Saudi Arabia’s Night of the Long Knives

This video says about itself:

Is the Saudi crown prince a reformist or power-hungry?

7 November 2017

The arrests in Saudi Arabia have spurred days of speculation and analysis. There was the element of surprise, the detentions took place on Saturday night and without warning.

The element of power – most of those arrested are men of influence. And an element of uncertainty, is this about purging corruption or consolidating power?

The man behind it all: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been a figure of controversy for months now.

He is regarded as a progressive leader, touting social and economic reforms.

But critics say MBS, as he’s known, is also power-hungry. Over the course of two years, he went from being third in line to the throne, to first.

But what risks is the Crown Prince running? And can he meet the many challenges he faces both at home and in the region?

Presenter: Jane Dutton


Joseph Kechichian, Senior Fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research & Islamic Studies

Andreas Krieg, Assistant Professor at the Defense Studies Department at King’s College London

Nicholas Noe, Editor in Chief of MideastWire dot com

By Joe Gill in Britain:

The night of the long knives in Riyadh

Wednesday 8th November 2017

JOE GILL writes on the Saudi crown prince’s bid to remove his rivals and the West’s interest in the kingdom’s game of thrones

THE Gulf region has seen nothing like it for decades. Saudi Arabia, which avoided the fate of other Arab regimes in the 2011 uprisings, and threw its money and support behind the overthrow of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad but failed to topple him, is in lockdown.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has dressed up his purge of rivals as an anti-corruption drive but very few believe this.

He’s getting rid of all his rivals for the throne before he replaces his ailing father, King Salman. And he’s doing it with the confidence that the US president is fully behind him.

Donald Trump also backed his blockade of Gulf rival Qatar in June, but has failed to remove the ruling al-Thani family.

Qatar, while also backing Sunni militancy across the region, favoured the Muslim Brotherhood in Eqypt and Hamas in Gaza.

Saudi and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) favour military strongmen such as Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and see the Brotherhood as a danger to their rule.

Mohammed bin Salman became defence minister and deputy crown prince in 2015 and promptly started a war in Yemen.

Two and a half years later the poor southern neighbour is devastated but the Houthi government in Yemen’s capital Sanaa shows no sign of giving up.

Saudi’s allies in the south are disunited, with al-Qaida growing in power thanks to its alliance with the anti-Houthi forces supported by Saudi and UAE.

Which brings us to Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s power grab. The 32-year-old heir apparent became crown prince in June but has yet to achieve anything from all the mad and crazy schemes he has announced.

These include a $500 billion city called Neom fronted by a robot and promised to be a kind of Blade Runner dystopia of rampant AI capitalism.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law and Israel point man, was hanging out with Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month and reportedly stayed up half the night strategising with him till 4am.

Clearly this purge — which has reportedly seen two princes killed, one in a plane crash — is approved by Trump.

In return for this support Trump is stating openly that he wants the floating of Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest state oil firm, on the New York Stock Exchange.

This could mean Britain will be sidelined in this potential bonanza. But, as some observers have stated, this coup has hit pro-Western Saudi billionaires like Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud.

This does not seem like an orderly move toward greater neoliberalism. Rather, it’s a naked power grab and seizure of rivals’ assets and power bases.

History is replete with rogue rulers who seek to consolidate power by purging their opponents.

But Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s purge is extraordinary for the way it has torn up the traditions of the 80-year-old kingdom which previously rotated power among the different princes and their children, while giving each a ministry to maintain power and milk for billions.

The Saudi case is also dangerous for the regime’s Western backers since the stakes are so high. Britain has backed Saudi rule since the beginning while the US guarantees it militarily while gaining access to Saudi oil.

Under Trump, this has become an alliance of US crony capitalism with its Saudi counterpart … Their joint plan, if it can be called that, is to challenge Iran and Hezbollah across the region, starting in Lebanon.

The Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, who is Saudi by passport with family money made in the kingdom, has been brought down because he was unable to challenge Hezbollah as commanded by his Saudi bosses.

