Posted tagged ‘Saudi Arabia and Israel’

A secret Middle East alliance

January 16, 2018

A secret Middle East alliance, Washington Times, Herbert London, January 15, 2018

Illustration on an alliance between Irael and Saudi Arabia by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A Swiss newspaper, Basler Zeitung, reported recently that a secret alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia aimed at restraining Iran’s imperial desire for a land mass between Tehran and the Mediterranean was moving into a new phase. While there aren’t formal diplomatic ties between the two countries, military cooperation does exist. In fact, the Saudi government sent a military delegation to Jerusalem several months ago to discuss Iran’s role as a destabilizing force in the region.

Now it appears that officials in Saudi Arabia are considering the purchase of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, as well as the Trophy Active Protection System developed by Rafael and Israel Aerospace. Seen against a backdrop in which Riyadh rejects any official normalization with Israel, this development is quite remarkable. It also bespeaks a new-found respect for Israel and an emerging belief that in any Sunni defense condominium Israel will have a role to play.

It is instructive that neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt was actively hostile to the address change for the American Embassy in Jerusalem. They voted to repudiate the decision in the U.N. vote on the matter, but that was the end of it. The tide of alliance building is moving in a new and unpredictable direction in the Middle East.

The Saudi stance is ostensibly related to a Palestinian-Israeli deal on a two-state solution, but the reality is that Iran is the real threat that poses the greatest danger to Riyadh. An Israel with its advanced technology has become an ally of necessity, not necessarily an ally of long-term common interests, albeit history has a way of uniting unlikely bedfellows.

A recent missile fired from Yemen to Riyadh awakened the Saudi leadership to their vulnerability. Hence, the interest in the Iron Dome. The missile — identified as Houthi fired — had all the markings and signature of an Iranian weapon. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said this was an “Iranian act of war.” Saudi Arabia has resources, but despite the military training of the crown prince, the Saudis are not yet prepared to go to war against Iran. They will build and train and purchase advanced technology, but they will not revert to war, not yet anyway.

This explains why the Iron Dome is so critical as a strategic defense. It is impossible to know if the Houthis will launch again soon. But there is every indication that will be the case. The Houthis are a mere surrogate for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. They are armed, supported and directed from Iran.

The shakeout in the Middle East will have many turns and missteps. For now, it provides an interesting opportunity for Israel. From a U.N. vote establishing the state in 1948 to the present, Israel has been surrounded by hostile nations. That may change in the years ahead.

Imponderables fill the Middle East air. Will demonstrations against the Iranian government lead to its fall? Will the crown prince’s desire to modernize Saudi Arabia and seize control of military affairs work? Will the Egyptian war in the Sinai against ISIS and al Qaeda forces be successful? Will the United States continue to be an active participant in Middle East affairs? Is Russia prepared to make continued sacrifices to secure Bashar Assad’s position in Syria? These questions and a host of others dot the landscape.

If the Saudi-Israeli alliance yields some form of regional stability, many of the issues described above disappear. That is why the alliance is the harbinger of hope and the insurance policy for the moment.

• Herbert London is president of the London Center for Policy Research.

Iran Looks to Seize Opportunity as Rivals Fall

December 13, 2017

Iran Looks to Seize Opportunity as Rivals Fall, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, December 13, 2017

(Please see also, Congress ignores Trump’s deadline on Iran nuclear deal. — DM)

Today, the Shi’ite axis is on the move. Iran is the mother ship, and its most prominent agent is Hizballah, which has more firepower at its disposal than most NATO members. The axis has tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia members active across Iraq and Syria. And it is preparing to expand.

The threat to international security posed by Iran far outweighs the one ever posed by ISIS.

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As it approaches victory in Syria with the help of Russian air power, Iran and its terrorist axis members are turning their attention to Israel, and trying to ignite fresh Palestinian violence.

Israel’s Channel 10 News reported on Monday evening that Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force foreign operations unit, called the leaders Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, urging them to escalate attacks on Israel.

