No, But Seriously! WTF Is Going On In Saudi Arabia?

Oh, Jared, you scamp! Last week you took a secret trip to Saudi Arabia, and this week all hell is breaking loose over there! COINCIDENCE????? Did you maybe tell your BFF Mohammed bin-Salman (MBS) that your father-in-law doesn't care who they arrest as long as they round up that one Saudi billionaire who tweeted mean shit at Poppy Trump during the campaign? Did you tell them that they could kill all the Yemenis they want if Saudi Arabia will just use the New York Stock Exchange for the IPO of its sovereign wealth fund??

And when you and MBS were staying up giggling until 4AM, were you like, "Mo, how do you grow such a lush, manly beard? And do you maybe have a spare billion in the seat cushions so that my family business doesn't go under?" Because it would be insanely reckless to solicit funds from a foreign government while Bob Mueller is all over you like white on rice. Nobody would be stupid enough to do that, right? RIGHT????

The Back Story

Saudi Arabia was founded 115 years ago by Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, a man with 45 sons and infinity oil. Because the country is basically a giant oil well in the middle of the desert, it never developed a diverse economy -- money comes out of the ground whether people show up to work or not. And because the royal family is so large, everyone is getting paid by the government, and the line of succession is murky. In June, King Salman demoted the heir apparent and gave sweeping powers to his 32-year-old son Mohammed to clear out the deadwood and bring KSA into the 20th century.

So, we don't know for sure what went down at Jared and MBS's secret sleepover party. But if we had to guess, MBS said, "You guys cool if I take out all the locals who threaten my power so that I can modernize the economy and gear up for a regional war with those assholes in Iran?" And Jared said, "Whatevs, Bro! You know Vanky's dad has a hard on for Iran. Plus Rex Tillerson's busy canning everyone at the State Department so he can run through the halls naked. Dude's into some weird shit!" And then they did some more manly sword dancing.

Consolidating Power

This weekend, dozens of Saudi princes and other leaders were arrested in an ostensible crackdown on corruption. Also this weekend, the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh evicted all its guests and cleared the calendar for November.

Members of the royal family are barred from leaving the country, and many of them are currently "guests" of MBS at the Ritz Carlton.

Among those booked at the hotel is billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who owns stakes in Twitter, Lyft, Apple and Citigroup. Unlike many of his fellow residents at the Ritz, he doesn't appear to have been a rival to MBS. But there was this.

Let's not dwell on Donald Trump criticizing someone for making his fortune off "Daddy's money." This way madness lies. All we're saying is that Alwaleed bin Talal pissed off Trump, Jared had a secret meeting with MBS, and now the guy is in jail. You do the math.

Also ALSO this weekend, Prince Mansour Bin Murquin, who had been crown prince in 2015 before being demoted by Prince Salman, was killed in a helicopter crash. Nice of Prince Mansour to wait until after Jared was wheels up to crash his helicopter in the middle of the desert. AHEM.

Welcome to the 20th Century

It's hard to modernize your economy if the rest of the world thinks you're a medieval backwater with public floggings and women forced to walk around dressed like beekeepers. The prince can't turn Riyadh into Dubai with the morality goon squad arresting people over pop music and alcohol while courts refuse to enforce "un-Islamic" contracts. This summer MBS reined in the clerics and issued edicts allowing women to drive and attend soccer games. With his conservative cousins taking a rest cure at the Ritz, MBS is ready to present the world with a new, modern Saudi Arabia just in time for the planned IPO of KSA's ginormous sovereign wealth fund Aramco.

SUBTLE. Safe to assume Jared mentioned this to his buddy Mohammed.

So, Who's Excited For Total War?

In the past, Sunni-led Iraq and Shiite Iran kept each other more or less in check. But then George Bush decided to take revenge for a handful of Saudi hijackers in September 2001 by destroying Iraq. Which made no fucking sense, and also unleashed a wider regional conflict between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran that is still ripping apart Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. Well-played, America!

(Yes, we are aware that Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad were murderous despots. But the entire ME is on fire, and we're going to abandon the Kurds AGAIN. So we fail to see how this is better.)

In May, Kush agreed on a $110 billion arms deal between KSA and the US. And he made clear we don't give a shit which civilians they shoot. Which is good because Saudi Arabia is busily inserting itself itself into the Yemeni civil war and turning it into a proxy conflict with Iran. Yemeni kids are starving, cholera is spreading, and there's no functioning government. Saudi Arabia has responded with humanitarian aid in the form of UK-made cluster bombs dropped in civilian areas.

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have seized Yemen's capital Sana'a, and yesterday they fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh's airport. The Saudis managed to intercept the missile, which they insist was supplied by Iran. The whole thing is a humanitarian catastrophe with no end in sight.

And in case you're still with us here, Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri just happened to resign this weekend while on a visit to KSA, ceding control of the government to Iranian-backed Hezbollah. We can't tell you what will happen now that Bashar Assad has regained control in Syria, sending hordes of ISIS fighters over the border into Lebanon. But it is NOT going to be good.

In sum, we know that Donald Trump is an existential crisis here in the US. But if you have any extra bandwidth, maybe pay attention to this. Because the Saudi-Iran conflict is reaching the boiling point, and if that fuckwit Jared doesn't get indicted first, he's going to lead us into yet another endless ground war in the Middle East.

[WaPo / WaPo, again / New York Times / New York Times, again / CNN / CNN, again]

Holy shit this stuff is complicated! Please give us money for more goodtime splainers!

Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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