Extraordinarily, he resigned while visiting Riyadh, with some sources saying he was forced. Lebanon’s government has not accepted his resignation and Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has said it was imposed on Hariri. “It was not his intention, not his wish and not his decision” to quit, Nasrallah said in a televised address.

There is a historical comparison to be drawn with the cold war here. The wars that began with the US invasion of Iraq were supposed to eliminate all the threats to Israel in the region and to contain and overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It hasn’t quite worked out. Iran has outplayed Saudi and the US in Syria and Iraq, leaving it, like the Soviet Union at the end of World War II, as a dominant power in its own backyard.

As a Gulf dissident put it to me recently, the entire British-backed Sykes-Picot agreement and the regimes it established after World War I are coming apart.

“Change here and change there are all connected,” he said. “The house of Saud replaced the Ottomans almost a century ago in the Arabian peninsula, but like the Ottomans, their days could well be numbered.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has expanded his purge of leading Saudi business and political figures, including some of the 20,000 princes. On Wednesday, the authorities carried out further arrests, amounting to 500 over the last few days, and froze more than 1,700 bank accounts: here.

Saudi Arabia’s shutdown of all of Yemen’s seaports, airports and border crossings announced on Monday threatens to unleash famine of world historic proportions, leading to the deaths of millions, the United Nations and major aid groups have warned: here.


Imprisonment in Thailand for ‘insulting’ 400-year-dead king?

This video from Thailand says about itself:

Sulak Sivaraksa on lèse majesté, nationalistic history, coup, and succession

6 November 2014

The self-proclaimed royalist Sulak Sivaraksa has faced at least three lèse majesté charges. The latest one filed against him at the age of 82 was brought by two retired generals who were not satisfied with Sulak’s speech on King Naresuan, a monarch who ruled Ayutthaya Kingdom about 400 years ago.

Prachatai’s Thaweeporn Kummetha interviewed Sulak Sivaraksa, a renowned royalist and lèse majesté critic at his home in Bangkok.

In Thailand, there is draconian lèse majesté punishment for ‘insulting’ a living king or other royal. There is draconian lèse majesté punishment for ‘insulting’ a living king’s dog.

Now, things in Thailand are getting ‘curioser and curioser‘ as Alice used to say in Wonderland.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

One is not allowed to offend a king who died 400 years ago in Thailand

Today, 12:52

An 85-year-old Thai man may go to a prison cell for insulting a king who reigned 400 years ago. He appeared before the military court in Bangkok today and is accused of lèse majesté.

Sulak Sivaraksa three years ago in a speech at a university asked a question about what happened in 1593. He wondered if the story is true that at that time the Thai king Naresuan killed the Burmese crown prince in a personal duel on an elephant. This ‘battle of Nong Sarai’ is still commemorated every year.

Sulak, who has often expressed criticism about the rulers in Thailand, does not understand why he is still prosecuted for statements he made in 2014. “Maybe they do not like me because I never keep my mouth shut. I speak the truth. I have to be critical. That’s my job.”

People accused of lèse majesté in Thailand may be imprisoned between 3 and 15 years. There is nothing in the law about insulting dead kings, but according to Sivaraksa’s lawyer, it is just how someone interprets the law.

According to a human rights organization, since the army did a coup in Thailand in 2014, 138 people have been accused of lèse majesté.

What next? Will Theresa May in Britain now jail people for saying 16th century King of England Henry VIII had some of his wives beheaded (which is true), because Ms May wants ‘Henry VIII powers’ for herself?

Theresa May as Henry VIII

This picture shows how Theresa May might look if she was Henry VIII, which she isn’t.

This 2015 French video, with English subtitles, asks itself whether French author Charles Perrault based his Bluebeard tale on King Henry VIII.

Five people accused by Thailand’s military junta of hoarding military weapons were charged on Thursday. The charges are a thinly veiled attempt to suppress political opposition and potentially to create a pretext for delaying or calling off elections promised for next year: here.