“There is huge Iranian pressure on the Palestinian factions to begin a maneuver,” the Channel 10 report said. “And [Hizballah chief Hassan] Nasrallah is calling for a third intifada.”

It is a clear sign that, as the ISIS caliphate is erased from the map, another radical Islamist force is gaining strength, this one many times more powerful. Radical Shi’ite forces backed by Iran are moving into the vacuum left behind by ISIS.

With confidence growing due to battlefield victories in Syria and Iraq, Iran and its radical proxies are seeking to take over the Palestinian arena as well, increasing terrorism against Israel.

In a speech delivered from Hizballah’s south Beirut stronghold of Dahiya on Monday, Hassan Nasrallah said his organization – which has evolved into a hybrid guerilla-terrorist army – and its allies would renew their focus on the Palestinians, following “victories elsewhere in the region,” Reuters reported.

Thousands of followers chanted “death to Israel,” as Nasrallah promised assistance to armed Palestinian factions and called on them to keep up their conflict with Israel.

These developments are the latest signs of a regional shift, which has left the Iranian axis as the dominant radical Islamist force in the region.

Only a few years ago, the Middle East was the battleground involving four rival blocs:

1. The Iranian-Shi’ite axis

2. The Salafi-jihadist ISIS camp

3. The Muslim Brotherhood bloc, and

4. The pragmatic Sunni coalition.

Today, only the pragmatic Sunnis and the Iranian-Shi’ite axis remain as major regional forces.

ISIS is reverting back to a decentralized terror network, while the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is decimated.

Saudi Arabia leads the moderate Sunni coalition of states, which are allies of the United States. This bloc views Israel as an ally too, out of a recognition that Iran is its real enemy, not the Jewish State.

Today, the Shi’ite axis is on the move. Iran is the mother ship, and its most prominent agent is Hizballah, which has more firepower at its disposal than most NATO members. The axis has tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia members active across Iraq and Syria. And it is preparing to expand.

In recent days, a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi militia member visited southern Lebanon, where Hizballah provided him with a tour of the Israeli border. The visit signals Iran’s intention to direct its regional assets against Israel.

Missiles, a nuclear program, and a growing terrorist influence

The core of the Shi’ite axis is the Islamic Republic of Iran itself, whose regime is guided by Shi’ite Islamist doctrine.

“The Islamic regime in Iran wants to fully implement the Islamic Shari’a. It will be the instrument that triumphs over the enemies of Islam,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei said last month.

Iran’s military industries are flush with cash, and they are mass producing powerful weapons. These arms don’t just stay in Iran – many are exported to Iran’s dangerous clients across the Middle East. . These are the forces moving into the vacuum left by Islamic State’s demise.

“I welcome the recent and great victories of the Islamic Revolution front against the front of lies and the destruction of the accursed regime of ISIS,” IRGC commander Mohammed Al Jafari said recently.

Iran wants to establish a continuous land corridor linking it to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Such a corridor would enable Iran to move fighters and weapons from its border all the way to the Mediterranean coast. It would run parallel to the air corridor used by Iran to traffic weapons and fighters from Iran to Syria and Lebanon.

The Shi’ite axis monopolizes political and military power in Lebanon, via Hizballah, and uses its proxy forces to heavily influence Syria and Iraq.

In addition, it wields heavy influence in Yemen, where the IRGC supports the Ansar Allah radical Houthi group, which recently said it fired a cruise missile at a nuclear reactor in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The repeated use of surface-to-surface firepower by the Houthis against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia mimics tactics used by Hamas and Hizballah against Israel.

Terrorism under an Iranian nuclear umbrella?

The idea that the threat posed by the Iranian axis can be limited to the Middle East was recently disproven by Iran itself.

After European criticism of Iran’s ballistic missile program, officials threatened to increase Tehran’s ballistic missile ranges in order to reach Europe.

