Arabia prepares for the post-oil

Home"TO THE ONE"Arabia prepares for the post-oil
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Future king and defense minister, MBS has stopped overnight more than 500 opponents. (Credits: Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters)

What is happening right now in Saudi Arabia is new. It is said that there is a revolution, that women can drive and attend football matches, or that some diplomats will soon be appointed ambassadors of the kingdom. All this was unimaginable a few months ago.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ("MBS") is said to want to end the "distorted" Islam that still prevails in his country, to return to "real", so-called "moderate" Islam, showing journalists 1950s Arabia, where women wore skirts listening to music. We see this same Crown Prince announce the accelerated transition of Arabia to the post-oil in the hundreds of billions of dollars, with as a symbol, the construction, in the middle of the desert, the megacity of the future "NeomWhich will be 33 times larger than New York and whose population of robots will exceed that of humans.

We learn that this same prince delivers a passport, all that is most official, to a humanoid robot, presented under feminine features and named "Sophia". An authentic act of idolatry and therefore of criminal apostasy, according to the imams of the country. But they let it go. So much for the garden side.

On the side of the court, as the world's youngest defense minister (32), MBS is waging a ruthless war against Yemeni Shiite (Houthi) clans, striking civilians without any discrimination. He is heard lowing against the Persians, comparing the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to Hitler and calling his neighbors, without excluding Israel, to rally all to eradicate Hezbollah. He is confused with Qatar, too close to Iran, he does not hesitate to punish severely.

He has arrested dozens of Saudi imams who all have in common to be in the orbit of the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar, like the famous teleprinter Salman al-Awdah. After that, we find him one morning at the head of an anti-corruption body (Nazaha) just created by royal decree and authorizing him to issue letters of cachet to embastill overnight hundreds of opponents (more than 500), all high dignitaries or princes, some of whom are his own cousins. The latest boot sounds are the creation of the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), a sort of Islamic NATO made up of 41 Sunni states united to wipe out "terrorism" from the map and who are invited to arm yourself properly and quickly for this purpose.

Simple muscular dynastic transition? Despotic skidding in a kingdom that is already ample? Or a real revolution opening on postsafarianism? To try to see clearly, it is necessary to recall some of the links of cause and effect between these events of dynastic and geopolitical order but also scientific.

Dynastic lighting

Without his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 25th son of founder Ibn Saud (among 53), the dashing MBS would not be where he is. However, until now, the succession to the dignity of absolute monarch of this dynasty was "adelphic" (from brother to brother) by privileging the elders of the successive wives of the founder. This principle created the conditions of gerontocracy that we know, quite similar to that of the Soviet Kremlin, at the end of the reign.

The current king, Salman bin Abdelaziz, has explicitly broken with this tradition by naming his young son as successor rather than another of his brothers still in the running. He even forcibly removed or even jailed legitimate candidates. His own access to the status of absolute monarch of the world's leading oil producer deserves a moment's pause.

His predecessor, King Abdallah, the grandfather of MBS, had opposed the Arab Spring. He had supported Egyptian President Mubarak and given political asylum to Tunisian President Ben Ali, who still resides in Jeddah. After the death of a first Crown Prince, he named his half-brother Nayef ben Abdel Aziz. The latter was an arch-conservative and, even more than Abdullah, very hostile to the Arab Spring.

In short, it was not at all the ideal candidate for this Obama administration that had bet all its Arab policy on the promotion of the Muslim Brotherhood. But Nayef very opportunely died of a heart attack in Geneva, just as he had just landed from the United States, where he had undergone various medical examinations. And this is how the crown prince second, Salman, the father of MBS, came to power, which was very convenient for the Americans, who have full confidence in him.

When he was the powerful governor of Riyadh, a position he held for fifty-five years, it was indeed Salman who oversaw the financing of Afghan, Chechen or Bosnian jihad. As Minister of Defense since 2012, he is the one who made the implementation of the $ 60-billion "arms deal of the century", signed in 2010, and oversaw the distribution of weapons for "jihadists". "moderation" of the Alawite eviction war in Syria.

His intimacy with the American "deep state" is profound, but like all the Saudis, he lived very badly the "treason" of Obama in 2013, who refused to storm in Syria and who settled with Iran . More than anyone, he is aware of the abyssal scientific and cultural backwardness of the kingdom. Among many advisers, another son of his, Sultan Ben Salman, was able to convince him: in June 1985, he was the first Arab astronaut embarked on a mission Discovery.

The fall of oil prices helping, the king is ready for reforms but he is sick, his Alzheimer's gnawing. We must therefore quickly and above all oust all those who block the transformation he wants to introduce with the least possible breakage. Especially since it will have to assume difficult alliances, especially with Israel. Which leads us to geopolitical and scientific aspects.

