During an appearance on Fox Business yesterday we were asked about the Khashoggi affair and whether any intemperate response by Washington might inconvenience the party kids’ reviling on Wall Street. Perhaps we were having a bad hair day, but the question did trigger a fairly intemperate response on our part.
For crying out loud, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) is hands down the most murderous thug operating on the middle eastern stage at the moment, and he’s got a lot of competition for the title.
For instance, last month General al-Sisi apparently spent some of the $1.5 billion Washington sends him each year to run a show trial against 700 Egyptians who have been in jail the past five years for protesting his bloody 2013 coup against Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Mursi.
Their sin, of course, was that they had exercised the right of free speech – which supposedly the Arab Spring had conferred upon them – in order to affiliate with the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter is the scourge of tyrants and greedy monarchs throughout the Islamic world; and is especially loathed by the House of Saud, which may explain a thing or two about the missing body parts of Mr. Khashoggi, who was also an outspoken brotherhood adherent.
In any event, 75 of these protesters are to be awarded the hangman’s noose, and the rest a long stay in General al-Sisi’s hospitality suites, which are widely understood to be not all that.
Still, that ain’t nothin’ compared to the virtual genocide that MBS has conducted against Yemen. And there the body parts in question are the fragments of Yemeni civilians – frequently women and children – who get in the way of MBS’ Washington supplied and targeted bombs, drones, shells and bullets; or who simply drop dead from starvation and the worst outbreak of cholera in recent times.
According to Save the Children, upwards of 50,000 children died from hunger and disease in 2017 alone, while the UN estimates that at least 16,000 civilians have been killed or maimed by the Saudi air attacks.
So we called a spade a spade on the matter, only to have our Fox host retort as follows:
"…..not making a judgment on the moral right or wrong of the matter…but if we crack down hard with sanctions and such, are you telling us you don’t think there is a financial market impact?"
Of course that wasn’t what we were saying. But what we were thinking was: Really?
Apparently this Foxified stock market cult-boy assumes even America’s foreign policy should be driven by the divine right of the casino to be pleasured by rising stock prices each and every day.
Then again, it looks like Fox’s greatest Fan-boy is slouching in the same direction and for the same reason. That is, to keep what he has now embraced as the Trump Bubble levitated come hell or high water.
As the Middle East Eye noted this morning, it would appear that Jared Kushner and/or the Donald have seized upon a solution. Namely, that the hotheaded 33-year old MBS, who has created the greatest murder spectacle since O.J. Simpson’s wild ride in the Bronco, could benefit from the steadying hand of, well, his 28-year old brother, Khalid bin Salman!
"In DC the talk is about Khalid becoming a deputy crown prince to show the world that MBS is basically opening up his autocratic and self-centered leadership to include others and create more accountability.
We don’t know whether this prospective Salman Brothers duo can make the Istanbul Bonesaw Massacre go away or not, or keep the stock market rising on its appointed ascent. But we can at least hope the MBS contretemps will stir a modicum of thought in the Imperial City about the larger issue involved.
Namely, that the biggest state sponsor of terror in the Middle East is Saudi Barbaria, not the Iranians. And that the house of Saud’s corrupt bargain with its own medieval Wahhabi clerics is the true source of jihadi terrorism in the region, not the Shiite/Alawite communities of Iran, Syria and Lebanon.
The truth of the matter is that it was the Iran-led Shiite coalition – with the help of the Russian Air Force – which essentially extinguished the barbaric Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
So not only has Washington long been on the wrong side of the Shiite/Sunni divide, but owing to the Donald and Jared’s bromance with MBS, the Trump administration has taken the US right off the deep-end with its vicious attack on the Iran nuke deal and the ruling regime in Tehran.
And that’s the real evil being perpetrated by MBS. His infantile yet bloodthirsty vendetta against Iran is the driving force behind much that roils the middle east at present.