Israel, for its part, has vowed to stop the Iranian axis from taking over next-door Syria. A recent surge, according to media reports, of Israeli strikes on Iranian axis targets in Syria would seem to be evidence of Israel’s determination to challenge Iranian plans. Earlier this month, the strikes reportedly targeted an Iranian military base under construction south of Damascus, and the CERS weapons development and production site on the outskirts of the Syrian capital.

Yet the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, dormant for now, remains the elephant in the room.

A powerful Shi’ite axis operating under an Iranian nuclear umbrella would pose a new level of threat to global security. Iranian-run terrorist networks and armed forces could operate with impunity if the Iranians reactivate their nuclear sites in the future, which they intend to do.

The threat to international security posed by Iran far outweighs the one ever posed by ISIS.

Jerusalem: Trump and Congress Challenge the Palestinians to Grow Up

December 6, 2017

Jerusalem: Trump and Congress Challenge the Palestinians to Grow Up, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, December 5, 2017

(There have been numerous conflicting guesses about what President Trump will say this afternoon. We will have to wait to find out. — DM)

Mahmoud Abbas visit to Brussels, Belgium – 27 Mar 2017Mahmoud Abbas visit to Brussels, Belgium – 27 Mar 2017

The irony is that anyone who actually cares about the Palestinians as people should welcome what America is doing now.  It is perhaps the last best chance for the Palestinians to grow up, break free of their endless pattern of self destruction, and give up looking for excuses for another pointless intifada.  Unfortunately, too many of those players enjoy the status quo, profit from it, or resist change in general, like the self-righteous European leadership.

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The president’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to be announced Wednesday is already sending the usual suspects into a tizzy.  The famous Arab Street, we are told, will be erupting.  The despicable fascist that runs Turkey has warned of imminent disaster.  And the president of France is doing what the French usually do vis-a-vis the Jews — well, not quite that bad.

But the real question is how the Palestinians themselves will react once the dust has settled. Will they continue decades of self-destructive violent protests that have led many of us to believe they never had an interest in a two-state solution in the first place, that it was all posturing for handouts? Or will they grow up and realize the time has come to negotiate to a conclusion and accept the responsibility of their own state and the adult compromises that would naturally entail?

By finally moving U.S. policy at least two degrees off years of unimaginative stagnation, Trump has forced the Palestinians to face some measure of reality.  But he is not alone. They are also being challenged forcefully by Congress.  From the Algemeiner:

The Taylor Force Act passed the US House of Representatives by unanimous consent on Tuesday, confronting the Palestinian Authority with the prospect of a massive cut in US aid for as long as it maintains its policy of paying monthly salaries and other benefits to the families of slain or convicted Palestinian terrorists.

Named in memory of Taylor Force – the former American army officer stabbed to death during a knifing spree by a Palestinian assailant in Tel Aviv in March 2016 – the legislation prevents the transfer of funds “that directly benefit the Palestinian Authority” for a six-year period beginning in 2018 unless the PA verifiably ends its so-called “martyr payments” policy. The Taylor Force Act also requires the PA to repeal any laws enabling or favoring the payments policy, as well investigate terrorist acts for the purpose of “bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

Though the embassy move may be more superficially dramatic in a part of the world rarely governed by logic, the congressional action might just be more persuasive to a Palestinian leadership that has been living off global largesse since the Oslo Accords of 1993.  There’s nothing like taking the money out of the hands of kleptocrats. (The U.S. is the PA’s biggest donor to the tune of approximately $700 million per annum, directly or via the UN. The PA, in its turn, paid out $355 million to terrorist — or, as they say, “martyr” — families in 2017.)  At the very least, two branches of the American government seem to be working together for once.

Of course, their attempt  may produce nothing.  Those Hamas and PA billionaires may have enough stashed away to continue their sadistic games, seducing their own impoverished people with dreams of martyrdom over nothing, but for once the dial has been moved.

