Middle East & Arab World – Saudi Arabia 2019

Written by  //  April 23, 2019  //  Saudi Arabia  //  No comments

Middle East & Arab World – Saudi Arabia 2015-17
Middle East & Arab World – Saudi Arabia 2017-18
Saudi Arabia – Canada international relations 2018

Saudi Arabia beheads 37 citizens and pins one of the headless bodies to a pole
Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry said Tuesday’s executions were carried out in accordance with Islamic law
(AP via Natl Post) It marked the largest number of executions in a single day in Saudi Arabia since Jan. 2, 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 individuals, including a prominent Shiite cleric whose death sparked protests in Iran and the ransacking of the Saudi Embassy there.
The executions also come days after four Islamic State gunmen died trying to attack a Saudi security building north of the capital, Riyadh, and on the heels of Easter Day attacks that killed over 300 people in Sri Lanka and were claimed by the Islamic State group.
The Interior Ministry statement said those executed had adopted extremist ideologies and formed terrorist cells with the aim of spreading chaos and provoking sectarian strife. It said the individuals had been found guilty according to the law and ordered executed by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, which specializes in terrorism trials, and the country’s high court.

29 March
How the mysteries of Khashoggi’s murder have rocked the U.S.-Saudi partnership
(WaPo) Saudi Arabia still hasn’t explained officially how and why the Post Global Opinions columnist was killed. But Saudi and American sources have begun disclosing new information about the people and events surrounding Khashoggi’s fatal visit to Istanbul. They’ve described secret intelligence deals that are now frozen. And they’ve explained, in the clearest detail yet, how an operation that began as a kidnapping ended with a gasping, dying Khashoggi pleading: “I can’t breathe.”
The bottom line is that unless the crown prince takes ownership of this issue and accepts blame for murderous deeds done in his name, his relationship with the United States will remain broken. Saudi officials claim that MBS has made changes, firing Saud al-Qahtani, his former covert-operations coordinator. But the Saudi machine of repression remains intact, run by many of the same people who worked for Qahtani. U.S. officials worry that the young crown prince has become a Saudi version of Saddam Hussein, an authoritarian “modernizer.”

18 March
Saudi crown prince allegedly stripped of some authority
Series of Mohammed bin Salman no-shows at high-profile meetings fed claims of rift with king
(The Guardian) The heir to the Saudi throne has not attended a series of high-profile ministerial and diplomatic meetings in Saudi Arabia over the last fortnight and is alleged to have been stripped of some of his financial and economic authority, the Guardian has been told.
The move to restrict, if only temporarily, the responsibilities of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is understood to have been revealed to a group of senior ministers earlier last week by his father, King Salman.

1 March
Saudi Arabia strips Osama bin Laden’s son of citizenship
(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has stripped citizenship from Hamza bin Laden, the son of slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the interior ministry said in a statement published by the official gazette. The Saudi decision to strip him of his citizenship was made by a royal order in November, according to a statement published in the Um al-Qura official journal.

23 February
Saudi Arabia Names a Princess as Ambassador to Washington
The appointment of Reema [bint Bandar bin Sultan by royal decree] to Washington appeared aimed at turning a new page, while also emphasizing the kingdom’s social reforms in the capital of its most important ally.
In addition to representing the new possibilities now available for Saudi women, Princess Reema is the daughter of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a towering figure in Saudi diplomacy who served as the kingdom’s ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005.
Princess Reema spent many years in Washington while her father was ambassador and graduated with a degree in museum studies from George Washington University.

19 February
House Opens Inquiry Into Proposed U.S. Nuclear Venture in Saudi Arabia
(NYT) Top Trump administration officials have pushed to build nuclear power plants throughout Saudi Arabia over the vigorous objections of White House lawyers who question the legality of the plan and the ethics of a venture that could enrich Trump allies, according to a new report by House Democrats released on Tuesday.
The report is the most detailed portrait to date of how senior White House figures — including Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser — worked with retired military officers to circumvent the normal policymaking process to promote an export plan that experts worried could spread nuclear weapons technology in the volatile Middle East. Administration lawyers warned that the nuclear exports plan — called the Middle East Marshall Plan — could violate laws meant to stop nuclear proliferation and raised concerns about Mr. Flynn’s conflicts of interest.
The export of American nuclear technology that could be used to create nuclear weapons is strictly controlled under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. The act says that Congress must approve such exports, and at least one of the whistle-blowers that went to the Democrats claimed that officials involved ignored warnings about such legal requirements.
Jeremy Kinsman & Larry Haas commentary