King Felipe VI of Spain’s Franco dictatorship nostalgia

El Jueves magazine with the banned cartoon
From the BBC, 13 November 2007:

A court in Spain has convicted Manel Fontdevila, cartoons editor of the popular satirical weekly magazine El Jueves, and cartoonist “Guillermo” of “damaging the prestige of the crown“.

Both men received a hefty 3,000-euro (£2,100) fine.

Their offence was to have published a cartoon last July making ribald fun of the heir to the Spanish throne, and of the government’s scheme to encourage women to have more babies by giving mothers a special payment for each new birth.

It was a caricature of Prince Filipe [Felipe] having sex with his wife, Princess Letizia, and telling her: “Do you realise that if you get pregnant, it will be the closest thing to work I’ve done in my life?”

‘More censorship’

The cartoon is funny, but the issue raised by its banning is serious. The episode has worrying echoes of last year’s frenzied and violent protests against the cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad printed in European newspapers.

Indeed it is worrying, but mainly because of important differences between the two cases. The Danish anti Islamic cartoons were done at the orders of the most powerful big media business in Denmark, Jyllands-Posten, with a history of sympathy for Mussolini and Hitler and of recent support for banning cartoons making fun of Christians. They attacked a minority, trying to push them even more into a second class people status. While the Spanish cartoon made fun of, officially, the most powerful family in the country. El Jueves in its ‘anything goes’ views on satire, is rather similar to Charlie Hebdo in France.

Now it is ten years later. Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y de Grecia is no longer crown prince of Spain. He is King Felipe VI; because his father had to resign in elephant killing and other scandals.

The cartoon then suggested that His Royal Highness Felipe rarely if ever did any work.

That has changed a bit since he became king.

Though legally a figurehead head of state, King Felipe VII sometimes does work now, in the sense of speaking out about politics.

In 2014, His Majesty condemned corruption in general cliché terms; but forgot to mention two of the most corrupt persons in Spain, his sister Princess Infanta Cristina Federica Victoria Antonia de la Santísima Trinidad de Borbón y de Grecia; and his Prime Minister Rajoy.

In 2015, he abused Christmas for doing a speech in support of the ruinous austerity policies of the right-wing Rajoy government.

In January 2017, King Felipe VI did work as a salesman of warships to Saudi Arabia for their bloody war on the people of Yemen.

In July 2017, Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y de Grecia quarreled with the British government on Gibraltar; a conflict which might cause war between two NATO countries.

And now, the right-wing minority Rajoy government in Spain tries to drown the referendum in Catalonia in blood.

This 1 October 2017 video says about itself:

Watch this brave Barcelona woman voting in the Catalan referendum after having been brutalized by Spanish occupation police.

That makes His Majesty the king nostalgic for the days of his 16th century predecessor King Felipe II, who, instead of negotiating, tried to drown resistance to his rule in what is now the Netherlands and Belgium in blood. After eighty years of war, the Spanish monarchy lost. King Felipe II also sent the same Duke of Alba who bloodily suppressed opposition in the Low Countries to Portugal to conquer it. However, after a few decades the Spanish monarchy lost Portugal again.

High taxation by Felipe II for his wars had caused much resentment against the Spanish monarchy in Catalonia. In 1640, the peasantry of Catalonia revolted against King Felipe IV. In 1641, an independent Catalan republic was proclaimed. However, the Spanish soldiers reconquered it.

After more rebellion against the Spanish monarchy, in 1714 the soldiers of King Philip V of the new Bourbon dynasty, ancestors of the present king, reconquered Catalonia again. They abolished all autonomous rights of Catalonia and suppressed speaking the Catalan language.

During the 1930s republic in Spain, Catalonia got autonomy and the right to speak Catalan again. In 1936, voters in Spain, including Catalonia, elected a left-wing government. Spanish extreme right generals hated people voting peacefully for workers’ rights and rights for Catalonia and the Basque country. They started drowning the results of the ballot box in blood. This led to three years of bloody civil war and decades of bloody dictatorship by General Franco. If you spoke Catalan in public, then you went to Franco’s torture prisons.