It will be interesting to see what happens.  The global chess game has changed.  Saudi Arabia, as we all know, is terrified of the Iranians and has found itself a covert ally of Israel against the mullahs.  The Palestinians are aware of that and not happy about it.  They are in a box.  Trump and Congress have chosen an auspicious time to make a move.  Various players will undoubtedly yell and scream in public and say something totally different in private.  That is the way of the Middle East (and America, unfortunately, these days).

The irony is that anyone who actually cares about the Palestinians as people should welcome what America is doing now.  It is perhaps the last best chance for the Palestinians to grow up, break free of their endless pattern of self destruction, and give up looking for excuses for another pointless intifada.  Unfortunately, too many of those players enjoy the status quo, profit from it, or resist change in general, like the self-righteous European leadership.

Saudis Fed Up: “Palestinians Milking Us for Decades”

November 30, 2017

Saudis Fed Up: “Palestinians Milking Us for Decades”, Gatestone InstituteBassam Tawil, November 30, 2017

(Please see also, Report: Trump expected to move embassy to Jerusalem within days. Might the apparent changes in relations between the “Palestinians” and Arab states reflect abandonment of the moribund peace process and hence of American reluctance to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem? — DM)

Most Arabs, in fact, do not seem to care about the Palestinian “cause” any more, as pointed out in a previous article, which showed how the Arab League ministers were focusing on Iran and Hezbollah while ignoring the Palestinians.

Many people in the West are not aware that the Palestinians are trying to torpedo any peace initiative in order to blame others.

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Like most Arab countries, the Saudis too have finally realized that the Palestinians are ungrateful and untrustworthy. Saudi Arabia and most of the Arab countries are obviously fed up with the recurring attempts by the Palestinians to blackmail them and extort money from them.

The Palestinians are crying Wolf, Wolf! — but only a few in the Arab world are listening to them. This, in a way, is encouraging and offers hope for them finally to be released from decades of repressive and corrupt governance.

These are just some of the challenges Saudi Crown Prince is facing. It is important to support him in the face of attacks by some Palestinians and other spoilers.

A young Saudi man has posted videos on social media in which he calls the Palestinians “dogs” and “pigs.” The man says that Saudi Arabia has provided the ungrateful Palestinians with “billions of dollars” during the past few decades. “The Palestinians,” the Saudi man charges, “have been milking us for decades.”

The videos, which have since gone viral, have understandably drawn strong condemnations from Palestinians, who say they would not have been made public without the tacit approval of the Saudi authorities. For the Palestinians, the abusive videos represent yet another sign of increased tensions in their relations with Saudi Arabia.

Further evidence of Saudi disdain for the Palestinians was provided in a video posted by Saudi Arabia featuring a Palestinian gunman as a terrorist.

Last July, the Saudi ambassador to Algeria, Sami Saleh, shocked many Palestinians when he described Hamas as a terror group. Hamas responded by saying that such remarks were “harmful to Saudi Arabia and its record and stances towards the Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”

The apparent shift in Saudi Arabia’s position towards the Palestinians should not come as a surprise. Like most Arab countries, the Saudis too have finally realized that the Palestinians are ungrateful and untrustworthy. Saudi Arabia and most of the Arab countries are obviously fed up with the recurring attempts by the Palestinians to blackmail them and extort money from them.

Saudi Arabia and most of the Arab countries are obviously fed up with the recurring attempts by the Palestinians to blackmail them and extort money from them. Pictured: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas embraces Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 30, 2015. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/Palestinian Press Office via Getty Images)

The Palestinians were ungrateful to Kuwait when they supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of the tiny emirate in 1990. Kuwait was one of the wealthy Arab countries that used to give the Palestinians millions of dollars in aid. The Palestinians were ungrateful to Lebanon, a country that opened its doors to them and allowed the PLO to create its own state within Lebanon. The Palestinians played an important role in tearing the country apart and brought disaster and death to Lebanon, until they were finally expelled in 1982.