12 February
U.S. Senate Proposal Would Block Saudi Path to Atomic Weapon in Nuclear Deal
(NYT) U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been holding quiet talks with officials from Saudi Arabia on sharing U.S. nuclear technology. U.S. President Donald Trump hosted nuclear power executives on Tuesday for talks on keeping the industry competitive on exports with France, China, and Russia.
The Trump administration is trying to advance nuclear energy technology domestically and abroad as the industry suffers from plentiful supplies of cheap natural gas and high safety costs at home. A resolution could pressure the administration to push for a deal with tougher standards.
“If Saudi Arabia is going to get its hands on nuclear technology, it’s absolutely critical that we hold it to the gold standard for non-proliferation,” Merkley said in a release. “The last thing America should do is inadvertently help develop nuclear weapons for a bad actor on the world stage.”

8 February
MBS promised a bullet for Khashoggi. Congress must promise consequences for MBS.
The non-answer from the White House is a blatant dodge that ignores the finding of the CIA and the abundant evidence behind it. It makes a mockery of the Magnitsky law, as well as of U.S. principles by covering for the crown prince to protect the cozy relations between him and President Trump, as well as Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
(WaPost) The U.S. Senate drew the obvious conclusion in December when it unanimously adopted a resolution holding the crown prince responsible for the death of Mr. Khashoggi, who was also a legal U.S. resident. Yet the Trump administration continues to deny the facts and the legal mandate to act on them. On Friday, in response to a formal inquiry from members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the White House declined to issue a determination on the culpability of Mohammed bin Salman. “The president maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate,” CNN quoted an official as saying.
Congress should not accept that response. Under the Global Magnitsky Act, a law governing the punishment of human rights abuses, the administration is required to respond to congressional inquiries about crimes such as the Khashoggi murder by identifying and sanctioning those responsible. The White House last year announced sanctions against 17 people for their roles in the killing, including Mr. Qahtani. But it was separately tasked by then-Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) with determining Mohammed bin Salman’s responsibility under the law. The deadline for replying was Friday.

4 February
US investigating whether Saudi Arabia gave third parties American-made weapons: report
(The Hill) Saudi Arabia and its coalition gave al Qaeda, Salafi militias and other factions in Yemen weapons that were produced by the United States, CNN reported Monday.
The weapons have also reportedly been captured by Iranian-backed rebels groups fighting the coalition in Yemen, meaning they may be reverse-engineered for intelligence.
A Department of Defense official confirmed to CNN that the U.S. is investigating the issue, as transferring military equipment to a third party would violate U.S.-Saudi coalition arms agreements.

2 February
Freed Saudis Resurface Billions Poorer After Prince’s Crackdown
By Devon Pendleton and Simone Foxman
Almost 15 months after rounding up dozens of Saudi Arabia’s richest and most powerful people and imprisoning them in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has declared the raid a lucrative success.
An anti-corruption commission headed by the crown prince said a total of about $107 billion — a mix of cash, real estate, companies and securities — has been recovered from 87 people.
Aside from confirming a $1 billion payment from the former head of the National Guard, the government has said little about the nature of the individual settlements. Less than four months ago, the crown prince told Bloomberg News that $35 billion had been collected from the prisoners. Verifying the commission’s claims is made more challenging by the opacity of the Saudi market. Closely held companies rarely disclose financials and the value of real estate — the preferred asset of many wealthy Saudis — is obscured by unrecorded transactions and restrictions on buyers.
Detainees have been trickling out of prison for more than a year. Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi, was freed just last Sunday after being held in an undisclosed location on bribery and corruption charges. Also released within the past few weeks: philanthropist and former government minister Amr Al-Dabbagh; former McKinsey & Co. partner Hani Khoja; and Sami Baroum, an ex-managing director of one of the kingdom’s biggest food companies.
Authorities have constrained post-prison life for many of those targeted, with travel bans and heightened surveillance within the country.

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