New geopolitical situation 

We must never forget the "geo" of geopolitics. Maps often speak for themselves. Saudi Arabia is bordered by two waters: the Persian Gulf to the east, still at the mercy of the deadly enemy of Iran and an obstruction of the Strait of Hormuz, and the Red Sea to the west, where transit $ 700 billion a year in Asian goods to the Suez Canal. Sudanese oil also circulates there, especially for the benefit of the Chinese customer, who has just inaugurated a huge military base in Djibouti.

But now a new major energy player is emerging: Israel and its Mediterranean gas fields, that these same Chinese would be delighted to be delivered. But where? An old English dream of opening a second canal parallel to Suez between Eilat, at the bottom of the Gulf of Aqaba, and Ashdod on the Mediterranean shores resurfaced. Unless the transits are made by high speed trains. Chinese engineers are working on it.

It will therefore powerfully secure this new passage whose banks are so far largely desert and vulnerable. In particular, Nasser's closing of the Gulf of Aqaba, which was the ultimate trigger of the Six Day War, is remembered. But what is happening in this region?

In the first place, Egypt has surrendered to Saudi Arabia the uninhabited islets of Tiran and Sanafir, which guard the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba. We have not made much of it here, but Marshal al-Sissi almost lost his place in the face of the fierce opposition of his population against this transfer of territory. Why? Egypt loses the exclusive control of the Strait of Tiran, until then in 100% Egyptian waters, and the people obviously feel humiliated because the Egyptian army lost men in combat during the Six Day War. But there is more.

The Camp David Accords, signed in 1978, guaranteed free passage to Jordan but even more so to Israel. However, the transfer of the islands could be done only if Saudi Arabia endorsed this guarantee, which corresponds to an official recognition of the State of Israel. In the most indifferent media, it is now done, which is not a minor aspect of the current revolution.

The rest is in keeping. Coincidentally, this is exactly where MBS plans to build Neom, its science and robotics megacity. The official justification is climatic (it is warmer than elsewhere in the kingdom) and logistics (we will build a bridge with Egypt, connecting for the first time Africa to Arabia, and from which Egypt will draw great profit). But above all, we will draw in a highly qualified workforce that is available not far away: in Israel. But what about Israeli residence permits in Saudi Arabia? The problem is solved, the territory of Neom will have an autonomous territorial status and will welcome whoever he wants. All this has been negotiated for a long time because this extraterritoriality is also of interest to military-industrial enterprises, especially those producing armed robots.

Scientific issues

This is how we better understand the alliance of the Japanese group Softbank with the Saudi kingdom. Its visionary founder Masayoshi Son has convinced MBS to create with him "Vision Fund", the largest techno fund in history, up to 100 billion dollars. Now it is thanks to this fund that he has just bought the two undisputed leaders of military robotics Boston Dynamics and discrete Shaft Alphabet, holding Google. Google wanted to get rid of it, officially because of a difficult marketing, but more likely because of scratches in his image that caused the videos of his creepy robots dogs, which we do not know what they would be capable of doing to humans if their "artificial" intelligence were to be disrupted.

But Google still has an eye, especially through the Fund Innovations Endeavors Eric Schmidt, boss of Alphabet. As for DARPA, the Pentagon research agency that has fully funded the military applications of these companies, it is obvious that it will not separate. Neom will also offer him his quarters. Neom will be the place dreamed to finally realize the "singularity", this oxymoron which here designates the fusion of man and robot, and no outdated law will come to counteract. A "singular" eldorado, indeed. It will take a lot of security and, in fact, the islets of Tiran and Sanafir lend themselves perfectly to the construction of military bases.

As for the transport of Israeli gas (but also Egyptian) by the Red Sea, it is obviously important to lock the access and the banks. There is a better understanding of the Saudi and Emirati readiness to dislodge the pro-Iranian Yemeni Houthis from the eastern shore of the Strait of Bab el Mandeb. We would not want to reproduce the poisonous conditions of a second strait of Ormuz!

On the Saudi shores of this beautiful Red Sea, nothing like a beautiful tourist urbanization to justify the deployment of a local militia. This is exactly what MBS plans to do. So we have our answer, it is indeed a real revolution that is looming among the Saud.

Source: Arabia prepares for the post-oil

The Saudi Crown Prince in Paris at the end of February

Crown Prince Mohamed Ben Salman will travel to Paris in late February and early March to meet French President Emmanuel Macron, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir said on Friday. end of February, beginning of March, a date that has not yet been decided but which will be in the coming weeks, "he said on CNews.

The French head of state, who claims since his arrival in power to "talk to everyone" had made a surprise visit to Ryad in early November to meet the Crown Prince, Mohamed Ben Salman ("MBS"), in full renewed tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.


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