Before that, in Jordan, in the armed conflict known as “Black September” (1970-71), the Palestinians did the same thing until the late King Hussein ordered his army to eradicate the PLO and all the terror groups in the country.

Now, the Palestinians are being disrespectful towards Saudi Arabia — a country that has provided them with billions of dollars over the past few decades. It is no wonder, then, that a growing number of Saudis are beginning to voice their disgust for the way the Palestinians are behaving and talking.

The Palestinians seek to continue holding Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab countries hostage. In fact, the Palestinians wish to retain their death grip against Israel at the cost of their Arab brethren. Any Arab who dares to challenge the Palestinians is denounced as a traitor and a Zionist.

Palestinian officials say that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, who visited Saudi Arabia in early November, left the kingdom with a bad taste in his mouth. A senior Palestinian official was quoted as saying that Abbas feels that Saudi Arabia and some Arab countries are would like to see him removed from power and replaced with someone who would be more acceptable to the Americans and Israelis.

The Palestinians believe that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is personally spearheading his country’s rapprochement with Israel. Some of them are even convinced that it is only a matter of time before Saudi Arabia and Israel establish diplomatic ties as part of a peace treaty.

The general feeling among the Palestinian public is that their Saudi brothers have decided to “throw them under the bus” by signing a peace treaty with Israel. The Palestinians claim that Saudi Arabia has accepted the Trump administration’s “ultimate solution” for peace in the Middle East — a plan the details of which remain largely unknown, but is said to promote peace between the Arab countries and Israel before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is solved. Their biggest fear is that once Saudi Arabia embarks on such a dramatic move, many other Arab countries will follow suit, leaving the Palestinians isolated in the international arena and abandoned by their Arab brethren.

The Palestinian Authority, however, is keen not to be seen as taking a public stance against a powerful and wealthy country such as Saudi Arabia. In an attempt to defuse tensions between Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians, some Palestinian officials have come out in defense of the kingdom.

Mahmoud Al-Assadi, the PA Consul-General in Jeddah, for example, said that reports claiming that Saudi Arabia was headed towards normalizing its relations with Israel were false and based on malicious rumors. “Saudi Arabia’s position towards the Palestinian cause and people is historic and consistent,” Al-Assadi said in an interview. “The Saudi leadership has repeatedly made it clear that there will be no normalization with Israel until the Palestinian issue is solved.”

The PA ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Bassam Al-Agha, has also taken pains to exonerate the kingdom from the “allegation” that it is seeking to normalize its relations with Israel. In an interview with a Saudi newspaper, Al-Agha heaped praise on Saudi Arabia for its continued support for the Palestinians. The Palestinians, he added, “Will always remember Saudi Arabia’s generosity, hospitality and support.”

The public statements of Palestinian officials, however, stand in jolting contrast with the sentiments of the Palestinian public, which seems to be overtly hostile towards Saudi Arabia and its crown prince.

The Palestinians believe that the abusive videos posted by the Saudi man and other derogatory remarks by Saudi citizens in the past few days are part of a larger campaign by the Saudi authorities to prepare the Saudis for a peace treaty between the kingdom and Israel.

The Palestinians point to a Twitter campaign launched by Saudi citizens under the title of “Riyadh is more important than Jerusalem.” The campaign is accompanied by abusive remarks against the Palestinians, who are blamed for the “loss of Jerusalem and Palestine.” The campaign also repeats the charge made by many Arab countries, namely that the Palestinian “dogs” have always been ungrateful in the face of massive financial aid from their Arab brothers.

The Palestinians have been firing back with full force to this unprecedented online onslaught by the Saudis.

“This is a media campaign spearheaded by the boys of the [Saudi] monarch to pave the way for Saudi normalization with Israel,” commented Khalid Omar. He and many Palestinians claimed that Mohammed bin Salman was behind the online campaign “that smears and discredits the Palestinian cause.”

