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14 January 2016

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turcopolier

CP

Remember, they are still flopping around in Yemen, the land Adam would remember could he return for a visit. pl

mbrenner

Let's bear in mind that all of this has been known to the powers-that-be in Washington from the outset. Yet, they gave full backing - material as well as diplomatic - to the kid, his demented father, and their entourage. The White house continues to do so. There are several definitions of "demented."

JM Gavin

I spent most of last year with a front-row seat to Saudi bumbling in Yemen.

Decisive Storm has been an abject failure. The Houthis have humiliated and bested the Saudis at every turn. The Saudis have managed to kill a whole mess of civilians. AQAP is stronger than ever.

Decisive action without resolve or steel is decisive failure. The Saudis lack the courage to close with their foes, and are useless unless a nation with actual fighting men chooses to answer the call.

different clue

Operation Decisionful Decisivenicity eh?

Yah, well . . . okay then.

Medicine Man

The pictures above: Is that Prince Salman on the right?

Brunswick

So, the Saudi's have taken themselves hostage and are threatening to kill themselves if the US doesn't do what they want and miraculously fix all the Saudi's self inflicted problems?

How very jihadist suicide bomber of them.

Babak Makkinejad

CP:

The second wife cannot stand the concubine.

This is the second wife throwing a tantrum to get the attention of the errant husband who seems to be eyeing someone else.

Fred

CP,

"It seems the Saudi king decided that Saudi interest comes first."

And America can profit by his example.

Valissa

"Kashoggi's grandiose fawning sheds light on the rich Saudi fantasy life that lies at the roots of the mess that is Saudi foreign policy today."

Clearly the Saudi's are Borg-like in their elite FP policy circles as well. Since we are using the term Borg to refer to the US FP groupthink, I am curious if there is an Arabic term that is or could be used to denote this "rich Saudi fantasy life".

Any thoughts on this from the Arabic speakers here?

readerOfTeaLeaves

Reading about either Prince Salman, or Prince Bandar, calls to mind the puerile mockery perpetrated by the French Dauphin in the first act of Shakespeare's "Henry V". The French Dauphin also believed himself decisive. And invincible.

The Saudis, like the French of the 1300's, seem to believe themselves powerful enough to threaten or extort Putin and Assad, by sending them the modern equivalent of tennis balls (i.e., threats of Chechans disrupting the Sochi Olympics; engaging in ongoing Oil Price Wars, funding a war in Syria that sends millions fleeing to the heart of Europe).

In Shakespeare's play, the insult of the tennis balls eventually leads to the utter destruction of the French nobility at Agincourt.

I can almost hear Putin saying, "...And tell the pleasant prince, this mock of his hath turned his balls to gunstones, and his soul shall stand sore charged for the wasteful vengeance that shall fly with them..."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHAAH8PCnMo

confusedponderer

With Prince Reckless, the mockery may be of a no less conceited but far more vacuous kind. I will not be mocked! Will this mockery never cease?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B81U7Vunhuc

confusedponderer

Yes, they don't seem to be making that much progress, don't they?

But then, Al Qaeda and IS appear to be doing quite well.

http://www.ifimes.org/en/9116.

David Habakkuk

CP and All,

Let us suppose that Niccolo Machiavelli, down in Hell, is drafting a memorandum for POTUS about U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia.

The memorandum would address would be the optimal policy course for POTUS, if he were free of internal political constraints.

It would also necessary discuss these constraints; what could be done to reduce them; and the 'least worst' strategy, taking into account the unlikelihood of doing so rapidly.

One would, naturally, expect Machiavelli to remind POTUS that recent experience shows that it is extremely easy to make bad situations worse, and the fact that an existing regime is deeply unsatisfactory does not give sufficient grounds for confidence that toppling it would make things better.

However, I think it somewhat unlikely that, in the light of recent events, the memorandum would argue that 'business as usual' was the 'least worst' course.

As part of the memorandum, one might also expect an incisive review by Machiavelli – possibly drawing on comparisons with the Italy of his era and the Rome he studied with such fascination – on the history of the involvement of the United States, and Britain, with the Saudis.

confusedponderer

David,
I assume Machiavelli would consider the fact that the Saudis are prone to flights of histrionic, murderous rage if they feel slighted as a factor. Since they are never going to accept Iran's re-emergence as a regional power given a choice, he'd probably recommend that it is wise to administer the necessary tough love hard and at once, so they will adjust to the new normalcy for lack of a choice.

Administering it drop by drop will only guarantee that they rage 'on a level', as they do now, and - witness the messes in Syria and Yemen - precious many bystanders get needlessly killed and maimed that way.

A quote by Machiavelli that seems applicable to our young Prince Reckless:

"A prince who is not wise himself will never take good advice."

Even better is Machiavelli's observation on wars of choice:

"Whenever men are not obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition; which is so powerful in human breasts, that it never leaves them no matter to what rank they rise. From this arises the changes in their fortunes; for as men desire, some to have more, some in fear of losing their acquisition, there ensues enmity and war, from which results the ruin of that province and the elevation of another."

confusedponderer

King Salman left
Prince Mohammed "Reckless" bin Salman al-Saud on the right

confusedponderer

mbrenner,
"There are several definitions of "demented."

