Nov 082017
 November 8, 2017  Posted by at 1:47 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Salvador Dalí The oecumenial council 1960


Trying to figure out what on earth is happening in the Middle East appears to have gotten a lot harder. Perhaps (because) it’s become more dangerous too. There are so many players, and connections between players, involved now that even making one of those schematic representations would never get it right. Too many unknown unknowns.

A short and incomplete list of the actors: Sunni, Shiite, Saudi Arabia, US, Russia, Turkey, ISIS, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Kurds, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Hamas, Qatar, Israel, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Houthis, perhaps even Chechnya, Afghanistan, Pakistan. I know I know, add your favorites. So what have we got, or what do we know we’ve got? We seem to have the US lining up with Israel, the UAE and Saudi Arabia against Russia, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah. Broadly. But that’s just a -pun intended- crude start.

Putin has been getting closer to the Saudis because of the OPEC production cuts, trying to jack up the price of oil. Which ironically has now been achieved on the heels of the arrests of 11 princes and scores of other wealthy and powerful in the kingdom. But Putin also recently signed a $30 billion oil -infrastructure- deal with Iran. And he’s been cuddling up to Israel as well.

In fact, Putin may well be the most powerful force in the Middle East today. Well played?! He prevented the demise of Assad in Syria, which however you look at it at least saved the country from becoming another Iraq and Libya style failed state. If there’s one thing you can say about the Middle East/North Africa it’s that the US succeeded in creating chaos there to such an extent that it has zero control left over any of it. Well played?!


One thing seems obvious: the House of Saud needs money. The cash flowing out to the princes is simply not available anymore. The oil price is a major factor in that. Miraculously, the weekend crackdown on dozens of princes et al, managed to do what all the OPEC meetings could not for the price of oil: push it up. But the shrinkage of foreign reserves shows a long term problem, not some momentary blip:



Another sign that money has become a real problem in Riyadh is the ever-postponed IPO of Saudi Aramco, the flagship oil company supposedly worth $2 trillion. Trump this week called on the Saudi’s to list it in New York, but despite the upsurge in oil prices you still have to wonder which part of that $2 trillion is real, and which is just fantasy.

But yeah, I know, there’s a million different stocks you can ask the same question about. Then again, seeing the wealth of some of the kingdom’s richest parties confiscated overnight can’t be a buy buy buy signal, can it? Looks like the IPO delay tells us something.

And then you have the 15,000 princes and princesses who all live off of the Kingdom’s supposed riches (‘only 2,000’ profit directly). All of them live in -relative- wealth. Some more than others, but there’s no hunger in the royal family. Thing is, overall population growth outdoes even that in the royal family. Which means, since the country produces nothing except for oil, that there are 1000s upon 1000s of young people with nothing to do but spend money that’s no longer there. Cue mayhem.



And things are not getting better, Saudi Arabia loses money on every barrel it produces. There are stories about them lowering their break-even price, but let’s take that with a few spoonfuls of salt. A 25% drop in break-even prices in just one year sounds a bit too good. Moreover, main competitors like Iran would still have a much lower break-even price. So even if prices would rise further, the Saudi’s might only break even while Iran gets much richer. Running vs standing still.


Saudi Arabia Leads Gulf Nations in Cutting Break-Even Oil Price

Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest oil producer, is also a leader when it comes to slashing the crude price the country needs to balance its budget. The kingdom will need oil to trade at $70 a barrel next year to break even, the IMF said Tuesday in its Regional Economic Outlook for the Middle East and Central Asia. That’s down from a break-even of $96.60 a barrel in 2016, the biggest drop of eight crude producers in the Persian Gulf. The break-even is a measure of the crude price needed to meet spending plans and balance the budget.



Gulf oil producers are cutting spending and eliminating subsidies after crude plunged from more than $100 a barrel in 2014 to average just over half that this year. The need to curb spending is more urgent with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cutting output to reduce a global glut. Oil will trade at $50 to $60 a barrel for the “medium term,” the IMF said.



So a thorough cleansing job of the royal family is perhaps inevitable, albeit very risky. King Salman and crown prince Mohammed bin Salman are up against a very large group of rich people. But there’s no way back now.