In 2005, the social democrat PSOE party government in Madrid tried to extend Catalan autonomy. Extreme right generals threatened a military coup against that, substituting bloodbaths for dialogue.

And now, the right-wing Madrid minority government of Rajoy aims to solve the Catalonian issue of people voting peacefully not by dialogue, but by brute force.

And that makes King Felipe VI nostalgic of Kings Felipe II, Felipe IV and Felipe V. And of dictator Franco; without whom he would not have been king of Spain.

By Alex Lantier:

Spanish king demands new crackdown in Catalonia

4 October 2017

In an ominous address last night branding Catalonia an outlaw region of Spain, King Felipe VI denounced Sunday’s Catalan independence referendum and demanded that the Spanish state seize control of the region.

An open intervention by the Spanish king into public affairs is without precedent since the February 23, 1981 military coup, shortly after Spain’s 1978 Transition to parliamentary democracy. Coming amid a vicious press campaign demonizing Catalonia after police repression failed to halt the referendum, the king’s speech is a signal that plans for an even broader military-police intervention against Catalonia are being actively prepared.

Attacking the Catalan authorities for “threatening the social and economic stability of Catalonia and of Spain,” Felipe VI said they had “systematically undermined legally and legitimately approved norms, showing an intolerable disloyalty to the powers of the state. … These authorities, in a clear and unmistakable way, have placed themselves outside the framework of law and of democracy.”

In this situation, he continued, “it is the responsibility of the legitimate powers within the state to ensure the constitutional order and the normal functioning of the institutions.”

The king’s brief for a renewed onslaught against Catalonia is based on a tissue of lies. In fact, it is not the population of Catalonia, but the Spanish ruling elite that trampled democratic rights underfoot, sending in 16,000 Guardia Civil who brutalized firefighters, Catalan police, and even elderly women trying to vote, in a failed attempt to halt the referendum through physical terror.

Videos showing the brazen repression of peaceful voters have spread across the Internet and shocked millions of people around the world. Turning reality on its head, Felipe VI blames the victims of this repression for the violence, in order to argue for a new attack on democratic rights.

As for law and democracy, the Spanish monarchy is not in a position to lecture anyone on these subjects. It is a matter of historical record that the monarchy owes its power to a 1936 fascist coup led by Francisco Franco that drowned Spain’s Second Republic in blood, in a Civil War in which Franco’s main enemy was the working class. After establishing a fascist dictatorship in 1939 over all of Spain, Franco formally reinstalled the monarchy in 1947 and handpicked Felipe VI’s father, Juan Carlos I, as his successor.

Juan Carlos oversaw the transition to parliamentary democracy in 1978 and publicly condemned fascist loyalists who launched a failed coup attempt in 1981.

Yes, publicly … but privately, according to, eg, the British Conservative Daily Telegraph and to Spanish journalist Pilar Urbano, King Juan Carlos was ‘sympathetic’ to the 1981 neofascist coup.

His son’s speech, however, comes after the post-transition regime and the entire European Union (EU) has been discredited by decades of austerity and war, and particularly by the mass unemployment that has devastated Spain since the 2008 Wall Street crash. The Spanish regime is teetering on the verge of dictatorship and civil war.

Felipe VI all but declared the millions of people who voted in the Catalan independence referendum to have placed themselves outside the protection of the Spanish state.

Asserting the “unity and permanence of Spain,” he claimed that in Catalonia, there are “many concerns and deep worry over the conduct of the regional authorities. For those who feel this way, I say you are not alone and will not be; that you have the full solidarity of the rest of the Spanish people and the absolute guarantee of our rule of law to defend your liberties and rights.” He said nothing, however, about the supporters of the Catalan regional authorities.

The Spanish press promptly reacted to Felipe VI’s comments with a coordinated campaign demanding that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s right-wing Popular Party (PP) government invoke Article 155 of the Spanish constitution. This provision would allow Madrid to send forces into Catalonia to suspend its regional government and seize its administration and finances, paving the way for a military-police occupation of the region.

