Posted tagged ‘Money Talks’

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is moving on to his next target: Iran

March 21, 2018

John Kilduff Published 2:02 PM ET Tue, 20 March 2018 via CNBC

Source Link: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is moving on to his next target

{A good time to buy Exxon stock, IMHO. – LS}

  • Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, nicknamed MBS, has rapidly consolidated power within the kingdom.
  • With his position secured and his rivals vanquished, he is moving on to his next target: Iran.
  • With hostilities rising, war is seeming more inevitable, which increases the likelihood of rising oil prices.

The new face of Saudi Arabia makes his Washington D.C. debut this week, and you better take a good look because, at 32-years old, he will very likely be with us for a while.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, nicknamed MBS, has rapidly consolidated power within the kingdom. He iced out his rivals by charging many of them with corruption, extracting forfeitures of great sums of wealth that the Saudi government claims were ill-gotten.

With his position secured and his rivals vanquished, he is moving on to his next target: Iran.

The topic of Iran is a key agenda item for his meeting with President Trump on Tuesday. President Trump should find himself well-versed on the topic, which he discussed at-length with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, earlier this month.

Iran is serving as a unifying force among its Middle East neighbors. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia see Iran as a grave threat, to such a degree that the two countries, once fierce enemies, are now sharing intelligence and cooperating in other ways. Netanyahu has alluded to this budding friendship by noting that Israel “has friends in the Middle East.”

MBS compared Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei to Adolf Hitler in an interview over the weekend, and he termed the Iran nuclear deal as a “flawed agreement” echoing President Trump’s position. President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State is expected to push hard to see the U.S. terminate the Iran nuclear deal, which had been favored by former Secretary of State Tillerson.

We are now dealing with a much more forward-leaning Saudi Arabia that is also seeking to modernize.

But, has the leopard really changed its spots?

The recent corruption purge took on a hint of irony, when it was revealed recently that MBS himself has some extravagant tastes that include a palace in Versailles, France, and the purchase of the most expensive art work in history, Da Vinci’s depiction of Jesus, for $450 million, among other goodies.

MBS is being championed, in some circles, as standing against radical Islam, but he is also standing as Sunni Muslin against Islam’s other faction, the Shia branch, which Iranians, mostly, adhere to, and there is nothing new about that.

There has been a proxy war raging between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Yemen and Syria. The Saudis recently trotted out an unexploded rocket that was launched from Yemen into the kingdom that bore Iranian markings. Saudi air sorties regularly bomb Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The situation vis-à-vis Iran is escalating. A second “coalition of the willing,” the term used to describe allies in the second U.S. war with Iraq, may be forming to take on Iran more directly, and the roster looks to include Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Israel, and the United States. Look for triparty agreement on Iran among the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and U.A.E. to be announced this week, as a prelude to a broader grouping.

Saudi Arabia used to be a quiet giant in the Middle East, more than happy to be the world’s largest source of oil, minting petrodollars and spreading the wealth, internally, to keep the powers that be in charge and the populace placated.

MBS is making it clear that is no longer the case. Get ready to hear Saudi Arabia roar, with all that brings with it.

Saudi Arabia will look to use its power and influence to remake the Middle East in its image. The kingdom will not sit idly by and allow Iran to gain de facto control of Iraq, which has parliamentarian elections in May. Iran is actively trying to engineer the return of former Prime Minister Maliki.

The new Saudi doctrine is also being seen in the form of the blockade of Qatar, which several other Gulf nations have joined in.

It does appear that policies and regional ambitions of Saudi Arabia and Iran are putting them on a collision course that will result in direct hostilities, and Saudi Arabia has partners willing to assist it with such a fight, that coalition of the willing.

The rhetoric and apparent intentions of MBS have reinflated the risk premium in oil prices. If it keeps up and if the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal becomes a reality, WTI oil prices will head higher, upwards of $70-plus. Absent these tensions, the prices is more appropriately in the low $50 area.

 

Palestinians reject pressure from ‘oppressor’ Trump after new aid threat

January 25, 2018


US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Davos on Thursday (AFP)

MEE and agencies Thursday 25 January 2018 16:01 UTC Last update: Thursday 25 January 2018 16:32 UTC

Source: Palestinians reject pressure from ‘oppressor’ Trump after new aid threat

{Moral of the story, ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.’ – LS}

The Palestinians have rejected a threat from US President Donald Trump to withhold aid if they did not pursue peace with Israel, with a senior official labelling him an “oppressor”.

Trump, speaking after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said he aimed for peace in the Middle East.

He also said the Palestinians had snubbed the United States by not meeting Vice President Mike Pence during a recent visit. He said he hoped “sound minds” would prevail among Palestinians to pursue peace.

But then he warned: “When they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support, tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands – that money is on the table and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

The Palestinians rejected his threat, and a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas said they would not meet with the US administration until it withdrew its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Another senior Palestinian official, Hanan Ashrawi, said “not meeting your oppressor is not a sign of disrespect; it is a sign of self-respect.”

Last week, the US said that it would withhold at least $65m in pledged aid to UNRWA, the UN agency that provides services for Palestinian refugees.

It also threatened to also make further payments conditional on other countries “stepping up to the plate” and contributing more.

During the meeting with Netanyahu in Davos, Trump tried to convince a deeply sceptical Arab world that he could still be an honest broker.

“We have a proposal for peace. It is a great proposal for the Palestinians,” Trump claimed, adding that Israel would also be forced to make concessions.

But Trump also doubled down, saying he would move the US embassy to Jerusalem as soon as next year, despite no suitably sized building existing.

“We anticipate having a small version of it open sometime next year,” Trump said.

Netanyahu warmly welcomed Trump’s “historic decision”, saying it “recognises history, recognises a certain reality, built on the basis of truth.”

On Tuesday, Palestinian factions in the West Bank called a general strike to protest Pence’s visit to Jerusalem, which followed Trump’s December announcement that the US embassy would move there from Tel Aviv.

Pence began a visit to Israel on Sunday after being praised as a “great friend” by Netanyahu and shunned by the Palestinians over US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.