Saudi Banks Freeze More Than 1,200 Bank Accounts in Anti-Corruption Purge

Saudi Arabian banks have frozen more than 1,200 accounts belonging to individuals and companies in the kingdom as part of the government’s anti-corruption purge, bankers and lawyers said on Tuesday. They added that the number is continuing to rise. Dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have been detained in the crackdown and are facing allegations of money laundering, bribery, extorting officials and taking advantage of public office for personal gain. Since Sunday, the central bank has been expanding the list of accounts it is requiring lenders to freeze on an almost hourly basis…

Much more will have to follow that. Doing a half way job is far too risky once the job has started. Not even $800 billion sounds like all that much. Separate families and factions within the royal family have had decades to accumulate wealth.


Saudi Crackdown Targets Up to $800 Billion in Assets

The Saudi government is aiming to confiscate cash and other assets worth as much as $800 billion in its broadening crackdown on alleged corruption among the kingdom’s elite, according to people familiar with the matter. Several prominent businessmen are among those who have been arrested in the days since Saudi authorities launched the crackdown on Saturday, by detaining more than 60 princes, officials and other prominent Saudis, according to those people and others. The country’s central bank, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, said late Tuesday that it has frozen the bank accounts of “persons of interest” and said the move is “in response to the Attorney General’s request pending the legal cases against them.”

The most visible – and perhaps richest- of all those arrested -in western eyes- is Al-Waleed. The Bloomberg estimate of his wealth that came out this week is $19 billion. But their own article seems to indicate a much higher number. He owns 5% of Apple -says Bloomberg-, and that share alone would be worth $45 billion.


Alwaleed, Caught in Saudi Purge, Has Assets Across the World

Apple – Alwaleed bought 6.23 million shares, or 5 percent, of the computer and mobile-device maker for $115.4 million in 1997. He made these purchases between mid-March and April of that year while the company was still struggling to turn itself around. He has since continued to hold the stake while Apple’s valuation has soared to as high as $900 billion.


Going through all these numbers, you can imagine why the ruling family, or rather the rulers within that family, are getting nervous. And that’s where we get to an interesting piece by Ryan Grim at the Intercept, who says it’s not even 32-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, or King Salman, 81, who control the kingdom these days, it’s the United Arab Emirates (UAE) -and maybe Washington-.

The coup has already been perpetrated.


Saudi Arabia’s Government Purge – And How Washington Corruption Enabled It

The move marks a moment of reckoning for Washington’s foreign policy establishment, which struck a bargain of sorts with Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, and Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S. who has been MBS’s leading advocate in Washington. The unspoken arrangement was clear: The UAE and Saudi Arabia would pump millions into Washington’s political ecosystem while mouthing a belief in “reform,” and Washington would pretend to believe that they meant it.

MBS has won praise for some policies, like an openness to reconsidering Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers. Meanwhile, however, the 32-year-old MBS has been pursuing a dangerously impulsive and aggressive regional policy, which has included a heightening of tensions with Iran, a catastrophic war on Yemen, and a blockade of ostensible ally Qatar. Those regional policies have been disasters for the millions who have suffered the consequences, including the starving people of Yemen, as well as for Saudi Arabia, but MBS has dug in harder and harder. And his supporters in Washington have not blinked.

The platitudes about reform were also challenged by recent mass arrests of religious figures and repression of anything that has remotely approached less than full support of MBS. The latest purge comes just days after White House adviser Jared Kushner, a close ally of Otaiba, visited Riyadh, and just hours after a bizarre-even-for-Trump tweet. Whatever legitimate debate there was about MBS ended Saturday — his drive to consolidate power is now too obvious to ignore. And that puts denizens of Washington’s think tank world in a difficult spot, as they have come to rely heavily on the Saudi and UAE end of the bargain.

As The Intercept reported earlier, one think tank alone, the Middle East Institute, got a massive $20 million commitment from the UAE. And make no mistake, MBS is a project of the UAE — an odd turn of events given the relative sizes of the two countries. “Our relationship with them is based on strategic depth, shared interests, and most importantly the hope that we could influence them. Not the other way around,” Otaiba has said privately.

The kingdom’s broke. Not today, or tomorrow morning, but crown prince MBS is able to look at the numbers and go: Oh Shit! And if he doesn’t see it, he has Kushner (re: Israel) and Al-Otaiba to fill him in. All three relative youngsters -MBS is 32, Kushner is 36, Otaiba is 43- are exceedingly nervous by now.

