Saudi Arabia’s Vision Turning into a Nightmare

It is quite clear that King Salman will not penalize Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his various acts of transgression. He’s actually promoting a son who has lost all his moral bearings.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman embarked on a domestic tour last Tuesday with his favorite son, reinforcing his support for his chosen heir despite the crisis spawned by the chilling murder of Saudi critic, Jamal Khashoggi. The tour is intended to consolidate the power of Mohammed bin Salman, whose reputation has been irreversibly damaged since Khashoggi went missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul early last month. But no amount of lobbying can rescue Saudi Arabia from becoming a pariah state.

On home front, the support is guaranteed. No one has the courage to rise against the regime. But home support is of little value. It only gives leaders a false sense of security. What matters is the global perception of brand Saudi Arabia, and the stocks are nose-diving.

Saudi Arabia was dealt with severe blows last week.

Damaging setback

In its quest to position itself as a sporting nation, the Kingdom has been wooing popular athletes to come and play in Saudi Arabia. While some succumbed, seduced by a huge pay-day, most others are guided by their conscience.

Two of the sport’s best ambassadors, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, will not be going to Jeddah for a $1 million exhibition match scheduled for December 22. An ankle injury to Nadal has been given as the official reason for the no-show. But there is more to it. During the Paris Masters, when asked whether they were still considering going to Saudi Arabia in light of the Khashoggi incident, the duo had said they would think about it.

Surely, the Istanbul incident was too horrible to ignore. The injury simply made it convenient for Nadal to pull out without causing any unnecessary debate around the decision. Roger Federer and John Cena have already cancelled their dates.

More are likely to follow. Juventus and AC Milan have been urged not to play their Italian Super Cup match in Saudi Arabia next January by Amnesty International.

Clearly, the decision to take out Khashoggi has proven to be self-destructive. It has also deprived common Saudis the opportunities to watch their favorite players live in action.

No mid-air refueling

The Washington Post on Friday reported that the Trump administration would end mid-air refueling support to the Saudi-led coalition that has been causing devastation in Yemen since 2015. Mid-air refueling is considered the most crucial aspect of US support for the brutal campaign.

But a large number of progressives want more. They want a complete stop to the sale of weapons. They are also demanding an end to the intelligence and logistical support.

The Saudis, King Salman & Mohammed bin Salman following the US stand, are acting brave. The Kingdom said that the Coalition has increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen. But many experts believe it to be an overestimation of their ability. Experts also believe that without the support of the US, the Coalition won’t be able to sustain the war in Yemen.

Political wounds

A House of Representatives’ Democrat, Brad Sherman, wants to block a major nuclear deal between the US and Saudi Arabia which is currently under negotiation. If passed, the Bill could block Saudi Arabia’s plans to obtain nuclear technology from the US. Trump would face roadblocks in his plans to sell. He would need Congressional approval, and with the House now dominated by the Democrats, it won’t be easy. Interestingly, a Republican is also set to back the bill.

The bill would sting the Saudis, King Salman & Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who just recently launched a project to build the country’s first nuclear research reactor.

Many people in the US now want to see the relationship between Washington and Riyadh terminated. The United States must view King Salman & his son Mohammed bin Salman not just as flawed partners, but also as threat to US interests. It’s time for a fundamental break in the relationship.

But don’t the US need Saudi oil? Yes, but nearly not as much as it once did. The world is rapidly transitioning to clean energy to avert disastrous consequences of climate change. The US-Saudi relationship as we know it is over, and Khashoggi’s murder has triggered a mass wake-up call.

Cornered at UN

Last Monday in Geneva, the Saudi delegation, headed by Bandar Al Aiban, chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, was cornered at the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) over the death of Khashoggi. Countries like the US, UK, Sweden, Austria and Switzerland asked tough questions and called for an end to the deafening silence the global community has maintained in the case.

The United Nations also deplored the continued use of the death penalty and the increasing number of executions in the country. It also expressed its dislike of the discriminatory laws against women.

Clearly, Saudi Arabia is getting isolated blow by blow. Its National Vision is crumbling.

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