed or injured.

    Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed by militants affiliated to IS since 2013, when the Egyptian military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

    The jihadists have also killed dozens of people in attacks targeting Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority elsewhere in the country, and claimed it planted the bomb that brought down a plane carrying tourists in Sinai in 2015, killing 224 people on board.

    In Monday’s attack, the police convoy was travelling along the road between el-Arish and Qantara when a suspect vehicle tried to break through it, according to an interior ministry statement.

    “When police forces dealt with the vehicle, it exploded and caused damages to the patrol’s vehicles,” it added. “This was followed by a shootout between the police officers and the terrorists, resulting in the death and injury of several policemen.”

    It did not provide any casualty figures, but the attack appears to have been the deadliest on security forces in Sinai since July, when at least 23 soldiers were killed in a suicide car bombing that targeted a checkpoint near the Gaza border.

    IS claimed it was behind the attack via its news agency Amaq.

    It comes a day after the interior ministry said security forces had killed 10 suspected militants in a shootout during a raid on two apartments in Cairo.

    Investigators had received information about militants travelling from northern Sinai to the capital to prepare for attacks on neighbouring provinces, it added.


Compose new post
Next post/Next comment
Previous post/Previous comment
Show/Hide comments
Go to top
Go to login
Show/Hide help
shift + esc