In an article titled “If you can’t decide on 155, get out,” El Español demanded that Rajoy invoke the measure or leave office. It wrote that “Only Alberto Rivera,” the leader of the right-wing Citizens party, “is willing to take the bull by the horns and proposes to apply Article 155 of the Constitution to end Catalan autonomy and call elections… If Rajoy is not up to this task, the best he can do is get out and give someone else his place.”

Similarly, in its editorial today, El Mundo writes, “The person who cannot fail, by his position and his oath to protect the rights violated in Catalonia, is Rajoy. Yesterday we asked him to apply Article 155 to end the unpunished rebellion of Puigdemont and his partners. This urgency becomes more urgent today. The King’s message calls him to it.”

El País, the main daily close to the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), carries a column by professor Javier García Fernández endorsing Article 155. Fernández criticized those who allow the article to be “demonized, when it is a legitimate instrument to deal with territorial crises.”

The main danger at present is that the working class in Spain and internationally is not being warned of the repression being prepared by Madrid. There is broad opposition in the working class of Spain and all of Europe, rooted in the experience of fascism and world war in the 20th century, to a turn to police-state forms of rule. This opposition can only be mobilized on a politically independent, revolutionary and socialist perspective in opposition to the entire ruling establishment.

The reaction of Spain’s main political parties made clear that no effective opposition to a new crackdown in Catalonia would come from the political establishment in Madrid.

Rajoy’s PP, Rivera’s Citizens party, and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) all hailed the king’s speech, signaling they would support a renewed crackdown. Rivera praised the king for offering “hope and leadership” that Spain needs at present, while PP Deputy Press Secretary Pablo Casado applauded Felipe VI for guaranteeing the “harmony, coexistence, legality and of course the historical continuity of Spain.”

Through its secretary for institutional relations, Alfonso Rodríguez Gómez de Celis, the PSOE hailed the king’s remarks as a “call for harmony and understanding.” Other PSOE officials remarked to El Diario that, while the remarks of de Celis are the PSOE’s official line, it was clear that the king was calling for an end to dialog with Catalan regional officials, which the PSOE claims to advocate. “If we support the king, we are clearly no longer seeking dialog,” they noted.

The Podemos party, which has provided political cover to the PSOE, appealing to join it in backing a dialog with the Catalan nationalists, issued impotent and complacent complaints in response to the king’s threat of a new police onslaught against Catalonia. Podemos number two Íñigo Errejón wrote, “The king lost the opportunity to be part of the solution. There was neither a call for dialog nor a proposition. It leaves me worried.”

The politics of Catalonian separatism, a form of bourgeois nationalism, offers no way forward for working people in the defense of their social and democratic rights. This is only possible on the basis of a fight to unify the world working class around a socialist perspective.

Such a struggle must, however, proceed with unwavering opposition to the military/police crackdown being carried out by the Spanish state and sanctioned by the European Union and the imperialist powers.

Spanish king quarrels with British government on Gibraltar

This 4 April 2017 video is called Gibraltar accuses Spain of ship incursion.

Both Britain and Spain at the moment have wobbly right-wing minority governments. Both are European Union allies for the time being. Both are NATO military allies. Nevertheless, recently a politician of the ruling British Conservative party threatened Spain with a Falklands/Malvinas style war about Gibraltar.

And now, King Felipe VI of Spain has counterattacked while on a state visit to Britain. Though he did not (yet) threaten to send an ‘invincible’ Spanish armada to England like his predecessor Felipe II did in 1588

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Spanish king risks diplomatic row after raising Gibraltar during state visit to Britain

King Felipe raises issue during speech in Parliament

Arj Singh, TONY JONES, Andrew Woodcock

Gibraltar has criticised the king of Spain for saying the governments of his country and Britain will find a solution on the Rock’s future that is “acceptable to all involved”.

King Felipe raised the thorny issue as he addressed MPs and peers at the Royal Gallery in the Houses of Parliament during his state visit.