Yusef Jadallah wrote in response:

“We’re not surprised to hear some Saudis say that Riyadh is more important than Jerusalem. The Saudis are returning to their Zionist origin, which is hostile to Arabs and Muslims. We used to say that the Saudis support us. Unfortunately, the Saudis support Israel publicly.”

Another comment from Radwan Al-Akhras, of the Gaza Strip: “This online campaign is aimed at fomenting strife among the Arabs and Muslims. The only ones who benefit from it are the Zionists and those who are trying to be Zionists.”

The Palestinians also point to more troubling voices emerging from Saudi Arabia in recent days.

Here, for instance, is what Saudi academic Sa’ad Al-Hussein tweeted on November 25, in reference to the 2007 Fatah-Hamas “reconciliation” agreement:

“History relates that it’s the Palestinians who sold out their cause. History is also witness that the Palestinians fought amongst each other and betrayed and violated the Mecca accord.”

Again, many Palestinians took to social media to attack the Saudi academic and the royal family in Saudi Arabia. They accused the academic of being “ignorant” and “illiterate” and claimed that his charges were also designed at paving the way for normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Mustapha Anan, a Palestinian, retorted: “You are a trivial and despicable person; shame on you and your king!”

Another Palestinian, Yusri Yusef, responded:

“What’s the secret behind this Saudi smear campaign against the Palestinians? If you [the Saudis] want to make peace and form an alliance with the Zionists, that’s your business. But why these unjustified attacks on the Palestinians?”

Echoing the Palestinian public’s sentiment, Palestinian political analyst Majed Abu Diak also voiced concern over the apparent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel. He accused the Saudis of bowing to pressure from the Trump administration.

“Saudi Arabia and Israel appear to be in a hurry to normalize their relations,” Abu Diak claimed.

“The Saudi regime is preparing for Mohammed bin Salman to succeed his father. That’s why the regime is prepared to pay the price [to the Americans], which includes normalizing relations with Israel as a way to improve Saudi relations with the US. For Israel, this is an old-new dream of ridding itself of the status of an alien body in the Middle East.”

Most Arabs, in fact, do not seem to care about the Palestinian “cause” any more, as pointed out in a previous article, which showed how the Arab League ministers were focusing on Iran and Hezbollah while ignoring the Palestinians.

Many people in the West are not aware that the Palestinians are trying to torpedo any peace initiative in order to blame others.

The Palestinians are crying Wolf, Wolf! — but only a few in the Arab world are listening to them. This, in a way, is encouraging and offers hope for them finally to be released from decades of repressive and corrupt governance.

These are just some of the challenges Saudi Crown Prince is facing. It is important to support him in the face of attacks by some Palestinians and other spoilers.

The question now is whether the Saudis and the rest of the Arabs have had enough of the great Palestinian shakedown.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.

Jared Kushner, Mohammed bin Salman, and Benjamin Netanyahu Are Up to Something

November 8, 2017

Jared Kushner, Mohammed bin Salman, and Benjamin Netanyahu Are Up to Something, Foreign Policy, November 7, 2017

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – JUNE 21: (ISRAEL OUT) In this handout photo provided by the Israel Government Press Office (GPO), Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Jared Kushner on June 21, 2017 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

Mohammed bin Salman may or may not have recently visited Tel Aviv, where Israel’s Defense Ministry is located. But even if he never set foot in the HaKirya complex, there is little doubt that he has authorized ever closer relations with the Israelis, who view the Iranian threat exactly as he does. And the crown prince is not the only one Jared Kushner has been speaking to: Trump has given his son-in-law overall leadership on the peace process between Israel and the Arabs, and he is reportedly a welcome guest in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

Given Kushner’s role, did Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signal his plans when Kushner last met with him — and did Kushner then inform his father-in-law? And if so, how far will Washington, or more precisely, the White House, go to back up the Saudis if their confrontation with Iran gets hot? Or will Israel serve as Trump’s proxy? With this president, this crown prince, and the current prime minister of Israel, anything is possible.