And then you get war, or the threat of war. War in Yemen, a blockade of Qatar, and now ‘mingling’ in Lebanon with the somewhat mysterious removal of billionaire PM Hariri -allegedly on an Iran/Hezbollah assassination plot-, and outright threats against Iran and Hezbollah:


Lebanon’s Hariri Visits UAE As Home Crisis Escalates

Lebanon’s outgoing prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, made a brief visit to the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday despite a deepening crisis back home and a rise in regional tensions triggered by his surprise resignation. Hariri announced his resignation on Saturday during a visit to his ally Saudi Arabia and has not yet returned to Lebanon. He said he believed there was an assassination plot against him and accused Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival, and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of sowing strife in the Arab world.

His resignation has thrust Lebanon back into the frontline of the regional rivalry that pits a mostly Sunni bloc led by Saudi Arabia and allied Gulf monarchies against Shi‘ite Iran and its allies. Hariri’s office said he had flown to Abu Dhabi on Tuesday and then returned to Riyadh, but it gave no reason for the trip. It also did not say when he would return home. Hariri’s Future TV channel said he would also visit Bahrain but gave no reason.

In short: billionaire PM Hariri is a puppet. Just perhaps not of Saudi Arabia, but of Abu Dhabi. Whether he’s under house arrest in Riyadh, as has been suggested, is still unclear. But it’s a safe bet that he didn’t fly to Abu Dhabi -and back- alone, or of his own accord. He went to receive instructions.


Saudi Arabia Accuses Iran Of ‘Direct Military Aggression’ Over Yemen Missile

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has accused Iran of “direct military aggression” by supplying missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen, raising the stakes in an already tense standoff between the two regional rivals. Mohammed bin Salman linked Tehran to the launch of a ballistic missile fired from Yemen towards the international airport in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Saturday. The missile was intercepted and destroyed.

“The involvement of the Iranian regime in supplying its Houthi militias with missiles is considered a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime,” the prince said on Tuesday during a phone conversation with the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency. He added that the move “may be considered an act of war against the kingdom”. Iran has called Riyadh’s accusations as baseless and provocative.

We have way of knowing what is true or not about this. We do know that Saudi Arabia have been executing a barbaric war in Yemen. With weapons from the US, UK, et al. So someone firing back wouldn’t be that far-fetched.


Regardless, Pepe Escobar, a journalist who knows much more than his peers, or at least doesn’t hold back as much as them, doesn’t see this end well for MBS, UAE, Israel, US, and whoever else is in their corner. Another losing war for the US in the Middle East? We’re losing count.


The Inside Story Of The Saudi Night Of Long Knives

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.”

[..] 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 …

[..] 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.”

[..] 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.”

In the end, it all comes down to a familiar theme: follow the money. And we need to seriously question the economic reality of Saudi Arabia. That graph above of their foreign reserves looks downright grim.

With money comes power. Who loses money loses power. Saudi Arabia is bleeding money. The population surge is uncanny, and there are no jobs for all these young people. Perhaps the best they can do is be a US/Israel puppet in an attempt to ‘redo’ the map of the Middle East, but that has not been a very successful project off late -like the past 100 years-.

Then again, when you’re desperate you do desperate things. And when you’re a 32-year-old crown prince with more enemies than you can keep track of, you use what money is left to 1) keep up appearances, 2) steal what others have gathered, 3) buy weapons up the wazoo, and 4) go to war.

It all paints a very dark picture for the world. Russia won’t stand for attacks on Iran. And Iran won’t let attacks on Lebanon/Hezbollah go unanswered. All that is set to push up oil prices further, and all parties involved are just fine with that. Because they can buy more weapons with the additional profits.

I’ll leave you with Nassim Taleb’s comments on the situation. After all, Nassim’s from Lebanon, and knows that part of the world like the back of his hand:




Home Forums How Broke is the House of Saud?

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    Salvador Dalí The oecumenial council 1960   Trying to figure out what on earth is happening in the Middle East appears to have gotten a lot harde
    [See the full post at: How Broke is the House of Saud?]

    Dr. D

    I’m the worst at this, and as you say it’s all hidden, unconfirmed, double-crossing, in motion, BUT:

    It seems to me we have the U.S./Israel/Saudi axis in trouble since they lost their blood and treasure trying to own the pipeline through Syria. S.A. then attempted to shore up their nearly-depleted reserves by exploring Yemen, whose hillbillies (compliment intended) gave them a tanning they’ve never before experienced, even with a trickling of Iran/Russian weapons facing multi-billions of U.K./U.S. weapons, even with the abundant use of Geneva-prohibited war crimes material.