Michael ‘Poundland Pinochet’ Howard Rattles Sabre over Gibraltar: here.

Saudi Arabia’s new warmongering crown prince

This video from the USA says about itself:

Saudi Arabia Bombing Yemen To Quell Demonstrations for Democracy

24 August 2016

The Saudi-led coalition is not just trying to deter Houthi leaders; they want to ensure that pro-democratic Yemeni demonstrations don’t touch the rest of the Arabian peninsula, says Bilal Zenab Ahmed of

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Hardliner becomes heir to throne in soft coup

Thursday 22nd June 2017

New crown prince has directed Riyadh’s brutal military campaign in Yemen

SAUDI ARABIA’S King Salman made his son the heir to the throne and deputy prime minister yesterday, at the expense of his nephew and counterterrorism chief.

Mohammed bin Salman — who was appointed defence minister in January 2015, months before the start of the Saudi-led war in Yemen — was named as the new crown prince.

He will retain the defence portfolio while taking on the deputy PM role.

Former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef was stripped of the title, along with his powerful post as interior minister in charge of security.

He told his successor: “I will rest now, and God help you.”

His interior minister job went to another young prince, Abdulaziz bin Saud, whose father is the governor of Saudi Arabia’s vast Eastern province, which is home to most of the nation’s Shi’ites [and much of the oil] and borders Qatar.

Yesterday’s royal decree stated that “a majority” of senior royal members — 31 of 34 — on the shadowy Allegiance Council supported the recasting of the line of succession.

Riyadh’s Gulf Arab neighbours all welcomed the announcement, but in regional rival Iran, the national TV news called it a “soft coup.”

Mr bin Salman was little known before his appointment as defence minister at the tender age of 29.

He has ruled out dialogue with Iran, pushed for the blockade of Qatar this month and led the war in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and brought that country to the brink of famine.

Mr bin Salman has also supported floating part of state oil firm Aramco on the international stock markets to allow foreign part-ownership and investment.

In remarks aired on Saudi TV in May, he framed the tensions with Iran in sectarian terms, saying Tehran’s goal was “to control the Islamic world” and to spread its Shi’ite doctrine. He also vowed to take “the battle” to Iran.

Alongside Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, appointed in April 2015, Mr bin Salman appears to represent a more aggressive and interventionist Saudi attitude to the region.

Palace coup in Saudi Arabia: here.

35 years prison for criticizing Thai royals

This video says about itself:

8 June 2017

Prosecutions have continued under Thailand’s new king Maha Vajiralongkorn, who took the throne in late 2016 after the death of his … father.

A Thai man was jailed for 35 years on Friday for Facebook posts deemed insulting to the royal family, a watchdog said, in one of the harshest sentences handed down for a crime that insulates Thailand’s ultra-rich monarchy from criticism.

A Bangkok military court convicted the 34-year-old of ten counts of lese majeste for posting photos and videos of the royal family.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Highest punishment ever for insulting Thai royal house

Today, 15:16

In Thailand, a man has been sentenced to 35 years for insulting the royal house. A 34-year-old businessman according to a military court wrote unacceptable things on Facebook. It is the highest punishment ever for someone who is guilty of lese majeste.

Actually, the man would get 70 years in prison, but because he confessed, his punishment will be halved. Lese majeste in Thailand is punished with imprisonment from 3 to 15 years, but the man had committed the same crime several times.

Thailand has a history of severe punishment for lese majeste. For example, a Swiss man was convicted in 2007 when in a drunk mood he spilled paint on portraits of then King Bhumibol. Someone else was charged in 2015 because he was said to have offended Bhumibol’s dog.

No change

King Bhumibol died in October 2016 and was seen as a strict enforcer of Article 112, the article that makes lese majeste a crime. Even after his death, there seems to be no less harsh punishment in Thailand for insulting the Royal House.

The military government of the country says that Article 112 is necessary for maintaining the monarchy and national security. Human rights organizations say that the law is in violation of international human rights agreements, because criticism is oppressed.