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There seems to be a general consensus in Washington that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ongoing purge of princes and businessmen — including the wealthiest of them all, the business mogul and Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal — is motivated by his determination to consolidate his power, well before his father, King Salman, passes from the scene. He is in this regard a latter-day Adonijah, who had himself crowned king while his father King David was alive. And, like Adonijah, Mohammed bin Salman has made some very powerful enemies in the process. Unlike that Biblical figure, however, he has his father’s support and has taken care to arrest anyone who might threaten his drive to preeminence.

Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, was in Riyadh again only recently. It was his third trip to Saudi Arabia since Trump took office. He again met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom he appears to have established a close personal relationship. It should therefore come as no surprise that Trump, who shares the young crown prince’s antipathy toward Iran, has commented favorably on the recent developments in Riyadh.

It is said of Donald Trump that he has undermined America’s credibility with its allies. That may be the case in Europe, and perhaps in parts of Asia, though not in Japan or India. But it is certainly not the case in the Middle East. Tensions with Turkey and Egypt emanate primarily from the U.S. Congress, not from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Relations with Israel are better than they have been since the day former President Barack Obama took office. The same can be said of U.S. relations with both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates or, for that matter, Bahrain and Morocco. The force that unites them all is Iran, whose support for instability throughout the region received a financial fillip from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — that is, the Iran nuclear deal.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may or may not be a true reformer. His record on that score is not unequivocal. But he is determined to halt the expansion of Iranian influence, which now really does manifest itself as the Shiite crescent about which Jordan’s King Abdullah II forewarned over a decade ago. The crown prince recognizes that his country’s worst nightmare is slowly materializing: Iran is supplying the Houthi rebels to its south and dominates neighboring Iraq to its north. 

It foments instability in Bahrain and could well do the same in Saudi Arabia’s Shiite-majority Eastern Province. And if that were not enough, Iran’s influence is entrenched in Damascus and Beirut. It is particularly for that reason the Saudis forced their ally Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, to resign his office while on a visit to the Kingdom.

Mohammed bin Salman may or may not have recently visited Tel Aviv, where Israel’s Defense Ministry is located. But even if he never set foot in the HaKirya complex, there is little doubt that he has authorized ever closer relations with the Israelis, who view the Iranian threat exactly as he does. And the crown prince is not the only one Jared Kushner has been speaking to: Trump has given his son-in-law overall leadership on the peace process between Israel and the Arabs, and he is reportedly a welcome guest in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

Given Kushner’s role, did Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signal his plans when Kushner last met with him — and did Kushner then inform his father-in-law? And if so, how far will Washington, or more precisely, the White House, go to back up the Saudis if their confrontation with Iran gets hot? Or will Israel serve as Trump’s proxy? With this president, this crown prince, and the current prime minister of Israel, anything is possible.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels threaten to attack Israel with missiles

October 1, 2017

Yemen’s Houthi rebels threaten to attack Israel with missiles, DEBKAfile, October 1, 2017

While Israel has no reason to fear an Iranian missile attack on its soil by Yemeni insurgents as yet,  its Red Sea shipping is definitely vulnerable to the P-20 (Chinese Silkworm) shore-to-ship weapon, a kind of cruise missile, which the Houthis have available for shooting at the Israeli war fleet and merchant vessels sailing in the Red Sea to and from the Gulf of Aqaba.

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Israel heard a new threat this week from an entirely new quarter, Yemen’s rebel Houthis. Their military spokesman, Col, Aziz Rashid, said Sunday, Oct. 1, in reference to Israeli bases in Eritrea: “Israel’s military bases in Africa are within range of Houthi missiles,” adding, if necessary, “Our forces would soon have missiles capable of reaching Israel itself.”

He did not need to spell out where those missiles come from. It is no secret that the Houthis are amply armed and supplied with intermediate range ballistic missiles from a single source, their sponsor, Iran.