    So what’s a –probably dead– King to do? MBS is almost certainly the smartest, and one of the youngest princes, so with the decay of the CIA-Saudi-Bandar Bush nexus, MBS finds it not too difficult to reach the fore. However, he is both progressive, apparently peaceful at least in a relative sense, and is half-Syrian through his mother. So the CIA was agitating hard to have him sidelined for a more favored son. …Not that the U.S. would interfere in elections or internal politics, perish the thought! Because I hear that would be an act of war.

    However, nothing doing, as their guy is lousy and stinks and no one likes him. And no one likes us. And we have no money and no army left in MENA. MBS on deck.

    So, having lost in Syria, Israel suddenly realizes they have a fully mobilized million-man army on their borders, headed by Hezbollah, and DJT doesn’t look to follow the plan of invading everyone, everywhere, at every cost, including Iran. So they fallback to containing Shia, and getting their neighbors to fight, by arranging a Saudi-based war in Lebanon, and chew up a bunch of Hezbollah soldiers in the process. You could see this winding up.

    However, it appears somebody unnamed put them on the game, told MBS we’d be on board if he cleaned house, and leaked a worldwide Israeli cable confirming it. 12h later, the Saudi PM of Lebanon (can you do that?) and all the CIA-Saudis are camping on the floor of the Carlton-Ritz Hotel. No coup, no Lebanon-Iranian war, and the pipeline going through on behalf of the rightful nations. –Oh and just solved their budget problem too. It’s not like the Saudi princes WEREN’T corrupt.

    Back at the ranch, MBS is progressive, Saudi is going to modernize, stop exporting violent Wahhabism, get their refining, water, tourism, and other employment-businesses going, and open up to China and Iran for the investment money. Ending the petro-dollar and forcing the U.S. to openly compete. Trump is helpfully under China’s wing and out of the way the day this happens.

    So does this make sense? S.A. is going to forcefully modernize and make nice-nice with the world whether they like to or not? China (and Russia) as their real power, and the real controlling force in the new middle east is going to make Shia and Sunni knock it off, and leave Israel out in the cold? Pepe and Taleb should know better than I do, but I find that older people are locked into outdated paradigms about the innate evil of Iran, and the innate power of Arabia, where the U.S. dictates and China owns nothing at all. None of those things are true anymore, and it doesn’t pay to be blinded by the past in an over-persistence of vision.


    Massive, systemic corruption. Why should Saudi Arabia be any different?


    “If there’s one thing you can say about the Middle East/North Africa it’s that the US succeeded in creating chaos there to such an extent that it has zero control left over any of it. Well played?!”

    Entirely correct. The intention was to destroy the Middle East. Afterwards, it would have been easy to get at the oil and gas from the various competing weakened entities on the ground. Additionally, that is how the “Greater Israel” plan was supposed to work. The Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah have made a hash of these plans. Israel is really – for the first time – facing an existential threat. Sooner or later, they will have to treat the Palestinians as human beings. In Lebanon, they were forced to deal with Hezbollah to be allowed to withdraw their army.

    BTW, you forgot to put France and the UK among the countries that had troops on the ground creating mayhem in Syria. Also, the 80+ nationalities of the mercenary prisoners the Syrians have captured. Sorry, I forgot, the MSM is still calling it the “Syrian civil war”

    The lying Zionist Wikipedia skips over all of that – e.g. “217 foreign soldiers have been killed during the conflict, mostly in the border areas with Syria.”

    “Syrian Civil War”

    Hundreds of Israeli, British, French and American servicemen have been killed – largely through Russian bombing of ISIS and El Qaeda bases. The Russian have published photos of US bases in ISIS-controlled territories. The reason the US cannot put “boots of the ground” officially is that these bases would be destroyed immediately in any such situation. The Russian are probably having a hard time restraining the Iranians.

    Russia Presents Satellite Proof of US Troops Collaborating with ISIS in Syria

    Video with subtitles

    The MSM is just so much trash.


    Here is how the French supported ISIS – and how Sarkozy bought the French presidential election of

    “The quantity of cement that Lafarge produced at Jalabiyeh and sent back to the jihadists is equal to what the German Reich used to build the Seigfried line. There are these bunkers that the Russian Air Force’s Army has come to destroy with penetrating bombs.”