... in DC it even comes in several flavours. Still, it is also possible that the Whitehouse is simply cynically calculating - since they can't stop the Saudis, intractable and paranoiid as they are, they can as well use Saudi folly to US advantage:

They maintain the sort-of alliance with the Saudis in order to to prevent the Saudis from feeling utterly abandoned and from going full bore bonkers, while watching them cutting themselves back to size in failure, all the while driving home to them the point that, despite their swagger, they ARE dependent on the US, indebting the Saudis to the US.

Either way, they are being complicit in Saudi Arabia's rampage. But Yemeni casualties are not a US concern.

D

CP, respectfully, I don't think there is much advantage to the US in Saudi failure in Yemen. What little credibility the Saudi armed forces may have had is being eroded. I doubt if the US perceives that as beneficial. The fact that AQAP continues to do well in Yemen may be of short-term advantage to the Saudis in that they are causing trouble in Yemen and not in Saudi Arabia. But longer term, their presence across a porous border represents a temporarily externalized threat. It seems to me this attack was fantasy-based hubris on the new Saudi rulers' part as you describe above, and the support by silence of the US is plain ignorance. After all, as you say, Yemeni casualties are not a US concern - at least not yet.

confusedponderer

D,
fair points. That said, I don't endorse, I propose what US arguments would be if the US were not just hapless but indeed cynically calculating.

The underlying assumption is that the US then would push (a) for the removal of Prince Reckless and (b) for a 'victorious Saudi withdrawal' from Yemen and some sort of settlement.

They could capitalise on the concern in the Saudi royal family about the policies by Salman and young Prince Reckless. My SWAG is that the US then would ultimately aim for a soft coup in Riyadh.

Chris Chuba

So we basically have Neocon Wahhabists; that such creatures exists is distressing. It reminds me of an old joke. If I had a gun with two bullets and I was in a room with Hitler and a Neocon Wahhabist what would I do?
A. Shoot the second one twice.

The only thing we need from Saudi Arabia is a stable govt that pumps oil and doesn't help terrorism. Currently we have 50% of that equation. I'm not saying that we should overthrow them but we shouldn't acquiesce to them on all matters either. Their intervention in Yemen is helping Al Qaeda and ISIS get stronger and making that country weaker and less able to function which will increase refugees and spread terrorism. This is against our interests. Our response should be to pressure them to stop. A potential arms embargo coordinated with Russia, France, and China would go a long way towards that. Since the Pakistani's didn't sully themselves, they could be potentially called upon if some neutral third party security forces was needed but I don't know if that is appropriate.

elkern

I like to think that we (US) is just selling them (KSA) rope (jets, etc). They (KSA) certainly seem to be decisively hanging themselves.

They're going down. I'm a little embarrassed by my own glee at that prospect... nah. But what happens after??? Oil price goes back up, until the Arabian Peninsula stabilizes - but I don't see many examples in that region of quick returns to stability after a regime falls.

Glad I don't live anywhere near there.

MartinJ

Sum total of progress is limited to Aden, the surrounding area for a few km, a city where their forces are under siege (Taiz), and the town of Marib in the north, and the surrounding area. Nothing else. AQAP is in control of parts of the South but it appears they're too busy making money from supplying smuggled fuel and food to Sanaa to care about politics.

There are other bands of AQ and ISIS amok in Aden but on closer inspection they seem to be in the pay of former president Saleh.

For these reasons I tend to ignore (for now) the apparent swelling of support for such Jihadists because Yemen is desperately poor and basically starving. Anyone will join the Devil for a square meal at this point.

Saleh is winning by virtue of a) not losing and b) forcing the opposition and the Saudis to lose more than is sustainable.

As the Saudis are likewise losing in Syria I think that these pigeons will come home to roost with this young Prince. I don't see him surviving. But I don't see the House of Saud surviving that much longer in any event.

Kim Sky

Saudi Regime aint gonna fail...

Not for another 20+ years a least, if ever. Apparently Prince Reckless is about to become King in a few weeks.

Once he fails enough -- he will be replaced.

As for the grand rebellion concept: led by Saudis in the streets -- Luxury has created a citizenry that finds war to be a rather alien concept.

confusedponderer

"As the Saudis are likewise losing in Syria I think that these pigeons will come home to roost with this young Prince. I don't see him surviving. But I don't see the House of Saud surviving that much longer in any event. "

Rumours has it that King Salman suffers from Alzheimers.

There are a couple thousand royal princelings and princesses around in Saudi Arabia. Not easily eradicated due to sheer numbers. Reportedly some are quite unhappy with the performance of the young man.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/28/saudi-royal-calls-regime-change-letters-leadership-king-salman

What are the odds of a palace coup? The family comes together and decides the kid has done enough harm? No?

Short of that, well, the young prince even in his prime could still succumb to a severe illness, fall of his hobby horse or die in a hunting accident. These things have happened.

DanBradburd

David Habakkuk,

A very interesting post. I suspect that were Machiavelli able to comment on US policy in the Middle East, he would spend considerable time calling our attention to the outcome of Charles VIII invasion of the peninsula, his attempt to 'unify' the warring states, and how well that turned out for 'Italy' and Charles. At one level, The Prince is an object lesson on how hard it is for an outside power to create order out of chaos, particularly an order which benefits the outside power.

Medicine Man

Thank you, CP.

I know this is a shallow observation, but the prince looks pretty soft somehow. Something about the eyes.

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