Thus, MBS’ political and economic attack on Qatar was motivated not only by the Muslim Brotherhood friendly policies of its ruler, but more especially by Qatar’s friendly relations and diplomatic recognition of Iran, with which it shares the largest natural gas field in the world.
Likewise, he recently kidnapped, roughly interrogated and humiliated Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon for being too soft on Hezbollah. Never mind that the latter controls the largest bloc in Lebanon’s parliament and is a participant in the nation’s constitutionally prescribe three-way split of power – wherein the Shiite elect the Speaker of the Parliament, the Sunnis name the Prime Minister and the Chrisitians select the country’s President.
But none of this mattered because MBS is determined to confront Tehran and its allies from one end of the Mideast to the other. And that’s the real reason for his genocidal attack on Yemen.
The latter is among the poorest, most industrially backward redoubts in the entire world and doesn’t remotely have the capacity to threaten Riyadh. Its GDP of just $18 billion or a paltry $650 per capita is less than 3% of Saudi’s stupendous oil-fueled GDP, which funds the fourth largest military budget in the world.
And now Yemen’s polity has been completely shattered, too, by civil war and the relentless Saudi bombing campaigns.
The west and north are controlled by the Houthi government, which sized power during 2015 in the country’s capital city of Sana’a. So doing, they inherited a large cache of American weapons left behind by the fleeing official government.
At the same time, the south and east are fragmented between former President’s Hadi’s Saudi puppet government and regions controlled by al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and various tribal potentates and small time warlords – some or all of whom are warring with each other as well as with the Houthi.
In a sane world it would be instantly obvious that America has no dog in this fratricidal bloodletting in one of the true armpits of the planet. But the Houthis, who have long dominated their region of the country, practice a form of Shiite Islam. In turn, that makes them a confessional ally of Iran and therefore a convenient target for MBS’ proxy war on Tehran.
That’s the sum and substance of the Yemen catastrophe: It’s a genocide launched three years ago by the then 30-year old Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia and son of its dementia-enfeebled king for no other purpose than to kick the Iranians in the shins.
But one thing has led to another – including the aforementioned bromance of the Donald and his son-in-law with a reckless power-hungry young tyrant who has gotten the White House to fall hook, line and sinker for his anti-Iranian agenda. And that didn’t take much doing – since Bibi Netanyahu had already polluted their thin grasp of the region with his own demonization of Tehran.
The irony is palpable. The boys and girls on Wall Street may get by accident that which they desperately do not want: Namely, a material oil outage in the Persian Gulf and a temporary surge in oil prices back to $150 per barrel.
That eventuality would make no matter in the longer run because world supply and demand would adjust, and high-cost deep water oil and shale production would get an added incentive, as would conservation and all the various flavors of alternative energy.
But a Persian Gulf oil interruption would instantly shatter an egregious stock market bubble that is being held aloft on fumes and awaits only for a windshield on which to splatter.
At the end of the day, however, that may well be the silver lining.
The Donald’s demented sanctions campaign to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero after November had already threatened to upset the applecart in the global oil market; and, apparently, it had also given the reckless Crown Prince the impression that he could operate with impunity, and that no act of thuggery was to brazen to be eschewed.
But now the Khashoggi imbroglio threatens to get totally out of hand. Mohammed bin Salman’s recklessness in Istanbul may yet send the house of Saud into an existential crisis – especially if the Donald’s stubby little hands are forced to severely punish the Saudi’s owing to the overwhelming sentiment of the world community.
That is to say, along with the collapse of the stock market we could also see the collapse of the monarchy, and the seizure or sabotage of its Persian Gulf oil fields. After all, they happen to lie in the eastern region of the country which is heavily populated by Shiites, who have been brutally prosecuted by MBS.
Needless to say, you will be worse for the wear if you hang around the casino in the face of this potential double collapse.
But the world will be far better off on both counts.
David Stockman was a two-term Congressman from Michigan. He was also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street. He’s the author of three books, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America and TRUMPED! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring It Back. He also is founder of David Stockman’s Contra Corner and David Stockman’s Bubble Finance Trader.
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