So much has happened in Saudi Arabia in just the last three days. Here’s a recap and the latest…
First, there are geo-political tensions heating up right now between Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and all the major nations of the war in massive war simulations:
Air-forces from nine countries with about 50 planes are now starting to drill in the most southern region of the country utilizing Uvda Air Base in Israel. Teams from India, the United States, Greece, Poland, France, Italy and Germany with be flying over 300 sorties simulating ‘real war’.
— Israeli Air Force (@IAFsite) November 2, 2017
Meanwhile, across the sand dunes this evening, a far more interesting story is developing, and could shed light on the end game for Blue Flag 2017. Yesterday we reported that the Saudis intercepted a ballistic missile over the nation’s capital of Riyadh. Now the Saudis call the missile attack “blatant act of aggression” by Iran and “could be considered act of war”.
The smell of war is in the air and simultaneously Israel and other countries are drilling for ‘real war’. As, what we’ve seen before – drills sometime go live.
In addition to the geo-political tensions, the financial tensions have begun. The Saudis have begun freezing assets of those arrested in the crackdown over the weekend (see below for details):
Two days after the most stunning purge in recent Saudi history, the so-called “anti-corruption probe” – which was really a countercoup – that led to the arrest of dozens of Saudi Arabian royals, ministers and businessmen allowing Mohammed to further cement control over the Kingdom, appeared to be widening on Monday when, as Reuters reports, Saudi banks begun freezing the accounts of those arrested. The Saudi central bank ordered commercial banks to freeze the accounts of people under investigation in the probe, the Reuters sources said, adding that the number of accounts affected could run into the hundreds, although the names of those affected have yet to emerge.
“The freezing of accounts has already happened,” said another source. “The freezing is a precautionary measure that will end as soon as the suspects are either charged or pronounced innocent.” Considering that prince Alwaleed alone has over $19 billion in assets, including nearly a billion dollars in jewelry, plans, yachts, furniture and cash…
Meanwhile, to prevent royals from quietly fleeing the country, a no-fly list has been drawn up and security forces in some Saudi airports were barring owners of private jets from taking off without a permit, pan-Arab daily Al-Asharq Al-Awsat reported.
And as the crackdown extended, so did the confusion, and many analysts were puzzled by the targeting of technocrats like ousted Economy Minister Adel Faqieh and prominent businessmen on whom the kingdom is counting to boost the private sector and wean the economy off oil.
“It seems to run so counter to the long-term goal of foreign investment and more domestic investment and a strengthened private sector,” said Greg Gause, a Gulf expert at Texas A&M University. “If your goal really is anti-corruption, then you bring some cases. You don’t just arrest a bunch of really high-ranking people and emphasize that the rule of law is not really what guides your actions. It just runs so counter to what he seems to have staked quite a lot of his whole plan to.”
Robert Jordan, former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, says on Bloomberg TV, said that the Saudi Crown Prince’s anti-corruption drive, which included detaining Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, was “almost the equivalent of arresting Bill Gates.”
“The Saudis have come to a fork in the road and they have taken it,” he said adding that “this is about the most breathtaking revelation I think we could possibly have imagined.“
Finally, all of these major geo-political and financial upheavals have caused the Saudi Plunge Protection Team to kick it into high gear:
As the FX markets came to life last night after a tense weekend in the middle east, it is clear that anxiety about the Saudi Riyal is at the forefront.
Forward bets on devaluation/depegging surged most in 7 months as shares in bin-Talal’s Kingdom Holdings continued their slide to the lowest since Dec 2011.
The round-up risks overwhelming local and foreign investors struggling to get their heads around the rapid changes shaking the kingdom, but for the second day in a row, any selling was met by instant panic-buying as we suggest Saudi’s very own Plunge Protection Team stepped in…
Here’s what happened over the weekend:
First, there was a “purge” of several high ranking officials suspected of corruption:
In a shocking development, late on Saturday the Saudi press reported that prominent billionaire, member of the royal Saudi family, and one of the biggest shareholders of Citi, News Corp. and Twitter – not to mention frequent CNBC guest – Al-Waleed bin Talal, along with ten senior princes, and some 38 ministers, has been arrested for corruption and money laundering charges on orders from the new anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, while Royal princes’ private planes have been grounded.
King Salman also issued an decree forming an anti-corruption committee headed by the crown prince. Its powers include the ability to trace funds and assets, and prevent their transfer or liquidation on behalf of individuals or entities, along with the right to take any precautionary actions until cases are referred to relevant investigatory or judiciary authorities, according to a government statement.
The committee’s formation was deemed necessary “due to the propensity of some people for abuse, putting their personal interest above public interest, and stealing public funds,” the Royal Order said.
— CIC Saudi Arabia (@CICSaudi) November 4, 2017
Then there was a helicopter crash the next day that killed 8 high ranking Saudis including a prince:
The shocking latest twist in what has been a chaotic weekend in Saudi Arabia is news that a helicopter transporting 8 high-ranking Saudi officials (including prince Mansour bin-Muqrin) has crashed in the south of the Kingdom, near the border with Yemen.
As PTI reports, a Saudi prince was killed today when a helicopter with several officials on board crashed near the kingdom’s southern border with war-torn Yemen, state television said.
The news channel Al-Ekhbariya announced the death of Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, the deputy governor of Asir province and son of a former crown prince.
It did not reveal the cause of the crash or the fate of the other officials aboard the aircraft.
The crash also comes after Saudi Arabia yesterday intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile near Riyadh’s international airport after it was fired from Yemen in an escalation of the kingdom’s war against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.
And Prince Aziz was also reported killed in a shoot-out during the crackdown:
Following the death of Prince Mansour bin-Muqrin in a helicopter crash near the Yemen border yesterday, the Saudi Royal Court has confirmed the death of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd – killed during a firefight as authorities attempted to arrest him.
The death has been confirmed by the Saudi royal court.
As Al Jazeera notes, in this Saudi version of ‘Game of Thrones’, the 32-year-old Bin Salman shows that he is willing to throw the entire region into jeopardy to wear the royal gown.
His actions have already all but destroyed the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); Yemen can no longer be referred to as a functioning state; Egypt is a ticking time bomb; and now Lebanon may erupt.
There’s a lot to worry about.