    “A closer look at the Sarkozy and Lafarge cases – by Serge Marchand”


    Sorry. Here is the link.

    “If the press is no longer interested in the expanded Middle East after the fall of Raqqa, which it wrongly interprets as the defeat of jihadism, French judges are now working on two cases that have come from the East: one is Libya’s alleged funding of Nicolas Sarkozy’s electoral campaign and the other is Lafarge’s alleged purchase of oil from Daesh. In both cases, the investigations have still not addressed the crux of these matters.”

    A closer look at the Sarkozy and Lafarge cases


    It looks like yet another “ally” of Israel and the USA has seen the writing on the wall and is switching sides. This whole situation is developing so fast that the guys who pull the strings in Tel Aviv must be having ulcers. How do they present these massive strategic failures as successes to their own people is beyond me.

    Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan: Emerging Alliance

    What this article does not mention is that the Iranian leader is actually Azari. He is Turkic and can speak his mother tongue with the leader of Azerbainjan. What is today Azerbaijan has been contested by Iran and Russia for centuries. Nice to see them all friends now. 🙂

    “Map showing the geographic, political (partial), and cultural reach of Persia (Iran) and the Iranic peoples corresponding to the modern-day Greater Iran” (Wikipedia)


    Sorry. Here is the map


    The idea that Saudi Arabia is going to suddenly “modernise” is sheer baloney. I mean, the only people doing productive work in that country are the foreigners. Every Saudi male wants to be a civil servant – and to show up at his office when he feels like meeting his friends. The nonsense about women being allowed to drive is just the western media chiming in with the message that the owners want us to believe.

    Mohammed bin Salman can imprison as many religious scholars and suchlike as he likes but that will not suddenly transform the people and increase their mental capital. It is not even wishful thinking. It is a plot to keep the ball rolling for a little longer.

    The Saudi royal family knows very well that Saudi Arabia will be in big trouble as soon as the oil slows down. I believe that their main reason for trying to take over Syria was because Syria is a country that has been around for thousands of years. It has water. The Americans probably promised it to them – just the British promised Palestine to the Jews. BTW, a whole string of British politicians were in debt to Jewish bankers around that time and even before. The father of Winston Churchill owed them some £9m in today’s money when he died. Balfour (of the Balfour Declaration) was in debt to them as was the previous prime minister who was his uncle. You can bet your bottom dollar that Tony Blair did not get rich by investing in Bitcoin early on.

    The British helped Ibn Saud take over and unite “Saudi Arabia”. As consolation, they made one of the ex-rulers king of Iraq and another king of Transjordan. The former was killed in a CIA-coup. A descendant of the latter still rules in Jordan. The British, French and American secret services are always ready to stab one another in the back when it is convenient to do so. Something similar happened in Iran. The British put in as Shah a Cossack who was embassy-guard. Later, when he got too stroppy, they exiled him to the same place as Napoleon was exiled to. Later still, the Americans installed his son. Khomeini was backed by the French and the British who hoped to displace the Americans for the contracts. The British got him to be allied to the Communists of Iran. The Communists came out of hiding and he had them killed. Later on, he double-crossed the British and French and dispensed with their services. There is a reason for all the hatred directed against Iran by its ex-controllers. 🙂

    “Khomeini arriving in Tehran on a flight from Paris”

    Dr. D

    Well, that is the problem. If that’s even what’s happening, MBS has his work cut out for him.

    So he’s making a play with China-Russia, who will force Iran on him, against the CIA/Bandar/Saudi nexus, against 70 years of radical, hard-core religious leaders, against his own half-brothers and other agitators who’ve been imbedded their whole lives and aren’t nobody in terms of counter-attacks. Modernizing and *gasp* working, is not going to be popular, at least a 50-50 proposition. At the very least, you have to expect Saudi will be heavily weakened and focused internally for quite some time, something Iran and the Shia axis is able to take full advantage of. But them’s the breaks. Maybe they shouldn’t have funded a bloodthirsty regional war in a play for world domination, should they?

    Golden Oxen

    It is just impossible for me to believe that the Saudi’s lose money on every barrel of oil they produce.

    Stopped reading the article after that was presented. Fake News thought overtook my interest.


    “It is just impossible for me to believe that the Saudi’s lose money on every barrel of oil they produce.”

    When I worked at the IT department (Financial Applications) in 1980, the oil cost them 65 cents per barrel. I would guess it costs them $15 today.

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