Interestingly, the spokesman mentioned missiles able to cover the 1,720km distance between northern Yemen and the Israeli port of Eilat. However, according to DEBKAfile’s military sources, the Yemeni insurgents don’t have missiles with that sort of range. Tehran has given them Borkan-1 and Borkan-2 tactical ballistic missiles, whose ranges are respectively 800km and 1,400km. Both are short of the distance to Israel.

In the past year, the Houthis fired a number of missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia, leader of the coalition fighting their insurgency. Some were aimed at the capital Riyadh. Two fell short near the Yemeni border and one hit a military target outside the Saudi capital. But most of the others were either intercepted by Saudi anti-missile defenses or exploded on open ground far wide of target.

While Israel has no reason to fear an Iranian missile attack on its soil by Yemeni insurgents as yet,  its Red Sea shipping is definitely vulnerable to the P-20 (Chinese Silkworm) shore-to-ship weapon, a kind of cruise missile, which the Houthis have available for shooting at the Israeli war fleet and merchant vessels sailing in the Red Sea to and from the Gulf of Aqaba.

Exactly a year ago, a Houthi missile struck a United Arab Emirate warship and set it on fire. Ten days later, on Oct. 10, they launched missiles against the USS Mason destroyer and drew an American retaliatory blow to their missile batteries.

More recently, on September 14, the Houthi leader, Abdulmalek Badruddin Al-Houthi, declared that the UAE is within his forces’ missile range. He noted that he spoke from experience after a successful test launch at the oil emirates, which is 1,500km away. He did not say when the test took place or which missiles were fired. But he went on to boast that his army possessed drones capable of cruising through Saudi air space.

The Houthi spokesman’s threat Sunday of a missile attack on Israel was the second time in a month that the Yemeni insurgents had referred to new Iranian long-range missiles for attacking a nation accused of siding with Saudi Arabia.

They claim Israel has become involved in the Yemen war by providing the Saudis with intelligence from its reconnaissance fleet which is based at the Eritrean port of Assab just 97km across the sea from the Yemeni coast.

Israel has never acknowledged those bases, but foreign sources began reporting in 2012 the discovery of Israeli war ships and submarines in permanent berths at Assab port, as well as an early warning station built there.

Did a Saudi prince secretly visit Israel?

September 11, 2017

Did a Saudi prince secretly visit Israel? Israel National News, David Rosenberg, September 10, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Reuters

On Sunday, the IUVM Online Arabic news outlet identified the Saudi official who reportedly visited Israel as Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia and heir apparent to the throne.

The Emirati official claimed that the visit, which focused on plans to reboot the moribund negotiating process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was a result of growing pressure on the Saudi government to recognized Israel.

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A member of the Saudi royal family visited Israel during a secret trip last week, despite his country’s refusal to recognize the Jewish state.

According to a report by the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, a senior member of the Saudi royal family held high-level talks with Israeli officials during a clandestine trip to the Jewish state.

“A prince from the Royal Court visited the country in secret over the past few days and discussed the idea of pushing regional peace forward with a number of senior Israeli officials,” the IBC reported, citing the Russian Sputnikmedia outlet.

Both Israeli and Saudi foreign ministries refused to comment on the report.

The report came a day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed that relations between Israel and the Arab world were better than ever before in Israel’s history.

“What’s happening now with the Arab bloc states has never before happened in our history – even when we signed agreements,” said Netanyahu.

“What we have now is greater than anything else during any other period in Israel’s history.”

On Sunday, the IUVM Online Arabic news outlet identified the Saudi official who reportedly visited Israel as Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia and heir apparent to the throne.

The IUVM Online report cited a United Arab Emirates intelligence officer, who claimed that bin Salman was the member of the Saudi royal family who met with Israeli officials in last week’s secret meeting.

The Emirati official claimed that the visit, which focused on plans to reboot the moribund negotiating process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was a result of growing pressure on the Saudi government to recognized Israel.